These Vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley Breathe New Life into Historic Buildings | Lifestyles

In an architecturally rich city like Walla Walla, where our downtown is listed on the National Register as a Historic District and the city is full of period homes, we are used to seeing restorations of homes and buildings . But for some sites, such as warehouses, sheds, schools and barns, it is not possible to restore them to their original use.

For these historic buildings, “adaptive reuse” can provide a solution that complements the building, but adapts it to today’s uses. Unlike a strict restoration, it allows certain modifications and renovations in accordance with the character of the building.

It’s no big surprise that some of our cellars are in historic buildings that were built for other uses. Many also have tasting rooms in historic downtown buildings.

If you want a little taste of local buildings being reborn in cellars, here are some of those treasures in the Walla Walla Valley (in alphabetical order). If you are a history buff and a wine lover, get out and enjoy all those historic buildings that come to life as cellars and tasting rooms.






Mule barn on the Abeja property, Mill Creek Road, Walla Walla, circa 1900.




Abeja Vineyard

2014 Mill Creek Road, Walla Walla (abeja.net)

The Abeja winery has its roots in an early 20th century farmhouse built by David and Catherine Kibler. In 1986 the derelict buildings were sold to Greg and Vanessa Finch, who began restoring them and in 1997-99 opened the farm as the Mill Creek Inn.

Ken and Ginger Harrison purchased the property in 2000 and planted the first vineyard in 2001. In 2002 the property was renamed Inn at Abeja (bee in Spanish). The company’s 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon was released in 2003, marking the debut of the Abeja winery.

For 20 years the wine was made in the restored mule barn. When they outgrew the space and built a new production building (in the same style as the complex), the barn became a popular event venue. The tasting room is right next door, in the old cowshed.

Other redeveloped buildings include the farmhouse, summer kitchen, dormitory and chicken coop, converted into living quarters and the carriage house, which includes suites and barrel rooms. In terms of the most adaptive reuse of buildings, Abeja stands out for its numbers.







Combined Canoe Ridge

Left: Walla Walla Traction shop in 1909, now Canoe Ridge, on West Cherry Street, Walla Walla (courtesy Joe Drazan/Bygone Walla Walla Project). Right: Canoe Ridge as it stands today has included a Walla Walla Valley Railroad sign in its reuse of the old store (photo by Diane Reed).


canoe ridge

1102 W. Cherry St., Walla Walla (canoeridgevineyard.com)

Originally the store of the Walla Walla Traction Company, built in 1905, the building later became part of the Walla Walla Valley Railroad.

In 1994, Canoe Ridge opened in this converted wagon barn which includes their production facility and special event space. The restoration of the exterior pays homage to the building’s previous life, including a sign honoring the Walla Walla Valley Railroad and the retention of the massive doors where carts entered the building for repairs.

In 2019, Canoe Ridge opened a new tasting room at 45 E. Main St. in downtown Walla Walla.







Corliss handset

Left: Wholesale grocery store interior in 1957 (photo courtesy of Joe Drazan/Bygone Walla Walla Project). Right: Corliss Estate building today at 511 N. Second Ave. at Walla Walla (photo courtesy of Nick Page Photography).


Domain of Corliss

511 N. Second Ave. Walla Walla (www.corliss.wine)

In 1999, Michael and Lauri Corliss purchased a vacant circa 1910 grocery warehouse on Second Avenue in downtown Walla Walla.

While the exterior of the building was unremarkable, the interior of the 30,000 square foot warehouse revealed post-and-beam construction, which became a stunning backdrop for a beautifully appointed cellar.

The exterior has been completely renovated and architectural elements have been added according to the era of the building. It’s a great example of adaptive reuse. The Corliss facility, open by open reservation, opened in 2008.







Combined Dunham

Left: Old shed in 1999 (courtesy Dunham Cellars). Right: Original Dunham Cellars building today, 150 E. Boeing Ave., Walla Walla (photo by Diane Reed).


Dunham Cellars

150 E. Boeing Ave., Walla Walla (dunhamcellars.com)

In 1999, founding winemaker Eric Dunham, who produced wine for L’Ecole Winery, set out to find a location to open Dunham Cellars. He found it in an unlikely location, in a 1942 hangar, a remnant of when Walla Walla Regional Airport was the US Army air base during World War II.

He and his father, Mike Dunham and Mike’s wife, Joanne, founded Dunham Cellars in 1999. At the time, only one winery was located at the airport – Reininger Winery. Today, 15 wineries are established in the airport district, many of which occupy the period buildings of the former air base.

Although the shed has been renovated, the exterior of the building has retained its original cladding and chimney. The interior of the building shows its original old timber frame infrastructure.

They dubbed the public space the Hangar Lounge, a beautifully appointed and inviting space. Today, the vintage shed is just one of three buildings in the Dunham complex, which produces 24,000 cases of wine a year.

Despite the tragic losses of Eric and Michael Dunham in the years that followed, co-founder Joanne Dunham continues their legacy of hospitality, welcoming guests to the repurposed shed and expansive outdoor patio that connects the buildings.







Combined Frenchtown

Left: Frenchtown School, circa 1915 (photo courtesy of L’Ecole #41). Right: School No. 41 on US Highway 12, Lowden (photo courtesy of School No. 41).


School n°41

US Highway 12, Lowden (lecole.com)

The historic Frenchtown School building in Lowden, built in 1915, was given new life in 1977 when it was purchased by Jean and Baker Ferguson.

As retirement approached, they were looking for land to plant a vineyard, but passed by the school, and finally they decided that the school would be a perfect building for a winery, which they inaugurated with the 1983 vintage a few years ago. later. And that’s how The School began.

But unlike some older buildings, where evidence of their previous use is often removed, the Fergusons have retained many of the school building’s original features, including blackboards, light fixtures and architectural details, right down to a fountain of water for children. They even restored a holiday mural hand-painted by school children.

Today, the Ferguson legacy is carried on at the school by the third generation of this family-owned artisan winery, run by Martin and Megan Clubb, and their children, Riley and Rebecca. Their award-winning wines represent some of the best in Washington State and the Walla Valley, culminating in their Estate Ferguson Bordeaux blend.

Continually driven by the culture of good wine, in 2023 the school will host a celebration of 40 years of winemaking!

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