Washington, MO (WAH)
The historic Missouri Pacific Railroad depot was built in 1923 and today houses a passenger waiting room, the town's visitors center and the Mid-Missouri Fine Arts Gallery.
301 West Front Street
Washington, MO 63090
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 15,753
- Facility Ownership: City of Washington
- Parking Lot Ownership: City of Washington
- Platform Ownership: Union Pacific Railroad
- Track Ownership: Union Pacific Railroad
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
This Missouri Pacific depot was built in 1923 by the railroad’s E.M. Tucker, this traditional brick station building provides a waiting room for passengers as well as housing Washington’s Visitor Center and the Mid-Missouri Fine Arts Gallery. Outside, the wide eaves of the hipped roof, with their decoratively braced brackets, flank the central closed gable on the street side and the extended bay for the station manager on the track side. The bay’s second story is capped by an octagonal roof, and darker brick quoins decorate the red brick exterior. While the station is included in the city’s historic district, it is not identified as historic in itself.
In 1999, with $600,000 in state and city funds, the city restored its station and created a railroad heritage park, at a cost of $47,000. A further $271,000 was spent on a hike and bike trail originating at the depot.
The previous passenger depot, of wooden frame construction built by the Pacific Railroad in 1865, was moved on log rollers to make way for this current passenger depot. This older building was completed to replace the original station from 1855, which had been burnt in General Sterling Price’s raid during the Civil War. Now sitting next door to the passenger station, it has been used as a freight depot since its move in the 1920s. Some say it is the oldest standing wooden railroad depot west of the Mississippi River.
Washington sits on the south bank of the Missouri River, approximately 50 miles from St. Louis in what has been described as the heart of the Missouri wine country. German settlers who arrived following the Louisiana Purchase often likened it to the Rhineland and Ruhr Valley of their origin.
However, the first Europeans to establish in this area were the Spanish, who built the fort of San Juan del Misuri; the fort lasted from 1796 to 1803. By that time, family and followers of Daniel Boone had settled in the area along with that storied statesman, who died in Callaway County, Missouri in 1820. The town of Washington grew up around a natural river landing, and ferryboats served the community from the first licensed ferry in 1814 until the bridge was completed over the Missouri in 1936. The area continued to grow with the increased traffic down the Missouri to St. Louis, both by rail and river.
William G. Owens and his wife Lucinda settled the area in 1818 and eventually purchased most of the land that would become the town’s center, about 50 acres beside the river which they sought to develop. Town lots were auctioned in 1829, but Owens’ murder in 1834 caused legal entanglements that were not cleared by his widow until 1839, when she filed the plat at the county courthouse to establish the town. Washington was finally incorporated in 1840.
Political instability in Europe and glowing reports from German-born pioneers in Missouri encouraged considerable German immigration to the United States, and one of the natural routes westward was up the Mississippi from New Orleans and westward up the course of the Missouri River. The large Missouri-German community in Washington made the city an oasis of anti-slavery Union sympathizers in an otherwise pro-slavery state prior to the Civil War.
While Missouri-Germans were noted for their viticulture and wine-making in the general region, beer-brewing found greater commercial success in Washington. In 1855, German-born John B. Busch, along with his brother Henry Busch and Fred Gersie, opened a brewery in Washington. John Busch, older brother of Adolphus Busch of Anheuser-Busch fame, thus began his brewery five years before the St. Louis branch did, and it was a significant Washington business for many decades.
Washington was a natural shipping point and saw much of the agricultural products from the surrounding area come through. The city also produced agricultural implements, barrels, boxes, mattresses, soap, cigars, bricks and shoes in the mid-nineteenth century.
Washington is also well-known for manufacturing corn-cob pipes and zithers. In 1869, Henry Tibbe, a Dutch immigrant woodworker, began producing corn-cob pipes—at first by request from a farmer friend, and then full time as his pipe-making work eclipsed his wood working. By 1907, H. Tibbe and Son Co. became the Missouri Meerschaum Company. Meerschaum refers to the light Turkish clay used in some pipes, and Tibbe likened his corn-cob pipes to the more expensive meerschaum in its cool, sweet smokes. Many other corn-cob pipe companies have come and gone in Franklin County, where Washington lies, but Missouri Meerschaum remains in operation today, and its original factory lies near the station in the historical district.
Franz Schwarzer, an Austrian-born, university-educated architect and woodworker, emigrated to the United States in 1866, first to New York, then Missouri, where he made first made his living in Washington by hand-crafting furniture. Before the Civil War, Washington had become a bi-lingual and bi-cultural town, where Schwarzer became active in the Washington Turn Verein and the Liederkranz societies and was elected the first Fire Chief of the town. Schwarzer soon became known for his zither-making: zithers being a stringed instrument popular in alpine Austria, Hungary, and Germany. In 1873, Schwarzer entered three of his zithers in the Vienna Exposition and was awarded the Gold Medal of Progress, the highest award of the fair, for his entry. Schwarzer Zithers remained in great demand until the first and second World Wars, suffering due to anti-German sentiment in part, and because his heirs sold the diminished business. Schwarzer is still considered one of the greatest zither-makers. The Washington Historical Society began collecting Schwarzer zithers in the mid sixties, and the collection is quite large now. The Schwarzer zither factory is also one of the prominent buildings in Washington’s historic district.
Today, Washington’s tourism relies heavily
- 15 Short Term Parking Spaces
- 15 Long Term Parking Spaces
- Accessible Payphones
- Accessible Platform
- Accessible Restrooms
- Accessible Waiting Room
- Dedicated Parking
- Enclosed Waiting Area
- Wheelchair Lift