What Made Prohibition Popular in Walla Walla?

Walla Walla’s earliest modern winery started in the 1970s, but Walla Walla had a rich history of winemaking that began in 1859, long before Prohibition. The industry had its ups and downs, but Prohibition definitely stamped out the formal wine industry before it restarted many decades later. Today, Prohibition was almost one hundred years ago, yet even in the middle of Walla Walla wine country, the effects of the dry decade are not far in the past. With the history of wine in Walla Walla, why was Prohibition so popular and how does it continue to influence alcohol policy today?

As recently as November 2011, Citizen’s Initiative 1183 was passed in Washington that ended the state monopoly on liquor sales that had existed since the end of Prohibition. Private liquor sales only began on June 1, 2012. How is it possible that Washington’s treatment of alcohol still relied on laws that were made almost a century ago? I went to the Northwest Archives in Whitman College’s Penrose Library, visited the Kirkman House Museum, and read news articles discussing the issue from 2010 and 2012 in order to find out why, in a region so fond of its grains and grapes, Prohibition was so popular.

A Dry Decade in Walla Walla

In order to understand the historical perspective on Prohibition, I looked through Harriette Robinson’s papers in Whitman College’s Library archives. Harriette Robinson was obviously a “dry”—that is, a supporter of Prohibition (in contrast with the anti-Prohibition “wets”). Her postcard collection and scrapbook of “Temperance, Option League, and Prohibition” news clippings showed me how people of the time argued for Prohibition.

Below are some photos of original publications at the time in Walla Walla. The poem titled “Vote for Me, Papa” was in response to the argument from the “wets” that some money from saloons went towards schools through taxes, and it ended on the line, “If I vote for my boy, I can only vote ‘dry’.” Some newspapers pulled all the stops, being at once patriotic, sentimental, funny, and practical.

“Drys” were particularly aggressive in their campaigns against saloons, which they saw as providers of alcohol and places of temptation and vice. The saloon was shown as a predatory, almost monstrous establishment that wasted and corrupted youth. In fact, one satirical ad for saloons contains the lines, “We are just obliged to have new customers–fresh young blood… If you once get started with us we guarantee to hold you.”

The saloon’s thirst for fresh victims in that ad is no doubt due to the large amount of crime and incarceration reportedly linked to alcohol. After all, it’s hard to visit a saloon if you’re in jail! But saloons reportedly caused more than crime–they caused laziness, too. One November 26th, 1909 article said that “the saloon is a constant temptation to farmer boys; is a constant source of annoyance and expense, by reason of impairing the efficiency of farm help.” Alcohol was a significant social problem, especially for an agriculture-based community like Walla Walla, and it was easy to rally behind its prohibition.

The Kirkman House Museum in Walla Walla has a video exhibit titled “Roaring Twenties in Walla Walla” which explained that most citizens adapted to Prohibition. Breweries offered “near beers” or other wholesome beverages.  However, not all Walla Walla folks were happy about giving up their alcohol, and many continued to produce their own in secret. A 1921 newspaper account of the seizure of an illegal still described dumping one gallon of alcohol every 11 seconds. That’s a lot of moonshine!

The Post-Prohibition Age

Today, Prohibition has been repealed for over 80 years, but that doesn’t mean Walla Walla has returned to its loose laws in the Wild West days of unregulated, “shameless dens of infamy”. It has never been the same since, with a minimum drinking age and mandatory alcohol server training to regulate alcohol sales and consumption.

However, although Prohibition taught America some lessons about alcohol, we’re better off without it. After all, Walla Walla’s booming wine industry never would have flourished under Prohibition. Walla Walla’s fine wines deserve to be poured into your glass–not down the drain!

Go Take a Hike!

Do you like to hike? If you do, then you’re in luck! Walla Walla’s surrounding area is full of gorgeous hiking routes and leisurely scenic walks—perfect for pairing with a weekend of wine tasting. After nearly four years living here, I’ve developed a few favorite hikes in Walla Walla and the surrounding area.

Harris Park

Just 14 miles south of Milton-Freewater, Walla Walla’s southern neighbor, is Harris Park. Although today, it’s owned and managed by Umatilla County, it actually began its life in the 1920s, as a Boy Scout camp owned by the Rotary Club of Walla Walla. About thirty years later, in 1950, most of the land was given to the County, and it was developed into a recreational area.

