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Walla Walla, Washington
City of Walla Walla
Reynolds–Day Building, Sterling Bank, and Baker Boyer Bank buildings in downtown Walla Walla
Reynolds–Day Building, Sterling Bank, and Baker Boyer Bank buildings in downtown Walla Walla
Flag of Walla Walla, Washington
Location of Walla Walla, Washington
Location of Walla Walla, Washington
Country United States
State Washington
County Walla Walla
 • Type Council–manager
 • Body City council
 • City 13.88 sq mi (35.95 km2)
 • Land 13.85 sq mi (35.86 km2)
 • Water 0.03 sq mi (0.08 km2)
942 ft (287 m)
 • City 31,731
 • Estimate 
 • Density 2,376.14/sq mi (917.42/km2)
 • Urban
55,805 (US: 464th)
 • Metro
64,981 (US: 380th)
Time zone UTC−8 (PST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−7 (PDT)
ZIP Code
Area code 509
FIPS code 53-75775
GNIS feature ID 1512769

Walla Walla is the largest city and county seat of Walla Walla County, Washington, United States. It had a population of 31,731 at the 2010 census, estimated to have increased to 32,900 as of 2019. The population of the city and its two suburbs, the town of College Place and unincorporated Walla Walla East, is about 45,000.

Walla Walla is in the southeastern region of Washington, approximately four hours away from Portland, Oregon, and four and a half hours from Seattle. It is located only 6 mi (10 km) north of the Oregon border.


Recorded history in this state begins with the establishment of Fort Nez Perce in 1818 by the North West Company to trade with the Walla Walla people and other local Native American groups. At the time, the term "Nez Perce" was used more broadly than today, and included the Walla Walla in its scope in English usage. Fort Nez Perce had its name shift to Fort Walla Walla. It was located significantly west of the present city.

On September 1, 1836, Marcus Whitman arrived with his wife Narcissa Whitman. Here they established the Whitman Mission in an unsuccessful attempt to convert the local Walla Walla tribe to Christianity. Following a disease epidemic, both were killed by the Cayuse who believed that the missionaries were poisoning the native peoples. Whitman College was established in their honor.

The original North West Company and later Hudson's Bay Company Fort Nez Percés fur trading outpost, became a major stopping point for migrants moving west to Oregon Country. The fort has been restored with many of the original buildings preserved. The current Fort Walla Walla contains these buildings, albeit in a different location from the original, as well as a museum about the early settlers' lives.

The origins of Walla Walla at its present site begin with the establishment of Fort Walla Walla by the United States Army here in 1856. The Walla Walla River, where it adjoins the Columbia River, was the starting point for the Mullan Road, constructed between 1859 and 1860 by US Army Lieut. John Mullan, connecting the head of navigation on the Columbia at Walla Walla (i.e., the west coast of the United States) with the head of navigation on the Missouri-Mississippi (that is, the east and gulf coasts of the U.S.) at Fort Benton, Montana.

Walla Walla was incorporated on January 11, 1862. As a result of a gold rush in Idaho, during this decade the city became the largest community in the territory of Washington, at one point slated to be the new state's capital. Following this period of rapid growth, agriculture became the city's primary industry.

Walla walla
Fort Walla Walla - 1874
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Baker Boyer Bank building, built in 1911

Ecclesiastical History

Former bishopric

In 1846, the Catholic Church established the Diocese of Walla Walla, with Augustin-Magloire Blanchet as its bishop. (The Latin adjective, not the noun, used by the Roman Curia to refer to Walla Walla, is Valle-Valliensis.) Blanchet arrived on September 5 of that year, but the Whitman massacre of November 29, 1847, led to an uneasy relationship between him, the native Cayuse people, and the United States government, as a result of which he left for St. Paul in the Willamette Valley.

In 1850, the see of Walla Walla was abandoned and its territory assigned to the new Diocese of Nesqually (later spelled "Nisqually"), with Blanchet as its bishop and its episcopal see in Vancouver.

Titular see

In 1971, the diocese was nominally restored as Titular bishopric of the lowest (Episcopal) rank, and since had six, mostly consecutive incumbents:

  • Eugene Antonio Marino, Society of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart (Josephites, S.S.J.) (1974.07.12 – 1988.03.14) (later Metropolitan Archbishop of Atlanta)
  • Bernard William Schmitt (1988.05.27 – 1989.03.29)
  • Paul Albert Zipfel (1989.05.16 – 1996.12.31)
  • James Edward Fitzgerald (2002.01.11 – 2003.09.11)
  • Mitchell Thomas Rozanski (2004.07.03 – 2014.06.19)
  • Witold Mroziewski, Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn (NYC, USA) (2015.05.19 – ...)


