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What Seattle Looked like in the 1870s Through Stunning Historical Photos

Early on, Seattle’s economy was dominated by logging; a steam-powered sawmill owned by pioneer Henry Yesler was the city’s major employer. Seattle was incorporated in 1869. As European immigrants were recruited to work in the coalfields outside the city, its population slowly grew until an interstate railroad line arrived.

Seattle was initially named after the neighboring village of Duwamish. However, it was later renamed to honor the local Native American tribe leader, Seattle, who had shown considerable hospitality to the settlers in 1853. During that year, city leaders were disappointed when Washington’s territorial government determined that its capital would be Olympia (although there was a short-lived movement in 1860 to make Vancouver the capital). In 1861, however, Seattle was chosen as the site of the University of Washington, which would prove to be of great significance to the city’s development. Seattle was subjected to tense encounters with Native Americans, including a violent attack in 1856, which was ended by the arrival of the gunship Decatur and ground troops from the U.S.

The Northern Pacific Railway Company announced in the early 1870s that its western terminus would be at Tacoma, about 40 miles south of Seattle. Railroad barons seem to have gambled on the advantage they could gain from purchasing land around their terminus cheaply rather than bringing the railroad into a more established Pacific port town. The city of Seattle has made several attempts to build its railroad or to leverage one to come. In 1884, the Great Northern Railway finally reached Seattle, allowing it to compete with other cities for freight, though a significant rail passenger terminal would not be constructed until 1906.

#2 Dr. David Swinson Maynard residence near Alki, 1873

#3 Arlington House horse-drawn coach, 1879

Arlington House horse-drawn coach, 1879

First hotel bus, The Arlington, 1879

#6 View from 2nd Ave. and Pike Street, 1870

View from 2nd Ave. and Pike Street, 1870

From Second Avenue and Pike Street. 1870. 1. A. A. Denny house. 2. Yesler's mill and wharf. 3. Front Street. 4. Union Street.

#8 A.A. Denny locomotive, belonging to the Columbia and Puget Sound Railway, 1879

#10 Central School, children and teachers posed on steps, 1870

#12 David Judkins’ house with John Roby Judkins standing in front of Frederick & Nelson furniture wagon, Seattle, 1879

#13 East Hall residence, Territorial University, Seattle, 1870

#14 Fourth of July Pavilion, Pioneer Place, Seattle, 1870

#15 Residence, Kenneth Hotel location, 1st Ave. vicinity of Cherry Street, 1875

Residence, Kenneth Hotel location, 1st Ave. vicinity of Cherry Street, 1875

Residence on the site of Union Block. Kenneth Hotel location 1st near Cherry

#16 Yesler Way from 1st Ave., 1875

Yesler Way from 1st Ave., 1875

Yesler St. from 1st.

#18 Territorial University building and Observatory between Union and University Streets, 1870

#19 Unidentified residence at Queen Aveneue in Seattle, 1870

#21 1st Ave. S. north from S. Washington Street, 170

1st Ave. S. north from S. Washington Street, 170

Looking North, just below Washington St. intersection. Right center: Occidental hotel (with flagstaff). Above that: Dr. H.A. Smith house. Above that: C.C. Terry house (white fence and gables). Below right of Terry house: J. Collins house. Left of hotel: Hillory Butler house (small white). Center: first Masonic Hall (Dark Bldg.) Above that: Methodist Episcopal Church (white church)."

#22 1st Ave. S. north from S. Washington Street, 1870

#23 Our Lady of Good Help Church, 1870

Our Lady of Good Help Church, 1870

Fourth Avenue. South and Park Avenue (Washington Street). Built 1866-1870. Enlarged 1883. 1870. First Catholic church in Seattle. Porch of Baxter house at left.

#24 Plummer’s store, 1870

Plummer's store, 1870

Later Plummer & Hinds with post office in the store. Commercial and Main. Built 1859; destroyed by fire June 6, 1889.

#26 Territorial University, 1870

Territorial University, 1870

Territorial University. Main building exterior. Fourth Avenue and University Street. Built 1861-1862. Demolished 1910 (the columns are now in the Sylvan Theater, University campus) 1864.

