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Preserve America is a national initiative in cooperation with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; the U.S. Departments of Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Education; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities; and the President's Council on Environmental Quality.

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Preserve America Community:
Ritzville, Washington

Ritzville (population 1,736), located in the heart of eastern Washington's wheat country, was first settled in the late 1870s and early 1880s.

Farmers' Market, Pioneer Plaza, Ritzville, Washington
Farmers Market, Pioneer Plaza, Ritzville, WA
(Photo: R. Bruce Eckley)

It is a community with a rich pioneer history, counting among local citizen organizations the Wagon Train Descendants' Association. Many of its first settlers were German and Russian immigrants. Agriculture, particularly the cultivation of wheat, has been a mainstay of the economy.

The railroads came in 1881-1882, creating easy access to Eastern markets. Ritzville quickly became a livestock and wheat shipping center, and was the largest primary wheat shipping point in the world in 1901.

Many of the community's fine historic homes and much of its historic business district were constructed during this period of prosperity at the turn of the century. The four-square-block downtown area of Ritzville is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

Two museums in Ritzville are heritage tourism destinations - the Dr. Frank R. Burroughs Home (1890) and the Railroad Depot Museum (1910). The downtown area includes a fine Carnegie Library (1907).

The Ritzville Historic Preservation Commission was formed in 1992 with the passage of a historic preservation ordinance. In 2002, the non-profit Ritzville Downtown Development Association (RDDA) was formed under a state pilot program to revitalize the area.

Members of the RDDA include representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, Public Development Authority, Ritzville Historic Preservation Commission, City Council, and Adams County Economic Development Council.

Among the RDDA's initial achievements is creation of a Farmers Market and annual sponsorship of Historic Ritzville Days, a festival held over Memorial Day weekend that celebrates the community's history and ethnic heritage.

For more information

City of Ritzville: www.ritzville-wa.gov

Ritzville information: www.ritzville.com

Posted May 26, 2009

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