Downtown Washington, Inc., formerly a merchant's committee since the late 1950's, was formed in 1989 when the City of Washington was selected as one of the first five pilot communities for the Missouri Main Street Program. Downtown Washington, Inc. has maintained its status as a Missouri Main Street Program and as a National Main Street Community to this day. Downtown Washington, Inc. proudly sponsors the Art Fair & Winefest, WashMo BBQ, bikes & blues, Sunsets on the Riverfront, Fall Festival of the Arts & Crafts, Chili cook-off, a farm to table dinner, and much more!
To promote an attractive and financially stable downtown while preserving our historic resources and enriching the community.
Now and in the future, Downtown Washington will serve as a center of commerce in Franklin County, offering numerous opportunities for people to enjoy the character of an historic riverfront town.
Downtown will be a warm and friendly place, one which attracts businesses, past and present residents, and visitors alike. Providing a vibrant atmosphere, downtown Washington will be able to serve both as a center for civic activities and as a destination for tourists. Downtown will attract and retain a diverse mix of complementary retail and service businesses. The core of the city will be maintained downtown, taking advantage of the river location. Remaining a major viable economic force that contributes to a growing tax base, Downtown Washington will also retain its charm and rich heritage. Historic buildings will be preserved with economically viable uses.
Equipped with a design handbook previously commissioned as part of a comprehensive plan, a committee will remain in place to help keep the downtown clean and well-maintained, incorporating attractive window designs and green space.
Strong leadership supported by an enthusiastic base of volunteers will be the product of an alliance made up of united businesses, the Washington Area Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Washington, Inc., the City of Washington, and the broader community. This alliance will utilize a shared vision, a clear set of goals, and strong community financial support to drive the downtown revitalization program.
In April of 1973 a group of downtown merchants incorporated Washington Downtown Shopping Center, Inc. as a not for profit corporation in response to the rise of shopping centers in the southern part of town. Their early efforts to improve the civic conditions in the downtown shopping district eventually blossomed into Downtown Washington, Inc. In 1989, Washington Downtown Shopping Center, Inc. was shortened to Downtown Washington, Inc.
when the city of Washington, along with four other Missouri towns, was selected to become a pilot community for the newly formed Missouri Main Street Program, an initiative created by the Missouri Department of Economic Development and National Trust for Historic Preservation. During the 1990s the organization, under the supervision of Executive Director Linda Kuenzie, began to reshape the layout and aesthetic of the downtown district. Along with constructing the Main and Elm Street parking lot in 1991, Downtown Washington, Inc., partnering with the City of Washington, led the renovation of Main Street by installing new lamps and banners. Kuenzie, along with her board, also established the gift certificate system, a program that has encouraged shopping in the downtown district for more than 20 years. In 1992, the Feltmann Family donated
the historic log cabin on Jefferson and 2nd Street to Downtown Washington, Inc. Restoration began in 1993 and lasted for four and a half years. Upon completion in 1997, the organization’s operations were moved from the Chamber of Commerce’s basement to their new offices in the cabin. There, Rodney Stoyer served as Executive Director from 1999 until 2002 and helped Downtown Washington, Inc. finish twice (2000-2001) in the top 10 for the Great American Main Street award.
In 2001 Bridgette (Epple) Kelch was hired and helped guide Downtown Washington, Inc. into the 21st century. During the next decade the organization’s focus gradually expanded to encompass property redevelopment and ownership.
To help facilitate this, the Historic Washington Foundation was founded in 2006 with the intention of managing larger projects. One of their first undertakings was the renovation of the Bleckman building at 317 West Main Street in 2005. A year later the Farmers’ Market opened and since then has proven to be an important location for hosting events downtown. Its relevance to the downtown district was expanded in 2011 when the upper stories of the Farmers’ Market were converted into residential space.
More recently the organization completed a massive renovation of the downtown post office. In 2010 they moved their operations once more and on March 1, 2011 the newly renovated post office was opened, hosting both new offices for the organization and also a Contract Postal Unit providing mail services. These efforts and expansion culminated in 2012 when the organization won the coveted Great American Main Street award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.