May 28, 2015 - June 3, 2015
Down by the River
One hundred and twenty-five years ago this week, on May 28, 1890, the City of Kent incorporated in the White River Valley. A few weeks later, local residents got a chance to show off their new community when they hosted the region's first Juneteenth celebration, marking the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which enfranchised persons of color.
Settlers in the White River Valley first arrived in the 1850s, attracted by the excellent farmland created by the Osceola Mudflow thousands of years earlier. Native Americans, who had enjoyed the valley environment for generations, were not too happy with the newcomers. Once the skirmishes ended and the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation (the only one to be established in King County) was created in the valley, more farmers arrived to till the land or raise contented cows.
But the rich valley soil came at a price -- frequent flooding. Early attempts at amateur river engineering changed the course of the White River, but it wasn't until Mud Mountain Dam opened in 1948 that the problem began to subside. The completion of the Howard A. Hanson Dam in 1962 effectively ended major flooding in the valley, but not before one last big deluge in 1959.
With flooding under control the farms flourished, as did development. Businesses began eyeing the valley as the perfect place to set up industrial parks, and when the Space Race skyrocketed, Boeing chose Kent as the home for its state-of-the-art Aerospace Center. It was here that the firm developed the lunar rover, propelling Kent with a great leap forward -- from cows to the moon.
After World War II ended more than a few folks in Western Washington floated the idea of building bridges across Puget Sound. Many of these discussions came about due to the frustrations of commuters who were dealing with the fare increases and foibles of the state's privately owned ferry system. Because the maritime commute was integral to the state's transportation network, politicians were pressured to solve the crisis.
After much political wrangling the state bought out the ferry company, and on June 1, 1951, cross-sound travelers greeted the newly created Washington State Ferry system. The bridges across Puget Sound were never built, although the concept still occasionally rears its head -- to some derision.
News Then, History Now
Tribal Despair: In an effort to peacefully dispossess Eastern Washington tribes, Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens convened the First Walla Walla Council on May 29, 1855. It didn't work out quite as planned.
Go to the Fair: Exactly two years after its groundbreaking ceremony, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition opened on June 1, 1909. Some out-of-town visitors stayed at the Sorrento Hotel, which had opened two days earlier. Others enjoyed a nice drive to the fair along the newly opened University Boulevard.
Crash and Explode: Seattle's first aviation disaster occurred on May 30, 1912, at the Meadows Race Track when an airplane crashed into the grandstand, killing one and injuring 21 others. Three years later, on May 30, 1915, a barge filled with 622 tons of gunpowder exploded in Elliott Bay, for reasons never explained. The concussion cracked or shattered nearly 500 windows throughout the city.
Wonders Bestowed: On May 29, 1925, Seattle radio station KFOA celebrated the grand opening of Everett's new Monte Cristo Hotel with the Northwest's first long-distance, remote-control broadcast. Three years later, on June 3, 1928, the Northwest learned of another new communications breakthrough, one that could broadcast "radio pictures" over the airwaves. The device was similar to the technology used by fax machines, which would (for a time) become ubiquitous decades later.
Daring Descents: On May 30, 1926, Al Faussett took advantage of the spring runoff to ride his canoe over Sunset Falls on the Skykomish River in Snohomish County. A year later, on June 1, 1927, he tried to do the same at Spokane Falls, but was injured and had to be rescued when his boat got caught in a whirlpool.
Sporting Events: The professional West Coast Negro Baseball League had its Seattle debut on June 1, 1946, when the Seattle Steelheads split a doubleheader with the San Diego Tigers. Decades later African Americans dominated a different sport and led the Seattle SuperSonics to their only NBA championship, on June 1, 1979. The SuperSonics also made it to the finals with a victory over the Utah Jazz on June 2, 1996, but lost the series to the Chicago Bulls. The team was moved to Oklahoma City seven years ago.
Flood on the Rise: On May 30, 1948, the Vanport Flood -- named for the town it washed out just north of Portland, Oregon -- began. The floodwaters along the Columbia River extended as far upstream as Kennewick and Richland, and by the time they finally receded had killed at least 50 people and caused about $102 million in damage.
Atomic Supplies: On June 3, 1958, the submarine U.S.S. Nautilus stopped in Seattle en route to a top-secret Cold War mission to transit the North Pole underwater. A leaking condenser threatened the mission, but crewmen donned civilian clothes and scoured the city's gas stations sub rosa for every can of Bar's Leak they could buy. In other radioactive history this week, June 1 marks the 54th anniversary of the Nuclear Reactor Building (now More Hall Annex) on the University of Washington campus.
Quote of the Week
Hey diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon.
Image of the Week
Ephrata incorporated on June 1, 1909.