Seattle’s first settlers arrived on Alki beach (today’s West Seattle) in November 1851 just in time for the peak rainy season. Fortunately, they hung in there through what must have been a miserable beginning and established a fledging camp before deciding to move inland to the shelter of Elliot Bay and Seattle’s modern-day location. Two young members from that group of founding families- the Dennys and the Borens - met during the journey to Seattle and eventually married. Hence, it is fitting that Denny Way crosses Boren Avenue in today’s downtown. Seattle is named after Chief Sealth – the head of the Suquamish and Duwamish Native American tribes – who advocated peace between his people and the white settlers.
With a vast forest of massive and ancient trees covering much of Seattle, the city quickly became a leading timber supplier to the San Francisco area. Legend has it that finished logs from Henry Yesler’s Mill were sent sliding down the street now known as Yesler Way and the term “skid road’ was coined.
The great fire of 1889 burned the city to the ground and subsequent development required that all buildings be made of brick and stone instead of wood. Take the underground tour in Pioneer Square and you can see remnants of the old city.
Gold discovered in the Klondike in 1896 put Seattle on the map as the transportation and supply center for miners going to and from Alaska. The population of the city surged overnight and the place became known as a rough and lawless outpost as prospectors, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists all clamored to make their fortunes.
In the early 1900s, Seattle’s engineers significantly altered Seattle’s steep and hilly landscape to make it easier to lay the necessary infrastructure for the city’s burgeoning population. They proceeded to move an impressive 45 million tons of earth from Seattle’s hills into the bay – the amount of which could fill up the Panama Canal – providing landfill for the city’s waterfront and industrial neighborhoods in the process.
The 1911-1917 Lake Washington Ship Canal construction included the Montlake Cut, and the Fremont Cut, which connected Puget Sound to Lake Washington and Lake Washington to Lake Union, respectively. As a result, the level of Lake Washington dropped and Seward Island became the Seward Peninsula, now the site of Seward Park.
Seattle Center and the Space Needle were built in celebration of events surrounding the 1963 World’s Fair. The Fair provided Seattle with global exposure as a futuristic, modern city.
Boeing was founded in Seattle in 1916. The aerospace manufacturer became one of Seattle’s primary employers in the 20th century with over 30% of Seattleites working there in 1967. During the economic crisis of 1971, Boeing was forced to lay off over 60,000 people which decimated the city’s economy. A pair of local realtors posted a billboard sign near Sea-Tac Airport that asked, “Will the last person leaving Seattle turn out the lights?”
The 1990’s brought the tech boom and companies like Amazon.com and Microsoft took root. In just over 150 years, Seattle has grown to become a thriving, internationally-acclaimed metropolitan city of over 500,000 people.