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Seattle, United States of America

Reference work entry

Introduction

Seattle is the largest city in the state of Washington and one of the fastest growing in the United States. The seat of King county, Seattle is located on the west coast of Washington approximately 110 miles south of the Canadian border. The city is surrounded by mountains and located on a stretch of land between Lake Washington and Puget Sound. The Lake Washington Ship Canal runs through the centre of the city.

History

The area now occupied by modern day Seattle was first inhabited by Suquamish and Duwamish Native Americans. The first European settlers arrived at Akli Point in 1851. Washington Territory was created in 1853 and Seattle, incorporated as a city in 1865, was named after a Native American chief who had befriended the European settlers. The city’s economy was dependent on its sawmill and in 1878 the residents built their own railroad to improve the city’s trading status. The economy thrived as the log trade grew and, despite a devastating fire that destroyed much of the city, by 1891 Seattle had been rebuilt and its population had grown to over 40,000.

In 1897 the discovery of gold in the nearby Yukon River caused a boom as prospectors and miners moved into the city in large numbers. Between 1900 and 1920 the city’s population tripled to more than 230,000. The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in 1909 increased Seattle’s international profile and highlighted its status as a major port on the Pacific rim. The completion of the Lake Washington Ship Canal brought more trade to the area and the First World War saw Seattle become an important ship and aircraft-building centre—with, in particular, the Boeing Company, founded at the turn of the century, providing jobs and prosperity. After a downturn during the 1930s Depression, the Second World War saw another industrial boom.

After the war, over 200,000 jobs were lost in the shipbuilding industry. Boeing remained crucial to the city’s economy and the growth in the production of passenger jets and spacecraft in the 1950s and early 1960s helped the city back on to its feet. By 1956, one in two industrial workers in Seattle was employed by Boeing. However the aircraft manufacturer’s fortunes plummeted in the 1970s and the decline of traditional fishing and sawmill industries saw Seattle’s economic fortunes hit another downturn.

Seattle fought back in the 1990s as computer software, telecommunications and biotechnology companies based themselves in the city. In 1999 Seattle hosted the third ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) although the event was marred by clashes between police and anti-capitalist demonstrators.

Modern City

Seattle is a manufacturing and commercial centre with a diverse range of industries. Several corporations are based there including The Boeing Company, SAFECO Corporation, Alaska Airlines and Amazon.com. Computer giant Microsoft is also a major employer. There are still significant fishing and timber industries and the city is the nearest American port to Tokyo as well as the main link from the continental United States to Alaska, Asia and Siberia. The port houses 28 terminals and 30 steamship operators.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is 13 miles to the south of Seattle. There is a Greyhound bus terminal and an Amtrak station. The Metro Transit Bus system offers many free journeys within certain zones of the city and there is also an overhead monorail and regular ferries to Bainbridge Island and Bremerton. Plans are underway to link Seattle with Everett and Tacoma by a high-speed commuter rail link and a series of express buses.

Institutes of higher education in Seattle include the University of Washington, Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University, Pacific Lutheran University and the University of Puget Sound.

Places of Interest

The Seattle Center houses major attractions including the Pacific Science Center and Experience Music Project—an interactive museum devoted to popular music that opened in 2000. The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture and the Henry Art Gallery are both on the campus of the University of Washington. Woodland Park Zoo is one of the finest zoos in the world and the Seattle Aquarium is on the waterfront.

Seattle has several theatre companies including the Seattle Repertory Theatre and the Intiman Theatre Company. There are also performance houses for music, drama, dance and opera, including the Seattle Centre Opera House and the Broadway Performance Hall. Cornish College of the Arts, founded in 1914, offers training courses for performers, writers and artists.

The city’s baseball team, the Seattle Mariners, play at the new stadium at Safeco Field. The city’s American football team, the Seattle Seahawks, moved into a new 67,000-seater stadium called Qwest Field in July 2002.

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© Springer Nature Limited 2019

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