Today, the park features many different trails, which allow you to hike right along the Walla Walla River. On your hike, you’ll see various types of plants, breathtaking formations of ancient basalt, wonderful views of the river, and even spots to hop in and take a dip!

Harris Park is open from March to October 15th, weather permitting. You can learn more about the trails here or by visiting the Harris Park website.

Bennington Lake and Rooks Park

Want a mild hike? Take a ten-minute drive from our downtown hotel and check out Bennington Lake and its neighboring park, Rooks Park.

Bennington Lake is a recent addition to the Walla Walla landscape, all things considered. Back in the early 1900s, there was a great deal of concern about the possibilities of Mill Creek flash-flooding incidents—and in fact, in 1931, Mill Creek overflowed, spilling into the streets of downtown Walla Walla! The Army Corps of Engineers responded by constructing Bennington Lake, a man-made reservoir designed to protect both Mill Creek and the city of Walla Walla from dangerous flooding.

This man-made lake offers a wide variety of fun activities. Of course, there’s hiking—20 miles of multipurpose trails surround Bennington Lake provide the most scenic hikes in Walla Walla. But if you’re not in the mood for hiking, Rooks Park and Bennington Lake together offer picnic tables, a playground, BBQ grills, and even a sand volleyball court. And if you’re fond of fishing, you’re in luck—the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife stocks the lake with rainbow trout every spring!

The sun setting over a trail a Bennington Lake

The Bennington Lake trails offer gorgeous views at sunset.

Rooks Park is open year-round, from 7:00am until sunset. The Bennington Lake area is open year-round, from 5:00am until 10:00pm.

Palouse Falls

Palouse Falls is a bit further than the two parks above, but it’s well worth the extra effort. Located about 90 minutes northeast of Walla Walla, the Palouse Falls State Park is named for the 200-foot waterfall it contains, which was designated Washington’s state waterfall in February 2014.

Not only is the waterfall an impressive sight, it’s also been the site of a hair-raising stunt. On April 21st, 2009, kayaker and adrenaline junkie Tyler Bradt descended Palouse Falls in a kayak, setting an unofficial world record for the highest waterfall descent! If you aren’t feeling like that much of a daredevil, though, you can take a hike around the Palouse River Canyon and bask in the beauty of the grand waterfall and its surroundings.

Palouse Falls

Palouse Falls drops nearly 200 feet. It’s taller than Niagara Falls!

Palouse Falls is open from 6:30am until dusk in the summer, and 8:00am until dusk in the winter. You can learn more about it on the Washington State Parks website and on the Washington Trails Association site.

The Walla Walla Wheat Fields

Finally, if all else fails, you can always go for a leisurely stroll along the golden wheat fields just outside of Walla Walla!

Candice in Seattle

Where is Candice Johnson, you ask?

Some of you have mentioned you have noticed an absence in our tasting room over the last few months. Candice Johnson, the artist behind the wall of faces at Walla Faces, has moved to Seattle. You may already know that in 1992 Candice moved to Paris, France where she spent several years honing her style, studying with French artists, and developing the têtes—French for heads—that you see on our wine bottles, but now she’s shifted her focus to philanthropic enterprises. We thought we would take a minute to let you all know what she’s up to.

Candice Johnson at a tea shop

Candice enjoying some tea tasting!

Candice moved to Seattle to achieve her dream of working with “a nonprofit whose mission is to work towards inclusion — by ending homelessness, poverty, racism and educational inequalities.” Towards this end, Candice enrolled at University of Washington to study Fundraising Management, where she is learning how to conduct successful fundraisers for nonprofit organizations. At UW, she learned that she is what Harvard calls a tri-sport athlete: someone who has participate in for-profit, government and nonprofit work. And on top of that, we all know she has some great artistic skills!

One of Candice’s passions in Seattle is the city’s Downtown Emergency Service Center, or DESC. She appreciates that “they believe in housing first and then address the medical, mental and social problems of the homeless.” Instead of excluding those who have addictions or requiring them to undergo treatment, DESC provides housing for them everyone—though many who take up housing with DESC choose to give up their addictions. DESC’s housing first initiative resonated with Candice so much that she elected to spend her Thanksgiving helping at DESC’s Kerner Scott building.

A meal at DESC

Residents enjoy a meal at the DESC service center in Seattle

While we miss Candice here in Walla Walla, we are excited for this new stage in her life–though, probably not as excited as she is! Candice’s training at the University of Washington and her selfless volunteer activities are inspiring to all of us at Walla Faces, and we wish her the very best in Seattle.

