Port of Seattle
Review and History

The Port of Seattle is the major city for the State of Washington in the United States. Located on Elliott Bay on Puget Sound, it is surrounded by the Olympic Mountains to the west and Lake Washington and the Cascades to the east. The largest city of the Pacific Northwest, the Port of Seattle is the seat of King County. The Port of Seattle is about 72 nautical miles southeast of the Port of Victoria on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, and about 220 kilometers (by air, not road) north-northeast of the Port of Portland in the State of Oregon. In 2007, over 594 thousand people called the Port of Seattle home, and more than 3.3 million lived in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan area.

The Port of Seattle has a rich expanse of resources in its hinterland that extends as far east as the Great Plains of Montana. A city of international economic status, the Port of Seattle is linked to its hinterland by road, rail, and ship and to the world through ocean-borne and air networks. In addition to being an important trade center, the Port of Seattle has been a leader in the high-technology industry, manufacturing high-tech equipment and supporting the expansion of Internet-based commerce. Before its headquarters moved to Chicago, Boeing was the largest company in Seattle, and its largest division is still located in the Port of Seattle area.

The Port of Seattle is home to headquarters of six Fortune 500 companies, including Internet retailer Amazon.com, the Starbucks coffee chain, Nordstrom department stores, and the global logistics company of Expeditors International. Several other Fortune 500 companies − including Costco, Microsoft, T-Mobile, Nintendo of America, and Weyerhaeuser forest products − are headquartered in nearby cities on Puget Sound. In 2005, based on the level of incomes, Forbes identified the Port of Seattle as the most expensive city in America to buy a house. Since 2006, the Port of Seattle has been working to attract the biotechnology industry, which has been the source of most of the recent development in the area. That year, the Port of Seattle was ranked in the United States' top 10 metro areas for climates favorable to business expansion by Expansion Magazine.

Port History

The area now known as the Port of Seattle was been home to human society since the last ice age. Archeological evidence has been discovered to document human habitation for at least 4,000 years, and today's industrial district at the mouth of the Duwamish River has been inhabited since the 6th Century B.C.

When Europeans first settled the area, seventeen villages of the Duwamish Tribe were located around Elliott Bay. The first Europeans filed legal claim to the land on Alki Point in 1851 when some 20 settlers from Illinois arrived aboard the schooner Exact to establish logging operations.

Finding the winters there too harsh and the anchorage too shallow for the larger timber vessels, the settlers moved across Elliott Bay to deeper anchorage in Puget Sound at the mouth of the Duwamish River. They located near a Duwamish village, and the site at the southern end of today's downtown is preserved today as Pioneer Square.

The outpost was named Seattle after Chief Sealth from the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes. The town was laid out in 1853 and incorporated in 1869. Named Seattle to honor the Native American leader Sealth, what began as friendly relations soon became tense. In 1856, the indigenous peoples attacked the Port of Seattle, deterred by the arrival of US armed forces and the gunship Decatur anchored in the harbor.

The Port of Seattle's history is one of boom and bust. The first boom in the 1870s was driven by the lumber industry when one road in town was nicknamed "Skid Road" for the lumber skidding downhill to the sawmill. The term was picked up in American vocabulary is "Skid Row." The Port of Seattle's early economy was based on logging, and a steam-powered sawmill was the town's biggest employer. Growing slowly at first, most of the new population until the railroads arrived was made up of Europeans immigrating to work in the area coalfields.

When the railroad came to town, the Port of Seattle was the main transport point, displacing San Francisco, for trade in the northern Pacific region. This era of growth and prosperity was marred by anti-Chinese riots in the middle 1880s when residents forced almost 200 Chinese residents out of the Port of Seattle. In 1889, a terrible fire destroyed many brick and wood buildings, including the railroad terminals, that made up the Port of Seattle's business district.

The Great Northern Railway arrived in 1893, stimulating redevelopment of the Port of Seattle's downtown and a new growth spurt. The most dramatic boom in the late 1890s resulted from the Klondike Gold Rush when the Port of Seattle became the center supply and transport point for gold prospectors heading north. This boom lasted into the early 20th Century, and it funded several new Seattle companies. In 1880, about 3500 people lived in the Port of Seattle. By 1900, the city's population topped 80 thousand.

By the turn of the century, the Port of Seattle was one of the country's major seaports, containing more than 80 kilometers of wharves. Its "open city" policy, which allowed the operation of casinos, brothels, and saloons, made the Port of Seattle an infamous city as well.

In 1907, teenager James Casey founded the American Messenger Company, later known as UPS. Nordstrom and Eddie Bauer are other companies founded during this boom period. By 1910, the population of the Port of Seattle was almost 250 thousand. Reformers dismissed the open city government and, in 1916, prohibited the sale and consumption of alcohol. The prohibition continued until 1933.

The reformers also made other changes in the Port of Seattle. Women got the right to vote in 1910 and were active in city politics in the early 20th Century. At the same time, labor relations were not happy. In 1919, over 60 thousand workers participated in a general strike that lasted several days. Although the strike was resolved without violence, it sparked a nationwide effort to destroy unionized labor in the United States.

A shipbuilding boom began in the early 20th Century. The Port of Seattle was an important departure point for Pacific troops during World War II, and plane manufacturer Seattle-based Boeing provided bombers. The Port of Seattle was a major producer of water materials that included ships, aircraft, land vehicles, and armaments. Thousands of workers, including many African Americans, came to the city to join the effort, changing the ethnic profile of the Port of Seattle. This was magnified by the deportation of more than six thousand Japanese Americans to detention camps in Idaho.

Following a brief economic decline after World War II, Boeing's expansion and growth of commercial aviation in the 1950s and 1960s brought a brief boom. The Port of Seattle was home to more than 500 thousand people by 1960. The 1962 World's Fair focused an international spotlight on the city. In the latter 1960s, an ambitious urban renewal program reconstructed large sections of the Port of Seattle's downtown area. Skyscrapers replaced residential areas and warehouses.

Opposition to development grew in the 1970s, as critics believed the renewal efforts were destroying the Port of Seattle's unique personality. After the 76-story Columbia Center was completed n 1985, a city-wide land-use plan aimed at curbing overly ambitious development set limits on the height and density of new construction. The city government and neighborhood groups began an historic preservation movement and attracted mainly small businesses to downtown.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the high-technology and knowledge sectors began to grow rapidly, bringing new residents from all over the world to the Port of Seattle. By the beginning of the 21st Century, some two million people lived in the metropolitan area. A new era of prosperity began. The land-use plan that limited height and density of development faded into the background, but the citizens of the Port of Seattle struggled with the modern problems of traffic congestion and urban pollution. By 2006, the city council voted to increase the downtown limitations on development.

In the 1990s, high-tech companies were attracted to the Port of Seattle. Microsoft, Amazon.com, T-Mobile, and RealNetworks are a few of the new companies that made the Port of Seattle home. The influx of business brought new residents as well. Despite the end of the dot-com boom in the early 2000s, many of these companies remain strong in Seattle.

In 1999, the World Trade Organization met in the Port of Seattle, and they were met by some 50 thousand demonstrators that protested the economic and environmental consequences of globalization of the world's economy. City police used tear gas to control the crowds, imposed strict curfews, and banned protests for the remainder of the meetings.

As the Port of Seattle entered the 21st Century, it enjoyed a reputation for being one of America's most livable cities. High-technology, Internet commerce, and the arts were active and growing in the metropolitan area. The progressive city led in promoting green buildings, renewable energy, and recycling. As a leader, the Port of Seattle attracted talented and creative people from around the world and giving the Port of Seattle an international flair.

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