Seattle, Washington
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History of Seattle, Washington


Most of the Denny Party, the most prominent of the area's early Caucasian settlers, arrived at Alki Point on November 13, 1851. They called the spot "New York" at first to reflect their aspirations to create a great trading port, later appending Alki, a Chinook Jargon word meaning, roughly, by and by or someday. They relocated their settlement to Elliott Bay in April 1852. The first plats for the Town of Seattle were filed on May 23, 1853. The city was incorporated in 1869, after having existed as an unincorporated town from 1865 to 1867.

Seattle was named after Noah Sealth, chief of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes, better known as Chief Seattle. David Swinson ("Doc") Maynard, one of the city founders, was the primary advocate for naming the city after Chief Seattle. Previously, the city had been known as Duwamps (or Duwumps), and a variation of that name is preserved in the name of Seattle's Duwamish River.

Major Historical Events

Visitors to Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill can see the Space Needle, the Downtown Seattle skyline, and Mount Rainier (to the right).Major events in Seattle's history include the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, which destroyed the central business district (but took no lives); the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1909, which is largely responsible for the current layout of the University of Washington campus; the Seattle General Strike of 1919, the first general strike in the country; the 1962 Century 21 Exposition, a World's Fair; the 1990 Goodwill Games; and the WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999, marked by street protests and a series of riots.

On February 28, 2001, a state of emergency was declared after the Nisqually Earthquake, a magnitude 6.8 earthquake, rocked the region. Damage was moderate, but served as a reminder that the coastal Pacific Northwest — and the area around the Seattle Fault, in particular — is under a constant threat of earthquakes

Economic history

Seattle has a history of boom and bust, or at least boom and quiescence. Seattle has been sent into precipitous decline by the aftermaths of its worst periods as a company town, but has typically used those periods to successfully rebuild infrastructure.

The Seattle Central Library, designed by Rem Koolhaas, is the result of a public vote on the "Libraries for All" bond measure approved by Seattle voters on November 3, 1998.The first such boom, covering the early years of the city, was fueled by the lumber industry. (It was during this period that the road now known as Yesler Way was nicknamed "Skid Road" after the timber skidding down the street to Henry Yesler's sawmill. The term later entered the wider American vocabulary as Skid Row.) This boom was followed by the construction of an Olmsted-designed park system. Arguably, the Klondike Gold Rush constituted a separate, shorter boom during the last years of the 19th century, funding Nordstrom's initial growth.

This site in downtown Seattle is one of many construction projects in the area. Next came the shipbuilding boom in the early part of the 20th century, followed by the unused city development plan of Virgil Bogue. After World War II, the local economy was marked by the expansion of Boeing, fueled by the growth of the commercial aviation industry. When this particular cycle went into a major downturn in the late 1960s and early 1970s, many left the area to look for work elsewhere, and two local real estate agents put up a billboard reading "Will the last person leaving Seattle — Turn out the lights."

Seattle remained the corporate headquarters of Boeing until 2001, when the company announced a desire to separate its headquarters from its major production facilities. Following a bidding war in which several cities offered huge tax breaks, Boeing moved its corporate headquarters to Chicago. The Seattle area is still home to Boeing's Renton narrow-body plant (where the 707, 720, 727, and 757 were assembled, and the 737 is assembled today), and Everett wide-body plant (where the 747, 767, and 777 are assembled, and the upcoming 787 Dreamliner will be assembled); and BECU, formerly the Boeing Employees Credit Union.

Downtown Seattle is composed of a tightly-packed financial district along with residential areas and a panoramic waterfront. The most recent boom centered on Microsoft and other software, Internet, and telecommunications companies, such as, RealNetworks, McCaw Communications (later acquired by AT&T and renamed AT&T Wireless), and VoiceStream (later acquired by Deutsche Telekom and renamed T-Mobile USA), and biomedical corporations such as Philips, Boston Scientific, and Zymogenetics. Even locally-headquartered Starbucks held investments in numerous Internet and software interests. Although some of these companies remain relatively strong, the frenzied boom years had ended by early 2001.

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