Tourists to Walla Walla are often told that locals call it "the town so nice they named it twice". It is a very nice town, however, very few locals actually use this slogan. Walla Walla is a Native American name that means "Place of Many Waters". The original name of the town was Steptoeville named after Colonel Edward Steptoe. In 1855 the name was changed to Waiilatpu, and then by 1859 had been changed again, this time to the name it holds today.

Geography and climate

Walla Walla is located at 46°3′54″N 118°19′49″W / 46.06500°N 118.33028°W / 46.06500; -118.33028 (46.065094, −118.330167).

Walla Walla is also located in the Walla Walla Valley, with the rolling Palouse hills and the Blue Mountains to the east of town. Various creeks meander through town before combining to become the Walla Walla River, which drains into the Columbia River about 30 miles (48 km) west of town. The city lies in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains, so annual precipitation is fairly low.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 12.84 square miles (33.26 km2), of which 12.81 square miles (33.18 km2) is land and 0.03 square miles (0.08 km2) is water.

Walla Walla has a hot-summer Mediterranean climate according to the Köppen climate classification system (Köppen Csa). It is one of the northernmost locations in North America to qualify as having such a climate. In contrast to most other locations having this climate type in North America, Walla Walla can experience fairly cold winter conditions.

Climate data for Walla Walla, Washington (Walla Walla Regional Airport), 1981–2010 normals
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 70
Average high °F (°C) 41.6
Average low °F (°C) 30.6
Record low °F (°C) −18
Average precipitation inches (mm) 2.13
Average snowfall inches (cm) 3.1
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 13.0 10.5 12.3 10.2 9.6 7.3 3.2 2.7 3.9 7.8 13.9 13.2 107.6
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 2.5 1.7 0.7 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.1 1.0 3.3 9.3
Mean monthly sunshine hours 50.4 83.4 173.8 221.7 288.5 326.3 384.5 344.4 268.8 199.2 67.8 40.3 2,449.2
Percent possible sunshine 18.0 28.6 47.0 54.4 62.1 69.1 80.7 78.7 71.6 59.0 24.0 15.0 50.7
Source: NOAA

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Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 1,394
1880 3,588 157.4%
1890 4,709 31.2%
1900 10,049 113.4%
1910 19,364 92.7%
1920 15,503 −19.9%
1930 15,976 3.1%
1940 18,109 13.4%
1950 24,102 33.1%
1960 24,536 1.8%
1970 23,619 −3.7%
1980 25,618 8.5%
1990 26,478 3.4%
2000 29,686 12.1%
2010 31,731 6.9%
2020 34,060 7.3%
U.S. Decennial Census

2020 census

As of the census of 2020, there were 34,060 people and 12,414 householders residing in the city. The population density was 2,478.1 inhabitants per square mile (956.8/km2).

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 31,731 people, 11,537 households, and 6,834 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,477.0 inhabitants per square mile (956.4/km2). There were 12,514 housing units at an average density of 976.9 per square mile (377.2/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 81.6% White, 2.7% African American, 1.3% Native American, 1.4% Asian, 0.3% Pacific Islander, 9.1% from other races, and 3.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 22.0% of the population.

There were 11,537 households, of which 30.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.6% were married couples living together, 12.0% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.7% had a male householder with no wife present, and 40.8% were other forms of households. 33.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.43 and the average family size was 3.10.

The median age in the city was 34.4 years. 22% of residents were under the age of 18; 14.5% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 26.2% were from 25 to 44; 23.1% were from 45 to 64; and 14% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 51.9% male and 48.1% female.

Fine and performing arts

The Walla Walla Valley boasts a number of fine and performing arts organizations and venues.

  • The Walla Walla Symphony began in 1906 and performs a season of about six concerts per year at Whitman College's Cordiner Hall.
  • The Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival is held twice a year and features guest musical ensembles playing classical chamber music in various small venues throughout town. The summer festival includes performances for almost the whole month of June. The winter festival is a small-scale version of the summer program, it is held in mid-January.
  • The GESA Powerhouse Theatre opened in 2011 in Walla Walla; it was originally the Walla Walla gas plant, hence its name. Its dimensions closely resemble the Blackfriars Theatre once used by William Shakespeare. The venue is used by Shakespeare Walla Walla as well as host to various concerts and other performing arts events throughout the year.
  • The Walla Walla Choral Society began in 1980 and performs a season of three or four concerts per year in various locations around the Walla Walla Valley.
  • Fort Walla Walla Amphitheater is an open-air stage with bench seating on the grounds of the Fort Walla Walla Park, next to Fort Walla Walla Museum. It used to host Shakespeare Walla Walla productions and now hosts the Walla Walla Community College Summer Musical.

In addition, the area's three colleges—Whitman College, Walla Walla University and Walla Walla Community College as well as its largest public high school—Walla Walla High School—are well known for their outstanding theater and music performances.


Baker Boyer Bank, the oldest bank in the state of Washington, was founded in Walla Walla in 1869.

