Streetcars first enter service in Seattle on September 23, 1884.

  • By Walt Crowley
  • Posted 10/02/2000
  • Essay 2688
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On September 23, 1884, Seattle entrepreneur Frank Osgood (1852-1934) inaugurates service on the city's first streetcar line. For a nickel, passengers can ride Seattle Street Railway cars drawn by a team of horses on tracks down the center of 2nd Avenue. This is the region's first mass transit system.

Seattle roads at this time were notoriously muddy and treacherous for horses, wagons, and pedestrians alike. The city granted the first streetcar franchise to Irving Ballard in 1879, but he never built the proposed 1st Avenue line.

Downtown retailers feared that streetcars would frighten normal horse traffic, which forced Osgood to select 2nd Avenue for his route. Construction was financed by leading citizens such as Arthur Denny (1822-1899), Thomas Burke (1849-1925), and George Kinnear, and the line proved an instant success. Three years later, Osgood retired his "hayburners" in favor of electric traction.


Leslie Blanchard, The Street Railway Era in Seattle: A Chronicle of Six Decades (Forty Fort, PA: Harold E. Cox, 1968); Walt Crowley, Routes: A Brief History of Public Transportation in Metropolitan Seattle (Seattle: Metro Transit, 1993).

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