At 1:30 on Friday, March 27, the story of two competing villages will be presented by Walla Walla 2020 in the training room of the City’s main fire station at the corner of 12th & Poplar. Following the presentation, there will be a dedication of the sign Walla Walla 2020 has recently erected at that corner, commemorating the establishment of the village of Halfway there in the fall of 1858.
It wasn’t until the U.S. Army established Fort Walla Walla near the current intersection of First & Main in 1856 and then in 1858 moved it to the hill where the VA Medical Center is now that any commercial establishments began here. At that time, two competing villages sprang up in what has since become the city of Walla Walla.
In competition with the businesses located near Mill Creek at its crossing of the Nez Perce Trail in what is now downtown Walla Walla, in the fall of 1858 Harry Howard together with a Mr. Parkeson built a log saloon in the vicinity of what is now 12th and Poplar. This establishment was halfway between the new Fort Walla Walla on the hill to the west and the old Fort Walla Walla cantonment located on the east side of Mill Creek at First and Main.
Howard and Parkeson’s saloon soon became known as the Halfway House because of its location between the two fort sites. Other businessmen then built around the Halfway House. These entrepreneurs laid off a square plaza for their new village of Halfway and built their business facing it.
In the competition that developed between the village of Halfway and the merchants located near the old fort on Mill Creek, in the end everyone realized that the packers were bound to go to Mill Creek to camp because of the availability of water, and that while there they would naturally tend to trade at the nearest store or saloon. Recognizing this, the merchants in the Village of Halfway ultimately moved their establishments over to Mill Creek, and the town of Walla Walla was officially founded there in November of 1859 by resolution of the county commissioners.
See the map and sketch of early buildings below. For more information on the villages of Halfway and Walla Walla, as well as other little-known historic sites and markers in the Walla Walla area, visit www.ww2020.net/historic-sites.