In 2001 Walla Walla was a Great American Main Street Award winner for the transformation and preservation of its once dilapidated main street. In July 2011, USA Today selected Walla Walla as the friendliest small city in the United States. Walla Walla was also named Friendliest Small Town in America the same year as part of Rand McNally's annual Best of the Road contest. In 2012 and 2013 Walla Walla was a runner-up in the best food category for the Best of the Road.

Walla Walla is famous for its sweet onions. There are more than 100 wineries in or near Walla Walla.

Sister cities

In 1972, Walla Walla established a sister city relationship with Sasayama, Japan. The two cities have since named roads after their counterpart sister city. Walla Walla also hosted exchange students from Sasayama since 1994 for a two-week home stay experience. One year high school student exchanges between the cities have occurred several times in the past. Cultural/art exchanges involving music, dance, and various art mediums have also occurred. Walla Walla Sister City Committee has been recipient of the Washington State Sister City Association Peace Prize in 2011 and 2014 for their involvement of promoting peace, cultural understanding and friendship.

Economy and infrastructure


Wheat Field in Walla Walla, Washington, 2018
A wheat field in Walla Walla, Washington

Though wheat is still a big crop, vineyards and wineries have become economically important over the last three decades. In summer 2020, there were over 120 wineries in the greater Walla Walla area. Following the wine boom, the town has developed several fine dining establishments and luxury hotels. The Marcus Whitman Hotel, originally opened in 1928, was renovated with original fixtures and furniture. It is the tallest building in the city, at 13 stories.

Walla walla farmers market
Walla Walla Farmers Market

The Walla Walla Sweet Onion is another crop with a rich tradition. Over a century ago on the Island of Corsica, off the west coast of Italy, a French soldier named Peter Pieri found an Italian sweet onion seed and brought it to the Walla Walla Valley. Impressed by the new onion's winter hardiness, Pieri, and the Italian immigrant farmers who comprised much of Walla Walla's gardening industry, harvested the seed.

The sweet onion developed over several generations through the process of selecting onions from each year's crop, targeting sweetness, size and round shape. The Walla Walla Sweet Onion is designated under federal law as a protected agricultural crop. In 2007 the Walla Walla Sweet Onion became Washington's official state vegetable. There is also a Walla Walla Sweet Onion Festival, held annually in July. Walla Walla Sweet Onions have low sulfur content (about half that of an ordinary yellow onion) and are 90 percent water.

Walla Walla currently has two farmers markets, both held from May until October. The first is located on the corner of 4th and Main, and is coordinated by the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation. The other is at the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds on S. Ninth Ave, run by the Walla Walla Valley Farmer's Market.

Wine industry

Walla Walla has experienced an expansion in its wine industry in recent decades, culminating in the area being named "Best Wine Region" in USA Today's Reader Choice Awards in both 2020 and 2021. Several local wineries have received top scores from wine publications such as Wine Spectator, The Wine Advocate and Wine and Spirits. Although most of the early recognition went to the wines made from Merlot and Cabernet, Syrah is fast becoming a star varietal in this appellation. Overall, there are more than 120 wineries in the Walla Walla area, which collectively generate over $100 million for the valley annually.

Walla Walla Community College offers an associate degree (AAAS) in winemaking and grape growing through its Center for Enology and Viticulture, which operates its own commercial winery, College Cellars.

One challenge to growing grapes in Walla Walla Valley is the risk of a killing freeze during the winter. On average these happen once every six or seven years; the penultimate occurrence (in 2004) destroyed about 75% of the wine grape crop in the valley. In November 2010 the valley was again hit with a killing frost, leading to a 28% decline in Cabernet Sauvignon production, a 20% decline in red grape production, and an overall decline in production of 11% (red and white varietals).

Corrections industry

The second-largest prison in Washington, after nearby Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell, is the Washington State Penitentiary (WSP) located in Walla Walla, at 1313 North 13th. Originally opened in 1886, it now houses about 2,000 offenders. In addition, there are about 1000 staff members. In 2005, the financial benefit to the local economy was estimated to be about $55 million through salaries, medical services, utilities, and local purchases. In 2014, the penitentiary underwent an extensive expansion project to increase the prison capacity to 2,500 violent offenders and double the staff size.

Until October 11, 2018, Washington was a death penalty state, and occasional executions took place at the state penitentiary; the last execution took place on September 10, 2010.


Walla Walla is served by two health care institutions: St. Mary Medical Center (part of the Catholic Providence Health System) and the Jonathan M. Wainwright Veteran's Affairs Medical Center on the grounds of the old Fort Walla Walla and World War II training facility.


