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September 18, 2014 – September 24, 2014

The Waterfront -- Seattle's Front Porch

This week looks at the history of Seattle's waterfront, the focus of this year's HistoryLunch fundraiser. Carved out by tectonic shifts and meltwater from retreating glaciers, the eastern shore of Elliott Bay was used for centuries as a landing spot by Puget Sound Indian tribes. When members of the Denny Party arrived in 1851, they landed at Alki Point, before staking claims across the bay for the express purpose of building a city.

The deep-water harbor of Elliott Bay provided excellent moorage for ships exporting lumber and coal, especially after low spots and tidal flats were filled in. As the city grew, the Mosquito Fleet carried travelers to and from its shore. And in 1897, the city's waterfront became a nexus for thousands of sourdoughs seeking gold in the Klondike.

By the turn of the century, the central waterfront was being visited by ships from around the Pacific Rim, and trade flourished even more after the creation of Harbor Island in 1909 and the Port of Seattle in 1911. By this time, streets and railroads crowded the shoreline, necessitating construction of a seawall to keep the waters at bay.

The seawall redefined the contours of the central waterfront at a time when traditional maritime activities were on the cusp of change. Most shipping operations moved south and north on Elliott Bay to new Port of Seattle container terminals and other facilities, and although the central waterfront was used as an embarkation point in both world wars, it soon fell into decline -- more so when the Alaskan Way Viaduct severed it from downtown.

Beginning in the 1960s, Seattle sought ways to revitalize the area, and soon the waterfront was filled with restaurants, shops, an aquarium, a modernized ferry terminal, and later, a waterfront streetcar. Now, work has begun on replacing the viaduct, and plans are already in the works to create a new chapter in the history of Seattle's "front porch."

History Day -- Leadership and Legacy

Visitors to know that we are proud sponsors of Washington History Day, which encourages students to become historians by developing skills in research, analysis, and presentation. This year's History Day topic is "Leadership and Legacy," and to help students choose an interesting subject for their research, we've created a blockbuster list of Washington leaders worthy of consideration.

Also, teachers should know that the annual free History Day workshop at UW Libraries is set for Saturday, October 4. In the morning, several History Day teachers will present sessions on how students can make good use of UW Library resources and create exhibits, documentaries, performances, or websites. The workshop in the afternoon will provide hands-on activities in Special Collections. Attendance at this afternoon session will have to be limited, so register now.

News Then, History Now

Ulysses and Dwight: On September 20, 1852, Captain Ulysses S. Grant arrived at Columbia Barracks on the Columbia River in what is now Clark County. The future president served 15 months there as camp quartermaster. This week also marks the 60th anniversary of a visit from President Eisenhower, who dedicated McNary Dam on September 23, 1954 -- and who, like Grant before him, was stationed in Washington during his military service long before becoming president.

Terrible Fight: On September 23, 1855, three Yakama tribesmen killed U.S. Indian Subagent Andrew Jackson Bolon, triggering what would become the Yakama War. The conflict lasted more than three years and came to a head when Colonel George Wright ordered the slaughter of some 800 Palouse horses. On September 25, 1858, Wright began a campaign of vengeance against Eastern Washington Indians by hanging tribesmen attempting to surrender or negotiate peace. Any remaining resistance soon collapsed.

Pay for Your Fare: Streetcars first entered service in Seattle on September 23, 1884. Not long thereafter, formation of the Washington Good Roads Association on September 14, 1899, as well as the Seattle Automobile Club on September 23, 1904, helped pave the way for the Auto Age. But it's a fact that tracks are back, as evidenced by the inaugural Sounder commuter-rail run between Tacoma and Seattle on September 18, 2000.

Days at the Fair: On September 24, 1894, the first Washington State Agricultural Fair opened in Yakima. The Sumas Roundup got its start on September 21, 1923. And on September 24, 1937, the Lincoln County Fair resumed in Davenport after a decades-long hiatus.

The Curtains Rise: On September 24, 1926, tens of thousands celebrated the grand opening of the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle. The lavish playhouse was the brainchild of architect Robert Reamer, known for his designs of the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park, Spokane's Fox Theater , Bellingham's Mt. Baker Theatre, and Seattle's Edmond Meany Hotel, as well as the 1411 4th Avenue Building -- home to the offices.

Into the Skies: On September 21, 1942, the first B-29 Superfortress Bomber took to the air from Boeing Field. That same day, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island was formally commissioned near Oak Harbor.

Names Change: On September 18, 1947, the town of Winslow incorporated on Bainbridge Island. Homesteaded in 1878 as Madrone, the community changed its name to Winslow after the Hall Brothers Shipyard moved there in 1902. In 1990 the town annexed the entire island and the following year it voted to change its name to Bainbridge Island.

Times Change: On September 20, 1971, John Singer and Paul Barwick requested a marriage license in Seattle, but were denied. They later filed one of the first same-sex-marriage lawsuits in the United States, but their claims of discrimination were rejected by the courts. It wasn't until 2012 that Washington became one of the first states approve marriage equality by popular vote.

Quote of the Week

To know Seattle, one must know its waterfront.

                                    --Murray Morgan

Image of the Week

"Louie Louie" arrived in the Northwest on September 21, 1957.

Today in Washington History      RSS Feed

President Garfield dies on September 19, 1881, and Seattle mourns on September 27, 1881.

Group Health Cooperative, succumbing to Red Scare fears, rejects the membership application of William Pennock on September 19, 1950.

Columbia Basin College opens in Pasco on September 19, 1955.

King County voters approve creation of Metro Transit on September 19, 1972.

Port of Pend Oreille buys a railroad on September 19, 1979.

Seattle voters reject the Seattle Commons levy on September 19, 1995.

Voters reject a stadium for the Seattle Mariners on September 19, 1995.

Tri-Citians build Playground of Dreams in Kennewick on September 19, 1999.

New Essays This Week       RSS Feed

Catastrophic landslide hits Steelhead Haven, near Oso, Snohomish County, on March 22, 2014.

Bean, Monte Lafayette (1899-1982)

President Harry S. Truman awards Dexter J. Kerstetter the Medal of Honor on October 12, 1945.

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