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May 5, 2015 – May 11, 2015

San Juan Islands

This week we continue our celebration of National Historic Preservation Month with a look at the history of the San Juan Islands, an archipelago located in the Salish Sea between mainland Washington and Vancouver Island. We start with the famous Pig War, which began in 1859 between the United States and Great Britain and lasted for 13 years. In the midst of this international stalemate, San Juan Island welcomed its first major industry, limestone quarrying and lime production, which allowed the community to prosper well into the twentieth century.

The lime industry and also fish canneries attracted workers to the islands, including Chinese and Japanese laborers. Many island residents chose to live near Friday Harbor (named for Peter Friday, an early settler from Hawaii), the county's only incorporated town. The Friday Harbor waterfront is also home to one of the state's earliest and longest-lived investigations into marine biology.

Some of San Juan County's more interesting residents over the years include Lucinda Stewart Boyce, a nurse and midwife who delivered more than 500 babies; Elvin H. Smith, the "Hermit of Matia Island;" the Franciscan nuns who ran Shaw Island's ferry terminal for 27 years; and Roy Franklin, legendary island bush pilot and primary founder of commercial aviation in the San Juan Islands. Also rabbits. Thousands and thousands of rabbits.

Island Life and Landscapes

Orcas Island had an early agricultural economy, but later focused more on camping and tourism. Suffering from "nervous exhaustion," former Seattle mayor Robert Moran moved to the island in 1905 and designed a 54-room mansion to live out what he thought would be a few remaining years, but island life rejuvenated him. Before he died in 1943 at 86, most of his property became Moran State Park, which like most places and people on the island was a subject for prolific Orcas Island photographer James Geoghegan. Moran's mansion is now the privately owned Rosario Resort and Spa. In 1879, George Richardson received a land patent for his property at the south end of Lopez Island. The town of Richardson no longer exists, but was one of the island's earliest economic hubs.

Residents of San Juan County have long worked to conserve the islands' scenic beauty and bucolic landscapes, which island inhabitants have enhanced and cultivated for thousands of years.

News Then, History Now

Guests on the Go: On May 6, 1891, Benjamin Harrison became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Tacoma. On May 11, 1950, President Harry Truman traveled to this Washington to give a speech on racial equality at Gonzaga University, and to receive a Citation of Merit. And on May 9, 1962, Vice President Lyndon Johnson dedicated Ice Harbor Dam in Eastern Washington before traveling to the Seattle World's Fair to greet astronaut John Glenn the next day.

Death Down Below: Roslyn was founded in 1886 after prospectors from the Northern Pacific railroad found rich seams of coal nearby. But mining the coal came with a price. On May 10, 1892, in the worst coalmine disaster in Washington history, 45 men lost their lives in an explosion and fire.

Rising High: A pair of Washington's long-standing and stately buildings celebrates birthdays this week. On May 9, 1893, the New Whatcom City Hall opened in Bellingham; it is now home to the Whatcom Museum of History and Art. And Seattle's King Street Station opened on May 10, 1906, and is currently served by Amtrak trains and Sounder commuter rail.

Water and Sky: On May 8, 1917, the Lake Washington Ship Canal was completed in Seattle, following the lowering of Lake Washington by 8.8 feet during its construction. The next day, William Boeing reached new heights when he renamed the company he co-founded after himself.

Workers' Toll: One of Seattle's longest and bloodiest labor strikes began on May 9, 1934, when thousands of longshoremen and other maritime workers brought port traffic to a halt all along the West Coast. Teamster boss Dave Beck tried to muscle in, but Harry Bridge's longshore brigades prevailed the following October.

Rock and Roll: On May 11, 1969, Led Zeppelin rocked out at Seattle's Green Lake Aqua Theatre. Two months later, the super-group returned to the Pacific Northwest to play at the Seattle Pop Festival in Woodinville.

Quote of the Week

I feel we are all islands -- in a common sea.

                             --Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Image of the Week

Chelan incorporated on May 7, 1902.

Today in Washington History      RSS Feed

Homeward bound, the Lewis and Clark Expedition leaves future state of Washington on May 5, 1806.

Panic of 1893 sends King County and the Puget Sound region into a four-year depression on May 5, 1893.

Kennewick marks the opening of The Dalles-Celilo Canal and river navigation to the ocean with a wild and symbolic celebration on May 5, 1915.

Elsie Winters Mitchell of Port Angeles and five children are killed in Oregon by enemy balloon bomb on May 5, 1945.

Antiwar protesters block Interstate-5 Freeway on May 5, 1970.

Port of Everett Commissioners approve the sale of land to the U.S. Navy for an aircraft carrier base on May 5, 1987.

New Essays This Week       RSS Feed

Vancouver District, encompassing what is now Clark County in southwest Washington, is created on August 20, 1845.

Underdog Washington Huskies become first team in state history to reach NCAA women's basketball Final Four by defeating Stanford in regional final on March 27, 2016.

Billboard magazine highlights Spokane country musician Charlie Ryan and his hit song "Hot Rod Lincoln" on May 30, 1960.

Hot-Rod Songs of the Northwest

Seattle Symphony debuts avant-garde Seattle sound sculptor Trimpin's site-specific composition "Above, Below, and In Between" at Benaroya Hall on May 1, 2015.

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