Transportation to Walla Walla includes service by air through Walla Walla Regional Airport, several railroads, and highway access primarily from U.S. Route 12. The Washington State Department of Transportation is engaged in a long-term process of widening this road into a four-lane divided highway between Pasco and Walla Walla, with major portions scheduled to be complete in 2022. The highway also acts as the main gateway to Interstates 82 and 84, which run to the west and south, respectively. State Route 125 runs through the city, north to State Route 124 in Prescott and south to Milton-Freewater, Oregon, becoming Oregon Highway 11 at the state line.

There are four major bus services in the area connecting the region's cities. Walla Walla and nearby College Place are served by Valley Transit, a typical multi-route city bus service. The city of Milton-Freewater, OR has a single-line bus service with several stops in town with two stops in College Place and five in Walla Walla. Travel Washington's Grape Line is a 104-mile (167 km) intercity service between Walla Walla and Pasco that runs three times a day. Finally, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation operates a Kayak bus to Pendleton, with four trips each weekday and two trips each Saturday via its Walla Walla Whistler route.

Whitman hotel downtown ww
Whitman Hotel at Rose and Second in the "Great Neighborhood"
Sterling Bank Downtown WW
Sterling Bank in one of the renovated buildings in the "Great Neighborhood"


Walla Walla is home of the Walla Walla Sweets, a summer collegiate baseball team that plays in the West Coast League. The league comprises college players and prospects working towards a professional baseball career. Teams are located in British Columbia, Oregon and Washington. Sweets home games have been played at Borleske Stadium in Walla Walla, since their first season in 2010. In only their second season the Sweets played in the WCL Championship game, ultimately losing to the Corvallis Knights. In 2013, the Sweets won their first North Division title with the second best win–loss record in the WCL. The Sweets lost their North Division playoff series to the Wenatchee Applesox that year.

Walla Walla Drag Strip is an 1/8 mile dragstrip west of the Walla Walla Regional Airport. The dragstrip is located on an old runway of the airport.

There also is a women's flat track roller derby league called the Walla Walla Sweets Rollergirls, their practices and games are played at the Walla Walla YMCA.

Walla Walla is the location of Tour of Walla Walla, a four-stage road cycling race held annually in April. The races are held in Walla Walla and in the Palouse hills of nearby Waitsburg. The stages include two road races, a time trial, and a criterium race.

The annual Walla Walla Marathon takes place in October and includes a full marathon, half-marathon, and 10k race. The full marathon is a Boston Marathon Qualifier. The race route winds through the streets of the city of Walla Walla and the country roads outside of town, often running past several of the region's many estate vineyards.


Whitman college admin building
Whitman College Administration Building in fall 2010

Walla Walla is primarily served by Walla Walla Public Schools, which includes seven elementary schools (one is in Dixie, six of them are K-5 with one of these being PreK-5), two middle schools, one traditional high school (colloquially Wa-Hi), and two alternative high schools (Lincoln and Opportunity). There is also Homelink, an alternative K-8 education program which is a hybrid of homeschooling and public school programs.

There are several private Christian schools in the area. These include:

  • The Walla Walla Catholic Schools (Assumption K-8 School and DeSales High School)
  • Liberty Christian School, non-denominational
  • Rogers Adventist School and Walla Walla Valley Academy, in nearby College Place, both of Seventh-day Adventist affiliation
  • Saint Basil Academy of Classical Studies (K-8)

In addition to these, there are three colleges in the area:

  • Walla Walla Community College, co-winner of the 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence
  • Whitman College, an independent liberal arts college
  • Walla Walla University, in nearby College Place, Washington, affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist denomination

Notable people

  • Burl Barer, broadcaster and author
  • Drew Bledsoe, NFL quarterback
  • Hunter Hillenmeyer, former Chicago Bears player
  • Richard Arthur Bogle, businessman and rancher
  • Walter Brattain, Nobel Prize winner and co-inventor of the transistor
  • Evelyn Evelyn, baroque pop duo created by Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley
  • Robert Brode, physicist
  • Wallace R. Brode, scientist
  • Robert Clodius, educator and university administrator
  • Alex Deccio, Politician. Former member of Washington House of Representatives and Washington State Senate.
  • Eddie Feigner, softball player
  • Bert Hadley, actor and makeup artist
  • Alan W. Jones. US Army major general
  • Charly Martin, NFL player
  • Edward P. Morgan, television and newspaper journalist
  • Walt Minnick, U.S. Congressman
  • Mikha'il Na'ima, writer and philosopher
  • David R. Nygren, physicist, inventor of the Time Projection Chamber
  • Eric O'Flaherty, MLB player
  • Charles Potts, poet and publisher
  • Cher Scarlett, software engineer and labor activist
  • Hope Summers, actress
  • Connor Trinneer, actor
  • Jonathan Wainwright, U.S. general
  • Ferris Webster, film editor
  • Adam West, television and film actor
  • Hamza Yusuf, Islamic scholar

Images for kids

See also

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