Jimi Hendrix Clara McCarty Captain Robert Gray Anna Louise StrongAnna Louise Strong Bailey Gatzert Home WWII Women Pilots
Search Encyclopedia
Advanced Search
Featured Essay
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search
7100 HistoryLink.org essays now available      
Donation system not supported by Safari     Donate Subscribe


Cyberpedias Cyberpedias
Timeline Essays Timeline Essays
People's Histories People's Histories

Selected Collections
Cities & Towns Cities & Towns
County Thumbnails Counties
Biographies Biographies
Interactive Cybertours Interactive Cybertours
Slide Shows Slideshows
Public Ports Public Ports
Audio & Video Audio & Video

Research Shortcuts

Map Searches
Alphabetical Search
Timeline Date Search
Topic Search


Book of the Fortnight
Audio/Video Enhanced
History Bookshelf
Klondike Gold Rush Database
Duvall Newspaper Index
Wellington Scrapbook

More History

Washington FAQs
Washington Milestones
Honor Rolls
Columbia Basin
Walla Walla
Roads & Rails

Timeline Library

< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Sunset Highway through Snoqualmie Pass is dedicated on July 1, 1915.

HistoryLink.org Essay 7114 : Printer-Friendly Format

On July 1, 1915, Washington Governor Ernest Lister (1870-1919) dedicates the Sunset Highway as the state's first passable route through the Cascade Mountains at Snoqualmie Pass.

The highway essentially followed the route of a wagon road that had been constructed between Seattle and Ellensburg in 1867 (a route that, in turn, followed a trail that Native Americans had used for centuries). Seattle pioneer Henry Yesler led one effort to improve the original road in 1875, by offering his sawmill as the grand prize in a state lottery. About $30,000 worth of $5 tickets (roughly $1.1 million in 2004 dollars) were sold before the courts declared the lottery illegal. Yesler reportedly kept nearly all the money despite efforts by the Territorial Legislature and the commissioners of King County to salvage at least some of the funds for road building.

Interest in what Yesler had called "a great road" linking Seattle and Eastern Washington waned after the completion of the Northern Pacific Railway through the Cascades in 1883. Most passengers and freight moved on the railway. The Seattle & Walla Walla Trail & Wagon Road Company, based in Ellensburg, maintained the original wagon road for a few years, but it gradually fell into disuse.

In 1909, a transcontinental automobile race, planned as part of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle, led to new efforts to improve and extend the road. The commissioners of King and Kittitas counties appropriated enough money to clear the roadway of fallen logs and rebuild a few old grades and bridges. Eventually, about 150 cars used the route to travel to the fair. The project convinced state legislators to finance the construction of a new highway, designed for automobiles, not ox carts.

The highway, later designated Primary State Highway 2, was officially opened on July 1, 1915. Clarence B. Bagley, author of a 1916 history of Seattle, pointed out that Gov. Lister traveled to the dedication "in a high powered automobile," making the journey from Olympia to Snoqualmie Pass in a matter of hours (Bagley, 220). In contrast, when the original wagon road opened in 1867, Territorial Governor Marshall F. Moore (1829-1870) had taken days to travel the same distance by horseback.

The Sunset Highway was later rerouted at Teanaway (a short distance east of Cle Elum), turning north over what is now the Old Blewett Pass to the Wenatchee River Valley (along the route of today's U.S. Highway 97). From East Wenatchee, the highway turned northerly to Orondo and then easterly to Spokane (following today's U.S. Highway 2). Today Interstate 90 parallels the Sunset Highway's route through Snoqualmie Pass.

Clarence B. Bagley, History of Seattle From the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, Vol. 1 (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1916); Lou Corsaletti, "Drivers Still Gambling on Old Sunset Highway," The Seattle Times, November 2, 1993, p. B-1; "Forty Years With the Washington Department of Highways," p. 17, typescript dated 1945, available online at (http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/research/History/40years.htm).

Travel through time (chronological order):
< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Related Topics: Roads & Rails |

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You

This essay made possible by:
Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)

Sunset Highway at Snoqualmie Pass, 1910s

Sunset Highway with guardrail, ca. 1915
Courtesy WSDOT

Sunset Highway switchback near Snoqualmie Pass, ca. 1915
Courtesy WSDOT

Sunset Highway "before" photo, ca. 1915
Courtesy WSDOT

Sunset Highway "after" photo, ca. 1915
Courtesy WSDOT

Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search

HistoryLink.org is the first online encyclopedia of local and state history created expressly for the Internet. (SM)
HistoryLink.org is a free public and educational resource produced by History Ink, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt corporation.
Contact us by phone at 206.447.8140, by mail at Historylink, 1411 4th Ave. Suite 803, Seattle WA 98101 or email admin@historylink.org