Washington cherishes its vibrant past, which dates all the way back to 1833, when the land first became available for settlement following treaties with the Sac and Fox Indian tribes. Originally, the town was designated as Slaughter, a name given in honor of William B. Slaughter, Secretary of the Territory of Wisconsin. The name was not well taken and was soon changed to Washington, after George Washington, on January 25, 1839, the same year the town became the county seat.
Original settlers came to Washington for many reasons: the land was fruitful and quality farms were sold at a low cost, or given away for free. Today, with a population reaching 7,300, the city’s history continues to be seen and appreciated here through a number of preserved structures. Make sure to stop by each of these sites described below and take a glimpse into Washington’s vibrant past.
Take a step back and view some of Washington’s oldest homes along The Boulevard (West Washington Street). Many were built in the late 1800s, and showcase a variety of architectural styles. The original brick street continues to be utilized today.
Blair House, referred to as the “Little Sister” to Terrace Hill (the Governor’s Mansion), was constructed in 1880 and served as the headquarters of the Washington Commercial Club in 1902 and the city hall in 1925. A group of local citizens acquired and restored the house in 1974, and today the house serves as an office and meeting center.
Further well-maintained historic residences include the Conger House and the Alexander Young Log Cabin. The Conger House was built in 1847 by one of the county’s earliest settlers. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and, since opening as the Jonathan Clarke Conger House Museum in 1973, displays a variety of collections of the Washington County Historical Society. The Alexander Young Log Cabin is situated in Sunset Park, serving as the home of Alexander Young, his wife Mary and their eight children after its construction in 1840. Named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, the cabin is open for viewing by appointment.
Two preserved one-room schoolhouses are discoverable in the area. The first is the Red Brick Schoolhouse, home to the Red Brick School District (formed in 1877), was used until May 8, 1960. It is a well-known landmark within the county and was donated to the Washington County Historical Society on January 8, 2006. The second is the Walnut Creek School, located six miles south of Washington. This one-room school served the area’s educational needs and was also utilized by the Walnut Women, who formed on October 6, 1921. Today, Walnut Creek School operates as a museum under the guidance of the Washington County Historical Society.
The F Troop Military Museum was initially used as the administrative office of Troop F, World War I’s 113th Iowa National Guard Cavalry. Now, patrons can peruse through unique military memorabilia from the Civil War, WW I, WW II, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iran and Iraq.
The Dublin Store, built in 1873 as the Odd Fellows Lodge hall, is positioned just seven miles outside of Washington along 250th Street. The store has been home to a post office and a number of other business activities until its closing in June of 1964.
Situated within Central Park, located in Historic Downtown Washington, Centennial Fountain was erected and dedicated in honor of Washington’s 1939 Centennial Celebration. The fountain stands as the only one of its type in the continental U.S. featuring a multi-colored light show and distinctive water patterns. Centennial Fountain is certainly the focus of Washington’s Central Park, an area encompassed by retailers, professional firms and additional businesses, and hails as the site for many of the community’s special events.