For relocation or visitor information contact:
111 W. Main Ave
Ritzville, WA 99169
PO Box 122
Ritzville, WA 99169
Located in the heart of Eastern Washington's wheat country, Ritzville is a community with a rich pioneer heritage. Its location was once part of a vast ocean of rippling bunchgrass and sagebrush from horizon to horizon, serving as a randomly used highway crossing for bands of Northwestern Native Americans. Change began with the arrival of the Ritzville area's first permanent settlers, who came by wagon in 1878.
However, it was with the coming of immigrants by wagon train in the early 1880s that the area's destiny with wheat began to be realized. This included a large contingent of Volga Germans who left Russia rather than be conscripted into the Russian army. With the arrival of the railroad in 1881-82, and its access to eastern markets, Ritzville's growth accelerated, making it a growing livestock and wheat shipping center.
In those early days, Ritzville bustled with settlers, cattlemen, tradesmen, merchants, wagons, steam locomotives, even livestock wandering about its main street. It was a true western pioneer town with lots of spirit. Even after fire destroyed most of its business district in 1888, the town bounced back and was incorporated by order of the district court as Ritzville (named after Philip Ritz, an early pioneer and a sub-contractor on the Northern Pacific railroad) in December of the same year. This government lasted only until 1890 when Ritzville was re-incorporated under state law rather than territorial.
Through the 1880s and 1890s there were both boom and bust times, but by the turn of the century, Ritzville shipped more wheat than any other inland wheat shipping port in the world. This was a time of prosperity when many fine homes and much of the business district were constructed.
In 1909, the following businesses were represented in Ritzville, with the number of concerns represented in each:
One flouring mill, capacity of 550 barrels per day, two large lumber yards, four coal and wood yards, five large department stores, two hardware and implement stores, two furniture stores, one gents' furnishing and shoe store, one shoemaker, three grocery stores, two second-hand stores, three tin shops, two plumbing stores and shops, one planing mill, one cement block factory, three photographers, five contractors and builders, one machine shop and foundry, one feed and chop mill, three barber shops, three drug stores, two millinery stores, two hotels, four lodging houses, two meat markets, three restaurants, two bakeries, two jewelry stores, two watchmakers, three livery stables, two tailors, one electric plant, two abstract companies, three financial and investment companies, five real estate and rental agencies, five doctors, eleven lawyers, two cold-storage houses, ten large warehouses and wheat tanks, two skating rinks, one ice manufacturing plant, two amusement halls, one fraternal order hall, two English and one German newspaper, all weeklies, and one harness manufacturing establishment. There were also eight saloons in Ritzville, and the city license fee was $1,000 per annum.
With the passing of time, the flavor of the community as a pioneer town has survived, and much of its original character remains intact. Ritzville continues as an important agricultural center and is situated in a prime location at the convergence of I-90 and US-395. The overall architecture of its historic district is of the early 1900s. With its National Register designation in 1990, several business owners began the process of restoration. Restoration is in the early stages and ongoing.