Washington (population approx. 7,300) is a small, rural community centered in the heart of Washington County, about twenty miles south of Iowa City. Located on the eastern part of the Southern Iowa Drift Plain, the town is comprised entirely of flat land, making the area ideal for farming. It was settled in 1839, and as of 2014, celebrated its 175th anniversary.
Washington, Iowa is home to the historic State Theater, known as the oldest continually running cinema in the United States. In September 2017, State Theater premiered the film “Saving Brinton,” a documentary that portrays the discovery of some of the earliest motion pictures in the world. Frank and Indiana Brinton, natives of Washington, Iowa, acquired these films more than a century ago and traveled throughout the Midwest to show their first motion pictures on lantern slides and cellulose nitrate-based films dating back to 1895. “Saving Brinton” simultaneously depicts the story of the extraordinary early films collected by the Brintons along with the story of Mike Zahs, the eccentric local collector that preserved these materials in his farmhouse basement.
Washington is also in close proximity to the Swedish Heritage Museum and Historical Society located in Swedesburg, Iowa, just a thirty-minute drive southeast of Washington. Housed in buildings that date back to 1875, the Swedish Heritage Museum collects and catalogues artifacts of Swedish heritage and early immigrants of this small, rural farming community. It serves as a sought out destination for locals and tourists of Swedish descent.
The Washington Community Center is home to many live performances and local art initiatives in Washington County, Iowa. The community center was collaboratively built in 1976 through generous local support. The center has since been home to numerous Y’s Men’s, Community Theatre, and high school productions, national and international touring performances, as well as local dance competitions and other local events. The center’s mission is to support and provide a home for community organizations, highlighting the talents of local performers, artists, and ensembles in addition to hosting regional, national, and international touring productions.