Seat of Adams County, the town was an important milling and shipping center of the dry and dusty wheat country. It was homesteaded in 1878 by Philip Ritz, a wheat and fruit grower, who acquired 8,000 acres of agricultural land, and was a sub-contractor in railroad building. On December 22, 1880, the town was platted by affiliates of Northern Pacific Railway Company and named for Ritz who was also active in the development of early Tacoma. Between 1891–1900, a large group of German-Russians settled in Ritzville, and many of their old-country customs still survive. With the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railway, the town grew from a drab village into the busy community it is today.
Points of Interest
Ritzville Flour Mills
The Ritzville Flour Mills and a farmer-operated, wheat-shipping warehouse contribute to the city’s income. Situated along E. Main St., the flour mills have been much modernized but remain a formidable downtown presence.
Ritzville Historic District
Located in the business center of the Adams County seat, the Ritzville Historic District is a three block area that encompasses the city’s principal commercial structures, built mostly between 1889 and 1920, including the railroad depot, library, hotel, mercantile blocks, garages, fraternal balls, theater and shops. The district is characterized by large multistoried brick buildings, with arched fenestration and corbeled brick cornices, and smaller one-story brick storefronts. Although the integrity of individual buildings has been compromised, the district as a whole retains its original compact boundaries, most of its historic building stock, and the general character that it had when the city was the world’s leading wheat shipping center.
Ritzville Carnegie Library
The history of the Ritzville library began in 1902 with the donation to the city of 364 volumes by Daniel Buchanan. The library’ was incorporated under the auspices of the city in 1903 and a ballot proposition seeking voter approval for the expenditure of funds appeared in the 1904 general election. These activities were undertaken in anticipation of the city’s application for a Carnegie grant. The grant was approved in 1906, first for $10,000, and, after the city promised $50 more per year in operating appropriations, later for $10,500. A downtown site was obtained for $2,500 and the new library was constructed in 1907. It has served ever since as the city’s library. The building has stood up well, although the brickwork has been repointed. In 1980, the flat roof withstood the strain of tons of Mt. St. Helens volcanic ash. Although space is limited, the library is able to offer its patrons a variety of services by co-operation with the Spokane system.