President Theodore Roosevelt visits Seattle and Fort Lawton on May 23, 1903.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 2/10/1999
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 883
On May 23, 1903 at 1 p.m., President Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) makes a grand entrance into Elliott Bay. Roosevelt is the 26th President of the United States (1901-1909) and the third to visit Seattle. He arrives on the steamship Spokane escorted by four revenue cutters in full dress and 60 additional boats in columns of four.

A Big Welcome in Seattle

The Spokane tied up at the Arlington Dock at the foot of University Street, and President Roosevelt was greeted by "the largest crowd in the history of the state" surrounded by "a blaze of bunting, a forest of flags, [and] a mystic tangle of red, white, and blue" (Dorpat, Story 49). The Spokane headed the "greatest naval parade in the history of Puget Sound." Teddy Roosevelt took a carriage to the old University of Washington campus and gave a speech to 50,000. After the speech he left for a brief visit to Everett.

When he returned to the Arlington Dock at 9 p.m., 10,000 people were there to greet him. At a reception at the Grand Opera House (217 Cherry Street), he received a gift of a pan made of Alaska gold and a book of passes from 10 coast steamship lines that depart from Seattle for Alaska.

What He Said

He gave another speech. The President spoke about the potential of Alaska and his belief that during the lifetime of many of those in attendance, Alaska would attain a population as great as the combined populations of the Scandinavian countries. He stated how fortunate Seattle and Puget Sound were to be the Gateway to Alaska. He recommended that Congress approve a non-voting delegate from Alaska to be sent to Congress. Roosevelt also spoke about the importance of conservation: the preservation of salmon and forests for their continual economic use.

The Roughrider Rides Again

The President stayed the night as the first guest of the huge Washington Hotel atop Denny Hill (north of Stewart Street between 2nd and 3rd avenues). The next morning, Sunday May 24, 1903, he attended a memorial service for Civil and Spanish American War veterans at the Grand Opera House. At about 3:45 p.m., Teddy Roosevelt, the former Roughrider during the Spanish American War, went for a horseback ride with two companions to Fort Lawton (located in present-day [1999] Discovery Park, in Seattle's Magnolia district). They toured the facilities and watched the soldiers play a baseball game. On his return to town he rode to the top of Queen Anne Hill for a panoramic vista before returning to Hotel Washington at 6 p.m., completing a 20 mile ride. At 11:30 p.m., Teddy Roosevelt departed from Seattle on the Presidential train.

Previous Presidents to visit Seattle were Rutherford Hayes in 1880 and Benjamin Harrison in 1891.


Sources: Barbara E. Lind, "Hail to the Chiefs: Seattle's Presidential Visitors," Portage; The Magazine of the Museum of History and Industry, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Fall/Winter 1988), 6; Paul Dorpat, Seattle: Now & Then Second Edition (Seattle: Tartu Publications, 1984); The Seattle Daily Times, May 25, 1903, p. 2 col. 2.

Related Topics:   Environment | Government & Politics | Seattle Neighborhoods

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