Seattle History

Seattle history can be seen throughout the city, in the historic buildings, landmarks, and natural features that characterize the region. The early history of the city documents the area as occupied by the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes of Native Americans. In 1851, Arthur Denny and the Denny Party arrived in what is now West Seattle and established their first settlement, naming it Alki, based on a Chinook word meaning "by and by." Their first winter in Alki was difficult, however, so the party relocated to a more protected area across the bay, naming this new settlement Duwamps. In 1853, papers were filed for the first official plats of the town using the new name, Seattle, after Chief Sealth of the local tribes.

Aiming to take advantage of the natural resources, Henry Yesler began construction on the first steam-powered mill in the Pacific Northwest in Duwamps in 1852. The abundance of trees and safety of its bay made it ideal for supplying lumber to California. One of the most interesting facts about Seattle is that it hosts the original "skid row." Now called Yesler Way, it was originally called Skid Road for skidding the timber down the hill to Henry Yesler's sawmill.

By 1889, nearly every building in Seattle was constructed out of wood, including wooden stilts to protect from flooding and hollow logs used as sewer and water pipes. A glue fire that started in a cabinet shop on June 6, 1889, quickly escalated and destroyed the majority of 32 city blocks, including Seattle's central business district, four wharves and the railroad terminals. Visitors to modern-day Seattle can still revisit the aftermath of the Great Seattle Fire on the Underground Tour in the original neighborhood of Pioneer Square.

Seattle's proximity to Alaska has played a major role in Seattle History. In 1897, Seattle became a major stop in the Klondike Gold Rush, after the SS Portland docked in the city with its famed ton of gold. The city served miners as a transportation hub, a provider of food and supplies, and an exchange point for the precious metals. This greatly benefited Seattle economically, lasting well into the twentieth century and resulting in the establishment of companies such as Nordstrom, Eddie Bauer and the company that eventually became UPS. To celebrate this boom, Seattle hosted the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in 1909, whose fairgrounds eventually became the campus of the University of Washington. Nowadays, Seattle is a major departure port for cruises to Alaska.

A list of facts about Seattle wouldn't be complete without mentioning the 1962 World's Fair, called the Century 21 Exposition. After the fair ended, the grounds became the Seattle Center. This complex of buildings and green spaces includes The Pacific Science Center, McCaw Hall, Key Arena, and the Space Needle, the most recognizable icon of Seattle. It also includes the Science Fiction Museum and the Experience Music Project, a music-themed museum with tributes to Seattle native, Jimi Hendrix, and the Seattle Grunge music movement of the 1980s and early 1990s.

Recent Seattle history has been heavily influenced less by natural resources and more by the fluctuations of its biggest companies: Boeing, Microsoft, and Starbucks, as well as Amazon.com. Although Boeing has since moved its headquarters and several plants to other parts of the United States, you can see exhibitions on the history of aircrafts and of Boeing at the Museum of Flight in South Seattle. The city and surrounding areas have become more stable and developed with the influx of wealth from technology companies such as Microsoft. One of the most popular modern facts about Seattle is that visiting coffee enthusiasts can still order a drink from one of the original Starbucks stores in Pike Place Market.

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