To learn more about Candice, visit her website at www.candicejohnson.com.  Want to say hello?  You can reach her at candicerjohnson@gmail.com.  Cheers, Candice!

The History of the “Walla Walla Inns at Historic Downtown”

The Walla Faces Inn at Historic Downtown is housed in one of the oldest, most prominent buildings in Walla Walla: the Hungate Building.

Erected in 1905, this building has stood on as Walla Walla has progressed from a rural farming town to a bustling, elegant destination.

The Washington Territory was created in 1853 and Walla Walla County was created a mere year later. Subsequently, the city of Walla Walla was laid out by the surveyor H. H. Chase in 1859. The property is a part of the oldest patent in Walla Walla, dated from 1861, which was before Walla Walla was incorporated as a city. Its first owners were A. J. Cain, the newspaper financier and Walla Walla prosecuting attorney who was known as “the Father of Columbia County”, and A. H. Reynolds, who established Walla Walla’s first bank. The area housed a grain warehouse in 1884, an agricultural supply store in 1888, and a blacksmith shop in 1894. Although these small businesses fit the needs of the rural farming community, some local businessmen had grander ideas.

In 1903, the property was purchased by Harrison H. Hungate, an educated farmer who served as the Walla Walla County treasurer. The area that now houses a bustling downtown was rows of stables and Hungate had to seek permission of the livestock owners to build his two-story building. As soon as the ink was dry on his contract, Hungate got to work.

Hungate employed an architect named Henry Osterman, a German immigrant who designed many of the prominent buildings in Walla Walla, including the Whitman College Administration building, Green Park Elementary, Sharpstein Elementary, Liberty Theater, and Carnegie Library.

Osterman immigrated to the United States in 1889, where he worked as a carpenter. On the side, he designed his own house and learned to speak English. His skilled work garnered so much attention that he was able to open an architectural firm in 1899. According to the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, Osterman designed “practically all the important business and office buildings in the city, together with many of the finer residences”.

The exterior of the Hungate Building in historic downtown Walla Walla

The Hungate Building in historic downtown Walla Walla, home to Walla Faces

Construction began in 1904 and the Walla Walla Hotel was finally erected in 1905 with the same address that the Walla Faces Hotel at Historic Downtown holds today: 214 East Main. When Hungate died in 1916, his daughters split inn property equally. It was kept in the family until 1972, when its ownership again came into flux. The Hungate Building hosted a variety of short-lived businesses ranging from ice cream to barber shops.

Rick and Debbie Johnson, the Walla Faces owners, purchased the Hungate Building in 2005, continuing the building’s historical tradition as one of the most prestigious hotels in the Walla Walla Valley.

Want to see it for yourself? Check out our Hotels page for more information about the Hungate Building’s latest evolution and to make a reservation!

10 Ways You Know You Have a Winery Dog

Visitors to the Walla Faces Vineyard have almost certainly met Angel, Rick and Debbie’s bubbly and lovable 6-year-old shih tzu. As the most good-humored member of the Walla Faces team, she has fully embraced her role as winery dog.

Angel was adopted as 6-week-old puppy by her original owner. When her owner sadly passed on last year, Debbie’s close friend began to spread the word about the vivacious animal. “Shirley posted about her on Facebook and in twenty minutes she was my dog,” Debbie laughed. In July 2012, she joined another winery dog, Red, an elderly greyhound rescue, who passed away in January.

Even beyond her wonderful personality, Angel epitomizes what it means to be a winery dog in at least ten ways.

Angel, the Walla Faces Winery Dog

Angel loves chewing on corks. It’s her favorite pastime!

10 Ways You Know You Have a Winery Dog

  1. Her favorite chew toy isn’t available at the pet store– it’s a wine cork from your favorite bottle of wine!
  2. You  trust her not to knock over an open bottle of Riesling.
  3. She gets her exercise running up and down rows of grape vines.
  4. If you spill a few drops of Cabernet, she’s always there to lick up the mess.
  5. Since dogs have 20 times more scent receptors than humans do, she can smell your wine better than a master sommelier.
  6. She loves resting under the shade of an oak barrel.
  7. She’s even more loyal than a wine club member.
  8. She sits in front of the door at the tasting room, eager to greet any customers.
  9. She has you worried about what pairs best with her kibble.
  10.  She loves the terroir so much that her fur is completely covered in it!

Angel the winery dog