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!

A Night At the Walla Faces Inns at Historic Downtown

In an attempt to get a customer-eye view of the Walla Faces Inns at Historic Downtown, I spent the night in the gorgeous Suite 4. (It’s a hard life.) In an evening punctuated by tickets to the Powerhouse Theater and a three course meal at Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen, the highlight of my evening was still the Walla Faces bathtub.

Although the Walla Faces Inns at Historic Downtown was first opened in 2006, the historical building has been a part of the Walla Walla landscape since it was built in 1904. Walla Faces owners Rick and Debbie Johnson bought the property in 2006 and transformed it into the perfect mix of modern design and old-fashioned touches. Since its inception, the Walla Faces Inns have received rave reviews from travelers and a 2013 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence. The rooms overlook the quaint Walla Walla Main Street, within walking distance of both amazing restaurants and countless wine tasting rooms (including the Walla Faces Tasting Room right downstairs!).

At first, the process can feel a little foreign. There is no front desk, room key, or check-in system. Rather, you set a four-digit room code. Any time after 3:00, you can “check in” simply by entering your door code at the front door, which opens to a grand staircase, or the back door, which has a convenient elevator right by the parking lot. The system offers a feeling of privacy and seclusion.

As soon as I ascended into the hotel, I was surrounded by paintings, sculptural light fixtures and hardwood floors. I entered my code into the Suite 4 and a whirring noise and a tiny green light welcomed me to my room.

Suite 4 was spacious and well-conceived, with lovely high ceilings. A kitchen (bigger than my kitchen at home!) complete with a full-sized refrigerator, dishes, and pots and pans overlooked a living space adorned with art.  The soft, cozy couch was perfect for snuggling up with a book or watching TV on the flatscreen over the fireplace. The bedroom has a king sized mattress and four down-feather pillows. It opens toward a modern-looking office space. A full-sized  washer and dryer sit beside the bathroom.

Luxury is defined by bathrooms. Fluffy towels. Jacuzzi tubs. Bath bombs. Pretty mirrors. Scaldingly hot water. Well-thought-out bathrooms are what truly have the charms to soothe the savage beast. The citrus L’Occitane bath products and separate bathtub and shower were two cherries on top. My bath was hot, bubbly and fragrant; everything a bath should be.

I slept incredibly well and woke to light streaming in through my window. I’d never realized the brilliance of a memory foam mattress! Gathering my belongings to check out at 1pm was a sad ritual. On the bright side, thanks to the mattress, my back felt awesome…

You can book a night at the Walla Faces Inns at Historic Downtown online by clicking here or by calling us at 877 301 1181 x1.