Woodinville -- Thumbnail History

  • By Phil Dougherty
  • Posted 5/18/2011
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 9800
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Woodinville in eastern King County is an affluent, rapidly growing suburb located approximately 20 miles northeast of downtown Seattle; its population in the 2010 census was 10,938.  Named after the first non-Native family to settle there in 1871, Woodinville developed into a rural community and stayed that way for much of the next century.  Urbanization arrived in the late 1970s, and the city incorporated in 1993.  In 1976 Woodinville's first winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle, opened, and by 2011 the city was home to several dozen wineries and tasting rooms, as well as a brewery and several distilleries.

Willow People

The Sammamish River, which runs from Lake Sammamish at Redmond through Woodinville before emptying into Lake Washington at Kenmore, was long home to a subgroup of the Duwamish Tribe who called themselves s-tsah-PAHBSH, meaning "willow people." Fish from the river and lakes were a mainstay of the local diet, supplemented by hunting wildlife and cultivating and gathering wapato bulbs, berries, and other foods. Some historical accounts say there was an Indian village at the mouth of Bear Creek where it intersects with the Sammamish River, near today’s NE 175th Street in the western part of Woodinville.  

Some of the willow people joined a Native American attack on the village of Seattle in January 1856. Tribal members were later “relocated” to Fort Kitsap and the Port Madison Reservation. Their descendants lived on the Suquamish and Tulalip Indian reservations.

The Woodins

In the early 1870s white settlers began to edge east along the Sammamish River, then known as Squak Slough. This included Ira Woodin (1833-1908) and his wife Susan (1848-1919). With their daughters Helen (b. 1864) and Mary (b. 1867), the family moved from Seattle to what is now Woodinville in 1871, becoming the first Caucasian settlers to settle there.  (Ira was an early arrival in Seattle. Shortly after 1856 he and his father, M. D. Woodin, opened Seattle’s first tannery at the southeast corner of Yesler Way and 3rd Avenue. They operated it successfully for a number of years, selling leather made there to other area settlements or shipping it to San Francisco.)

The Woodins built a home on 160 acres just north of today’s NE Woodinville Drive near its intersection with Juanita-Woodinville Way NE (Brickyard Road). A tiny settlement developed along the river just to the east of the Woodins, though growth was slow for the next 15 years.  But homesteaders and loggers gradually continued to move in, and by 1886 Woodinville had a population of 60. The Woodin home became a nexus of the nascent community, serving as its first school from 1878 until 1883, its first church until 1880, an informal doctor’s office, and the community’s first post office beginning in 1881.

Squak Slough

To fully understand Woodinville’s early development, you have to appreciate that Squak Slough (the Sammamish River) was a far different river in the nineteenth century than it is today. It was about 13 miles long from Redmond to Kenmore, a shallow, twisting ribbon of water that often flooded the surrounding valley.  There were no roads into the area, and the railroad would not arrive until the late 1880s. This made the river the primary source of transportation during Woodinville’s early years. The first steamboat to travel the river was the Mud Hen in 1876. In 1884 the Squak began twice-weekly service on the slough between Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish, stopping at several spots, including the Woodins. The little steamboat operated until 1892.

The Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railroad arrived in Woodinville in late 1887 or early 1888, making travel on the slough less of a necessity, but steamboats continued to ply the river into the early twentieth century. One anecdotal account says the boats quit stopping in Woodinville in 1904. However, steamer traffic continued to Bothell until 1916, when Lake Washington was lowered nearly nine feet as a result of the construction of the Lake Washington Ship Canal. This made the river too shallow for steamboat use, but it didn’t matter, because by then better roads and the automobile were coming onto the scene.  The river continued to be used to float logs to local mills, and later became popular for boat races.

Early Businesses

The community’s development accelerated once the railroad arrived in 1887 or 1888.  The commercial district expanded north of the slough and began edging east.  Several hotels and stores were built near the slough, and by 1909 the town had four hotels, two sawmills, two shingle mills, a feed store, blacksmith’s shop, brick and tile manufacturer, and a small school-desk factory. A pleasant, rural community emerged, and in 1929 Woodinville’s estimated population was 780.

The Woodins opened a general store in Woodinville in 1888, but perhaps a better-known store in the town’s early years was Teegarden’s Shop, located west of the railroad depot on today’s NE Woodinville Drive.  The original store was built in 1890 by Milt Russell, but sometime early in the 1900s he sold it to two sisters, Sarah and Clara Jacobsen. Sarah married and got out of the business, and when Clara subsequently married Harry Teegarden in 1914, the store was renamed Teegarden’s.  A 1915 ad from Teegarden’s Shop shows that it sold men’s shirts (both work and dress shirts), nickel-plated tea kettles, oil stoves, and more -- and adds that the store bought calves.  As was the case with many small, rural stores in the early twentieth century, Teegarden’s Shop also served as a post office and as an informal gathering place to stop and get caught up on the latest gossip.

