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July 31, 2014 - August 6, 2014

Deception Connection

In 1792, Joseph Whidbey circumnavigated a large island in Puget Sound, which Captain George Vancouver promptly named after his young officer. At first, both men thought that Whidbey Island was part of the mainland. They were deceived by what appeared to be a narrow inlet, which they later determined to be a passage around the north end of the island. Vancouver named this Deception Pass.

After settlers arrived on the island in the 1850s, small communities began to grow. By the 1920s, the towns of Coupeville, Oak Harbor, and Langley had grown large enough to incorporate.

Many members of those communities and others in Island County thought that a bridge connecting Whidbey Island to the mainland would be a good idea. In 1929, freshman State Representative Pearl Wanamaker succeeded in getting both houses of the legislature to unanimously approve its construction. Unfortunately for island residents, Governor Roland Hartley -- who sought ways to slash government spending at every turn -- vetoed the project. Wanamaker lobbied hard for support from her fellow representatives, but fell short of the two-thirds majority required to override the veto.

Disappointed, Wanamaker did not seek re-election in 1930, but two years later she returned to Olympia in the 1932 Democratic landslide that gave her party control of the legislature and the governor's office. Within a year, new bridge legislation was passed, and Wanamaker worked with Governor Clarence Martin to obtain funding from state and federal emergency-relief funds. The Deception Pass and Canoe Pass bridges opened on July 31, 1935, and besides providing transit on and off the island, the spans have become one of Washington's most popular tourist destinations.

Combustion Destruction

One hundred and twenty-five years ago, on August 4, 1889, a fire broke out in a wooden building along Railroad Avenue in Spokane. The flames quickly spread to other wooden structures, stoked by rubbish and refuse between the buildings. Firefighters had no chance of extinguishing the blaze, which grew to engulf the more substantial brick and stone buildings of the business district. By nightfall, the inferno had destroyed 32 square blocks, virtually the entire downtown.

Spokane was the last in a string of Washington cities to suffer a devastating fire that year. The nearby town of Cheney had its downtown reduced to rubble on April 18. On June 3, half the business district of Republic went up in flames, three days before much of downtown Seattle burned to the ground. And on July 4, some 200 homes and 10 business blocks were destroyed in Ellensburg.

News Then, History Now

Filling a Need: On August 2, 1878, the Sisters of Providence opened Seattle's first hospital, located on the present site of the William Kenzo Nakamura Federal Courthouse. But their work was far from over. One year later, on August 3, 1879, the cornerstone was laid for St. Mary's Hospital in Walla Walla adjacent to St. Vincent's Academy, which had been established by the religious order in 1864.

Electrical Feed: On July 31, 1899, hydroelectric generators began producing energy within the bowels of Snoqualmie Falls. They are still in operation today.

Crime Doesn't Pay: This week is a grim one in Asotin County history. On August 5, 1903, a mob lynched the confessed murderer of a 12-year-old girl. And on August 5, 1931, a 12-year-old boy shot and killed the county sheriff.

Bet on the Bay: At the beginning of the twentieth century, The Meadows was the premier venue for horse racing in Washington. On August 3, 1933, Longacres racetrack opened in Renton and "reined" supreme for almost 60 years, most notably under the direction of Morris Alhadeff.

Leading the Pack: On July 31, 1922, Lloyd F. Nelson submitted a patent application for his trail-blazing external-frame backpack -- the "Trapper Nelson" -- which later became a trail staple for the Boy Scouts and the U.S. Forest Service. Mass-produced by the Trager Manufacturing Company, the pack cultivated interest in outdoor exploration, much to the delight of outfitters like Eddie Bauer and REI.

Wartime Attack: On August 6, 1945, a Boeing B-29 named the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb over Hiroshima, Japan, killing tens of thousands of people and vaporizing an area of four square miles. Three days later, another B-29 detonated a similar device (this time using plutonium from Hanford) over Nagasaki, effectively ending World War II and launching the nuclear arms race.

Three on the Sea: Twenty-five years ago this week, on August 1, 1989, a monument was dedicated at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in honor of three nineteenth-century Japanese sailors, believed to be the first Japanese to arrive in what is now Washington state. The sailors had drifted at sea in a disabled ship for more than a year before running aground on the Olympic Peninsula in 1834.

Two That Were New: Birthdays to celebrate this week include those of the City of Raymond in Pacific County, which incorporated on August 6, 1907, and Southcenter Mall in Tukwila, which opened on July 31, 1968.

Quote of the Week

There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.

                            --Arthur Conan Doyle

Image of the Week

Beloved cowboy humorist Will Rogers -- seen here with Seattle mayor Charles Smith -- played his last game of polo on August 6, 1935, in Lake City before departing Boeing Field on a fatal flight to Alaska with pilot Wiley Post.

Today in Washington History      RSS Feed

Victor Smith forcibly moves the U.S. Customs Port of Entry for Washington Territory from Port Townsend to Port Angeles on August 1, 1862.

Cornerstone of the governor's mansion in Olympia is laid on August 1, 1908.

Henry L. Bowlby becomes Washington's second Highway Commissioner on August 1, 1909.

Seattle's Holly Park housing project opens on August 1, 1942.

Poet Theodore Roethke dies on August 1, 1963.

UW Faculty Senate launches fund drive for minority students on August 1, 1968.

Group Health Cooperative nurses begin a 28-day strike on August 1, 1976.

Monument to three Japanese castaways is dedicated at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site on August 1, 1989.

Port of Seattle Commission adopts Sea-Tac International Airport's Master Plan Update, including a third runway and enhanced noise criteria, on August 1, 1996.

Boeing merges with McDonnell Douglas on August 1, 1997.

Seattle City Council names street for Fremont Troll on August 1, 2005.

The Suquamish Tribe extends marriage rights to same-sex couples on August 1, 2011.

New Essays This Week       RSS Feed

Henry Yesler's steam-powered Seattle sawmill cuts its first lumber in late March 1853.

Yesler, Henry L. (1810?-1892)

Washington's Jewish Sports Heroes: Bob Moch (1914-2005)

Ken Bunting becomes managing editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on November 15, 1993, becoming the first African American to reach that level at a Washington daily newspaper.

William Robert "Blanket Bill" Jarman dies in Ferndale on June 12, 1912.

Paige, Janis (b. 1922)

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