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Seattle History, Washington

Archaeological evidence suggests that the area of Seattle, WA has been inhabited for at least 4,000 years.  The first known residents belonged to the Duwamish tribe.  They were a group of Native Americans who were living on the site that is now Seattle when a small Methodist family, the Denny Party, arrived in 1851.  Arthur Denny desired a well-protected site in which to found a new settlement in the area.  The best place was on Elliott Bay.  A little later, the land south of Denny’s village was settled by David Maynard.

The early settlers looked to the timber industry in order to build up their economy.  They would cut trees and have the logs shipped to San Francisco.  Soon, they were also milling the timber before shipping it.  The arrival of Henry Yesler in Seattle is what made this possible.  He introduced a steam sawmill to the residents of the two settlements and placed it in an area that would make it easily accessible to workers in both towns.  It only took a few decades for the settlement to turn into a city because of the success of the logging industry in the area. 

By this time, despite the Methodist foundation of the first settlement, the city had become one of revelry, saloons, gambling, and prostitution.  The city was known for being almost lawless and unprogressive.  Justice was generally served by lynch mobs and there were few, if any, fully-functional schools.  The few modern conveniences included a newspaper and telephones, but the sewage system and streets were extremely behind for the times.  Beginning in 1870, they did begin to modernize the town.  This was due to the impact of women who were gaining greater influence on the city at the time.

The early growth of the city came to an abrupt halt in June of 1889.  This was the month of the Great Seattle Fire which burned 29 blocks, including most of the business district, several of the wharves, and the train stations.  Fortunately for the citizens of the town, rebuilding took place fairly quickly and growth started back up, again. 

This growth was nothing in comparison to the amount of growth that took place during the Klondike Gold Rush which began in 1896.  Seattle became the official center of supplies and transportation for those who were working in mines in Alaska and the Yukon.  Seattle’s population skyrocketed, the downtown area was extended to make way for new businesses, and many parts of the city were developed.

World War I also created economic booms for the city because of the necessary war-time shipbuilding and timber industries.  The introduction of the Boeing airplane company during World War II led to many years of prosperity for the city.  In between these two wars, Seattle also became an art center - a title it still holds today.

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  • laciA visit to Seattle, the Emerald City
    review by laci posted more then 30 days ago
    Seattle is also known as the Emerald City. This is the result of a nickname-seeking contest held in 1982. Before this, it was called the Queen City of the Northwest. In the early 1960s it was also called Jet City because of its relations with the Boeing aerospace corporation. Its climate is...
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Read our members' travel tips about Seattle

  • JackiePacific Science Center
    travel tip by Jackie posted more then 30 days ago
    Pacific Science Center is a great spot for everyone as all of us can find something amazing in there. Besides the huge IMAX movie theater there are wonderful permanent and temporary exhibitions. They have a dinosaur exhibit with...
  • MalikaAsian Art Museum
    travel tip by Malika posted more then 30 days ago
    The art deco building of the museum (built in 1931) fits perfectly into the tranquil environment of Volunteer park and the nearby Olympic Mountains. The museum itself is not very big, but really great. Some of the permanent...
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Seattle City Ratings

  • Rating76%
    City Rank179
  • History & Culture: rated for 60%
  • Night Life & Entertainment: rated for 80%
  • Family & Fun: rated for 60%
  • Outdoors Activities: rated for 85%
  • Food: rated for 80%
  • Sightseeing: rated for 80%
  • Shopping: rated for 70%
  • Public Transportation: rated for 60%
  • Must visit this place: rated for 75%
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