#27 View north from 1st Ave. S. and S. Washington Street, 1870

View north from 1st Ave. S. and S. Washington Street, 1870

Looking North, just below Washington Street intersection. Center Right side: Occidental Hotel (with flagstaff). Above that--Dr. H. A. Smith house. Above that--C.C. Terry house (white fence and gables). Below right of Terry house--J. Collins house. Left of hotel. Left side: Hillory Butler house.(small white). Center Right side: first Masonic Hall (dark building). Above that is Methodist Episcopal Church (White Church).

#29 1st Ave. looking north from Cherry Street, 1876

1st Ave. looking north from Cherry Street, 1876

View looking north on Commercial Street from Cherry Street showing Yesler's Hall, the Masonic Hall, the Cosmopolitan Hotel (later the Esmond Hotel) and Pioneer Drug Store. The Central School can be seen in the distance on the left side.

#32 1st Avenue. S. between S. Washington St. and S. Main Street, 1870

1st Avenue. S. between S. Washington St. and S. Main Street, 1870

East side between Washington Street and Main Street. On verso: Pinkham's Variety store, Levy's Pawn shop, Eureka Bakery. Wyckoff home (with veranda) S. E. corner of Second Avenue and Cherry Street. Dick Atkins home (above that). Pinkham's Variety Store, Levy's Pawn Shop, Eureka Bakery. Wyckoff home (with verandah), S. E. corner of Second and Cherry. Dick Atkins home (above). J. M. Colman's home above that.

#34 1st Ave. S. north from S. Washington Street, 1870

1st Ave. S. north from S. Washington Street, 1870

Commercial St. (now 1st Ave. S.) north from S. Washington St. businesses depicted include the Northwestern Land Agency, Pinkham's Variety Store and Eureka Bakery.

#35 1st Avenue S. north from S. Washington Street, 1870

#36 1st Ave. south from Cherry Street, 1874

1st Ave. south from Cherry Street, 1874

Looking South from Cherry Street. 1. Sanders Block. 2. Vanity Fair beer hall. 3. Western Union Telegraph Office.

#37 1st Avenue, south from Madison Street, 1879

1st Avenue, south from Madison Street, 1879

Looking South from Madison Street. A.W. Piper and son, Walter, in foreground. 1. Occidental Brotherhood Building. 2. Schmeig's Brewery.

#42 East side of 1st Ave. S. between S. Washington St. and S. Main Street, 1870

#43 Fire wreckage at foot of Yesler Way, July 26, 1879

#44 First trip of Seattle and Walla Walla Railroad, March 7, 1877

First trip of Seattle and Walla Walla Railroad, March 7, 1877

Seattle and Walla Walla Railroad. First passenger train. 1877. Initial trip between Seattle and Renton, March 7, 1877.

#45 First trip of Seattle Coal Company railroad, December 1871

First trip of Seattle Coal Company railroad, December 1871

First train coming in from Lake Union on Seattle's first railroad. December 25, 1871. South end of Lake Union. Tracks followed what is now Westlake Avenue.

#46 Intelligencer Office near 1st Ave. and Cherry Street, 1876

Intelligencer Office near 1st Ave. and Cherry Street, 1876

Constructed by Henry Yesler in 1874, this building served as an office for the Seattle Intelligencer Newspaper (which would later evolve into the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.)

#47 John J. McGilvra House, 1870

John J. McGilvra House, 1870

Houses. McGilvra, John J. Exterior. Laurel Shade Road. Built 1864, destroyed by fire 1933. 1870." Laurel Shade Road can be seen in the 1905 and 1912 Baist Atlases. It runs along the present-day path of 43rd Ave. E.

#48 King Street wharves, 1878

King Street wharves, 1878

Wharves at foot of King St. and Weller St. Academy of the Holy Names at center background.

#49 Occidental Hotel at 1st Ave. and James Street, 1872

Occidental Hotel at 1st Ave. and James Street, 1872

Front Street [1st Ave.] and James Street. Built 1865; demolished about 1883. As seen from Occidental Ave. and Main St. 1872. 1. Mrs. Francis Guy's boarding house 2. Occidental hotel 3. A. Slorah's saloon.

#50 Phillips, Horton and Co. Bank, 1876

Phillips, Horton and Co. Bank, 1876

Phillips, Horton and co. bank. Commercial St. and Washington St. Built 1875; gutted by fire June 6, 1889. 1876. Crawford and Harrington, Ship chandlers, at right.