In February 1925 the Teegardens sold the store to John DeYoung (1891-1966).  DeYoung, a Kent resident since 1897, had been looking to start his own business, and when he spotted a general store for sale in a newspaper’s classified ads he went to Woodinville the same day to look at it. He liked what he saw, bought the store, and grew the business. He soon formed the Woodinville Mercantile Company, a large retail operation that sold food, general merchandise, and gasoline. He went on to acquire or establish a lettuce packing plant, a shingle mill, and Woodinville Hardware. Some of these businesses operated for decades, and one business, DeYoung’s Farm and Garden Center, remains in operation today, 67 years after opening in 1944. 

DeYoung and his descendants have played a significant role in Woodinville’s history. His granddaughter, Lucy DeYoung, was elected Woodinville’s first mayor in 1992.


Hollywood, now a neighborhood of Woodinville, was originally known as Derby, and had its beginnings as a small logging community.  It was renamed Hollywood in 1911 at the urging of lumber baron Frederick Stimson (ca. 1867-1921), who was building a vacation home on his farm just south of today’s NE 145th Street.  He is said to have requested the name change in recognition of the hundreds of holly trees he had planted along his driveway. The home, completed in 1912, was aptly named Stimson Manor, and the farm was named Hollywood Farm. Stimson ran a sophisticated dairy operation on his farm, later expanding his operation to include chickens and hogs.

Stimson died in 1921, but the property stayed in family for another decade before being sold in 1931. It changed hands several times over the next 40 years, with the manor itself evidently serving as a speakeasy for a time during Prohibition. In 1973 U.S. Tobacco bought the property and built the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery on the grounds.  Today, the Stimson Manor and grounds are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Another Hollywood landmark is the Hollywood Schoolhouse. Built in 1912, the large brick building operated as a school for only a few years before closing because of a lack of students. The Hollywood Hill Community Club used the building as a clubhouse for community activities in the 1920s and 1930s. It next was home of the Sammamish Valley Grange, an auction house, and an antique mall.  Remodeled in 1994, the building today serves as an event facility for weddings, banquets, and meetings, and is a state historical landmark. 

Squak (Sammamish) Slough Redux

After steamboats stopped running on the river in 1916, boaters found other uses for Squak Slough, which by the early twentieth century was becoming known as the Sammamish Slough or Sammamish River.  In March 1934 the Seattle Outboard Association organized the Sammamish Slough Race on the river. The race proved so popular that the association held a second race a month later.  Both the name and the race stuck.  It quickly became an annual event, typically (though not always) held in early April, and attracting tens of thousands of spectators who lined the riverbank from Kenmore to Redmond.  Thrills and spills were guaranteed as the boats thundered along the shallow, snaking river at speeds of up to 80 miles an hour.

But one spill generated no thrill.  In the 1976 race a boat ran up onto the riverbank and injured a spectator, Ron Clausen. Clausen, an accomplished University of Washington pole vaulter, suffered a broken leg and did not compete again. Likewise, 1976 was the last year of the Sammamish Slough Race. The accident contributed to its demise, but declining public interest also played a role, because by 1976 the Sammamish Slough was a far cry from the original Squak Slough of a century earlier.  Several dredging and river-straightening projects in the early twentieth century designed to reduce its almost annual flooding had altered the river, and a more extensive project finished in 1965 brought an even bigger change. After 1965 the river was half as long as it had originally been, narrower, and was largely reduced to little more than a tranquil stream that thousands now drive by daily with hardly a glance.


Growth began creeping into Woodinville in the 1950s. Horse ranches sprang up.  At the same time, many of the early pioneer buildings -- including the Woodin home -- were torn down, and more were torn down during the 1960s. Still, the Woodinville of the early 1970s remained more rural than urban, with only one recently installed stoplight, one pharmacy, and one grocery store.  One account describes Woodinville during this period as a community that “involved slowing down for chickens and geese crossing the roads, or herding cows and horses that escaped from neighboring farms and strayed onto the two-lane NE 175th” (“History of Woodinville”). But a big transformation lay just around the corner.

