Walla Walla is the largest city in and the county seat of Walla Walla County, Washington, United States. The population of the town itself was 31,731 at the 2010 census. The population of Walla Walla and its two suburbs, the town of College Place and unincorporated "East Walla Walla," is about 45,000. Walla Walla is in the southeastern region of Washington, approximately four hours by car from Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, and thirteen miles north of the Oregon border.
Whitman College, Walla Walla Community College, and the Washington State Penitentiary are located in Walla Walla. Walla Walla University is located in nearby College Place, Washington. Baker Boyer Bank, the oldest bank in the state of Washington, was founded in Walla Walla in 1869.
Walla Walla has received many civic awards since 2000. 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 town 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.
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 begins recorded history in this region. 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.
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 Whitmore 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.
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. The former Governor's mansion stands at 925 East Isaacs Avenue. Following this period of rapid growth, agriculture became the city's primary industry.