Just across the Missouri River on the Southwest corner of St. Charles County is the beautiful, historic river town of Washington, with a distinctive German heritage and a rich history that includes some of the same notables as St. Charles County…namely Daniel Boone and Lewis & Clark.
But Washington has its own notorious distinctions…it’s known for the zither, the corncob pipe, and the first brewing of Busch beer, to name a few.
Some of the earliest settlers in the Washington area were followers of Daniel Boone. The German populace for which Washington is known began with the arrival of twelve Catholic families in the fall of 1833, according to the Division of Tourism.
A natural river landing made this an ideal place to begin a settlement. In the first three decades of the nineteenth century, the small community grew upon the gently sloping hillside on the south bank of the Missouri River. William G. Owens and his wife Lucinda settled in the area in 1818. They eventually purchased most of the land that would become known as “downtown” Washington, which included about fifty acres. However, in 1834, Owens was murdered, and legal entanglements in his estate blocked the establishment of the new town. His widow Lucinda would eventually receive clear title to the town’s core, and in 1839, she filed a plat at the county courthouse thus establishing the city of Washington.
In 1854, John B. Busch, an older brother of the famous Adolphus Busch, established a brewery in Washington, bottling the first Busch Beer. The Pacific Railroad laid lines as far as Washington by 1855. An Austrian immigrant, Franz Schwarzer, began the manufacture of his world-famous zithers in 1866. Henry Tibbe and his son Anton began making corncob pipes in 1869; that business would help put Washington, Missouri, on the map as the “Corncob Pipe Capital of the World.”
Many of Washington’s historic structures remain today.
THINGS TO DO
A visit to the Washington Historical Society Museum brings this history to life. The 6000 sq. ft. building exhibits things relative to the history of Washington and the surrounding area, and includes corn-cob pipes, zithers, Busch beer memorabilia, pottery, arts, furnishings, etc. It is open Sundays 1:00-4:00 p.m, Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
You can also buy your tickets there to the The Kohmueller farmhouse. Built in 1879, it represents the typical brick home of the early German emigrants from the Osnabruck. Restored by Washington Preservation, Inc., the farmhouse is the site of many living history events each year. Tours are available March through November.
The veteran-owned and -operated Iron Spike Model Train Museum is a must for kids (of all ages) and encourages children to learn about railroads in a fun and engaging way. You can get one free admission by texting IRONSPIKE to 57838.
It’s also fun to visit the Country Living General Store, East Main Antiques, Olivino Tasting Bar (an olive oil emporium), and the Ozarkland General Store, as well as the Washington Farmers Market on Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
THINGS TO SEE
Of course, the River is a highlight in Washington, and Riverfront Park offers the best view. It can be accessed for fishing, as can Lion’s Lake, another beautiful lake and park there, with a 1-mile walking trail around the lake and multiple playgrounds including an All Abilities Park.
For Art enthusiasts, you’ll want to see the Gary Lucy Gallery in Washington. Gary is well known for his historical interpretation artwork, particularly of life along the river. Last year, the City of St. Charles commissioned Gary to create a special painting commemorating the 250th anniversary of the City’s establishment, to hang in City Hall during its Sestercentennial.
WHERE TO STAY
If you plan to spend the night in this quaint town, the Aletha-Marie Krog Guest House is a charming historic home located just blocks away from the downtown restaurants, art galleries and shopping.
The Brick Inn Bed and Breakfast offers four rooms with king beds and private baths, gourmet breakfast, hot tub, patio, fire pit, and Wi-Fi. It’s close to downtown and the Amtrak station.
There are several B&B’s to choose from, including Gottfried's Cabin Gast Haus. Built in 1834, the cabin is the oldest standing structure in historic downtown. It’s located just blocks away from the riverfront.
WHAT TO EAT
One of the favorite places to eat is Marquart’s Landing. A Washington landmark, it was built in 1855 and was originally called the Pacific House, since it was originally built to accommodate the influx of people coming to the area due to the Pacific Railroad. Over the years the building has always housed a tavern and hotel of some sort, and owners Rick and Karen Marquart have continued that tradition.
The pizzas at Marquart’s Landing’s are legendary and their delicious burgers feature beef ground fresh from Williams Brothers Meat Market.
The Landing’s spacious patio overlooks the Missouri River and has a full-service non-smoking inside-out bar, with live entertainment on weekends. On the patio, you can sit and watch the trains go by or wait to catch your ride on Amtrak.
A visit to the Washington Historical Society Museum brings this history to life… and includes corn-cob pipes, zithers, Busch beer memorabilia, pottery, arts, furnishings, etc.