In 1973 the Stimson property was purchased by a subsidiary of U.S. Tobacco, headed by Seattle businessman Wally Opdycke, for the specific purpose of building a winery on the grounds. Groundbreaking for the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery was in 1975, and the $6 million winery (nearly $25 million in 2011 dollars) opened almost exactly one year later, on September 22, 1976. It was Woodinville’s first winery, but it was far from the last, and today there are several dozen wineries and tasting rooms scattered throughout the city.  For a little variety, the Redhook Ale Brewery opened near Chateau Ste. Michelle in 1994, and more recently distilleries have arrived in Woodinville, with Soft Tail Spirits being the first to open its doors in 2009.

In the late 1970s Woodinville began to expand more rapidly. Its horse ranches were replaced with subdivisions, and this growth accelerated in the 1980s. Woodinville’s commercial district also expanded rapidly north and east, with significant development along NE 175th.  Fast food restaurants and video stores opened, and in 1986 the Woodinville Towne Center opened on NE 175th and 140th NE, replacing former rodeo grounds which had been home of the Woodinville Rodeo from 1949 through 1961. With the rural community now morphing into a suburban one, it was time for Woodinville to incorporate.

Incorporation Blues

Though there was talk of incorporating Woodinville in the 1970s, there were more serious efforts during the decade to form a new county out of the eastern half of King County, with Woodinville as the county seat.  This was led by Ray Freeman (1913-1992), remembered by many as “Mr. Woodinville,” who argued that King County’s neglect in representing its eastern residents made a new county necessary. He proposed forming Cascade County, whose western boundary would have run from Woodinville southeast along the eastern shore of Lake Sammamish, then south to the Pierce County line. 

Freeman and his backers sought five times during the 1970s to introduce a bill in the Washington State Legislature to put the question of forming Cascade County to a vote, but the bills all died in various committees and never made it to the full legislature. There would be no Cascade County, and in the 1980s the focus shifted to incorporating Woodinville. The first effort, in 1981, didn’t get past King County’s Boundary Review Board, which said that Woodinville didn’t have a large enough tax base to support municipal operations. 

Incorporation efforts got more serious in 1985 when the City of Bothell proposed to annex territory that many considered part of Woodinville.  This time the Boundary Review Board’s response was more favorable, and the question to incorporate was put to the ballot on September 15, 1986.  It failed by 33 votes out of more than 4,200 cast.  Backers tried again, but were derailed by Thomas McBride, who appealed to the County Council to have his 400-acre farm on Hollywood Hill excluded from the proposed city. McBride explained that he did not oppose incorporation itself -- he just didn’t want his farm to be included.  He lost, and another vote to incorporate Woodinville was held on March 14, 1989. This one failed too, by even a closer margin -- 14 votes out of more than 7,000, a margin of two-tenths of 1 percent.

But less than a year later, a King County advisory committee recommended that a 256-bed jail be built near Cottage Lake.  Suddenly incorporation became more attractive, since incorporating Woodinville would prevent King County from building a jail in the city.  It also helped that when incorporation was once again put on the ballot on May 19, 1992, the area proposed for incorporation was far smaller than previous proposals -- 5.7 square miles as opposed to 23 miles in 1981 and 16.5 square miles in the 1986 and 1989 elections.  This time incorporation passed, by 52 votes out of more than 1,600 cast. Woodinville formally became a city on March 27, 1993, and celebrated with its annual All Fools Parade and Basset Bash dog show.

Woodinville Today

Woodinville today is an upscale Seattle suburb with a steadily increasing population, up 19 percent from 2000 to a 2010 headcount of 10,938.  Its total area, however, has remained at 5.7 square miles since its 1993 incorporation. It’s an affluent community: The estimated median household income in Woodinville in 2009 was $86,925, compared to $67,468 for King County and $56,548 for Washington state.  Woodinville’s home values are also above the county and state norm, but have not escaped from the recent downtown in the housing market.

Since 1976 the city has been served by the Woodinville Weekly newspaper, begun by Carol Edwards (1942-2007).  Edwards went on to help carve the character of Woodinville as the modern city developed over the next 30 years, becoming known to many as the “Mother of Woodinville.”  In 1978 she organized the Woodinville All Fool’s Day Parade, a gala affair typically held the Saturday before April Fool’s Day. The parade sometimes attracts 10,000 participants and spectators, many dressed in costumes in a competition for prizes emphasizing tomfoolery -- most foolish drill team, most foolish float, and most foolish band. In 1984 Woodinville added the “Basset Bash” after the parade, a Basset Hound-only contest with prizes awarded for such attributes as best waddle and best howl, and one you might expect: longest ears. 


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Note: This essay was corrected on September 9, 2012, June 22, 2017, and July 5, 2018.

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