Washington, Missouri, (population 14,000) is located on the Missouri River. Daniel Boone and his followers first settled the area in 1799, and Lewis and Clark traveled through in 1804. The town was officially founded in 1839 and was later settled primarily by German immigrants.
Ferryboats served the community from the early 1800s until a bridge was completed in 1936. The Pacific Railroad laid lines through Washington by 1855. In 1854, John Busch, older brother of Adolphus Busch, established a brewery in Washington, bottling the first Busch Beer.
Franz Schwarzer began the manufacture of his world-famous zithers here in 1866. Henry and Anton Tibbe began making corn cob pipes in 1869, putting Washington on the map as the “Corn Cob Pipe Capital of the World.” The Missouri Meerschaum Company continues to produce thousands of pipes weekly, selling them to a worldwide market.
The arrival of the Roberts, Johnson and Rand Shoe Company in 1907 and the Kane, Dunham and Kraus Shoe Company in the 1920s provided another economic boost. After their closure, new companies were attracted by Washington’s able work force, sustaining manufacturing to this day.
Washington has more than 500 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places and six nationally listed Historic Districts. Recently, four civic groups joined forces to save the second oldest building on Main Street, built in 1856, from demolition. It has been renovated and is being adaptively reused as meeting and office space and the site of a Farmers’ Market and Outdoor Civic Center.
Washington is home to four museums: the Washington Historical Society Museum, the Missouri Photojournalism Hall of Fame, the Corn Cob Pipe Museum, and the Firehouse Museum, which displays antique engines and vintage automobiles.
Each year, the community hosts the Fall Festival of the Arts & Crafts/Strassenfest, a celebration of Washington’s German heritage. The festival features German decorations crafts, music, dancers, beer, and food.
Designated a Preserve America Community in November 2008.
For more information
City of Washington History by Decades