#51 Seattle waterfront from Elliot Bay, 1878

Seattle waterfront from Elliot Bay, 1878

Showing Front Street from Madison Street to Columbia after regrade. Looking northeast from Columbia Street.

#53 South School [later called Main St. School], 1875

South School [later called Main St. School], 1875

South School (first) 6th and Main. Built 1873 and called South School; name changed to Main Street School 1889. Frame. Exterior. View from right side and back. Retouched from the original. This Rare Picture is a close-up photograph of the original South School on Main Street, which was then the stage road leading to Leschi Park (present) On Lake Washington. Then the shoreline of the bay was less than a block away.

#54 Steamer “Alida,” 1870

Steamer "Alida," 1870

Alida (Steamer). At wharf at foot of Columbia Street. 1870. Built in Seattle in 1860s. On Seattle to Victoria run, burned at Gig Harbor in 1890s. First Methodist Protestant Church (the 'Brown Church') at left.

#55 Territorial University from near 3rd Ave. and Union Street, 1878

Territorial University from near 3rd Ave. and Union Street, 1878

Territorial University. Main building. Exterior. Fourth Avenue and University Street. Built 1861-1862, demolished 1910. 1878. John Pike, Architect. Photo was taken from Third Avenue and Pike Street.

#56 Territorial University, 1870

Territorial University, 1870

The main Territorial University Building was constructed in 1861.

#57 View from 1st Ave. and Pike St. looking south 1878.

View from 1st Ave. and Pike St. looking south 1878.

From 1st Ave. and Pike St., 1878. Looking south. Photo by Peiser, Theodore E.. Center background. Arlington Hotel; Yesler's mill & Yesler's dock; Wreck of bark "Windward" in front of dock; M.R. Moddock's bldg., left in front of trestle; R.H. Denny Home, n. side of Union St.; A.A. Denny Home, s. side of Union St.; Young naturalists first home, rear of A.A. Denny home.

#58 View from 2nd Ave. and Pike Street, 1870

View from 2nd Ave. and Pike Street, 1870

From Second Avenue and Pike Street. 1870 Looking southeast. 1. Territorial University. 2. Andrew W. Piper house.

#59 View from 3rd Ave. and Seneca Street, 1875

View from 3rd Ave. and Seneca Street, 1875

From Third Avenue and Seneca Street. 1875. Looking southeast from roof of Territorial University. 1. Yesler's mill and wharf. 2. Harrington and Smith's dock. 3. 'Brown' church. 4. Thorndyke house. 5. Robert Moran house. 6. Irving Ballard house. 7. Sandow house. 8. Steamer Zephyr.

#60 View From King Street, 1878

View From King Street, 1878

Looking North. 1. Felker house. 2. Carkeek house. 3. Arlington Hotel. 4. Squire's Opera House and New Brunswick Hotel.

#62 View north from 1st Ave. S. and S. Main Street, 1874

View north from 1st Ave. S. and S. Main Street, 1874

Commercial Street [1st Ave. S.]. 1874 looking North from Main Street. 1. New England house. 2. Arlington Hotel.

#63 View north from 1st Ave. S. and S. Main Street, 1876

View north from 1st Ave. S. and S. Main Street, 1876

Commercial Street [1st Ave. S.]. 1876. Looking North from Main Street. 1. Yesler's Hall. 2. Masonic Hall. 3. Cosmopolitan Hotel (later Esmond Hotel).

#65 View south from 1First Avenue and Pike Street, 1870

#66 View south from near 3rd Ave. and Pike Street, 1878

View south from near 3rd Ave. and Pike Street, 1878

The Territorial University, built in 1861, appears on the left at 4th Ave. and University St.

#68 Yesler Way west from 2nd Avenue, 1874

Yesler Way west from 2nd Avenue, 1874

View of Mill Street looking west from Second Avenue. J. S. Maggs, dentist, the Wisconsin house, Hop Sing laundry, Yesler's mill and Occidental Square are depicted.

#69 Yesler Way, west from 1st Avenue, 1875

Yesler Way, west from 1st Avenue, 1875

Looking West from Front Street. 1. Yesler's mill. 2. News and Book depot. 3. City market. 4. Matthew A. Kelly's Pioneer Drug Store. 5. Seattle Bakery.

#70 First logs on Columbia and Puget Sound Railroad, 1879

#71 First logs on Columbia and Puget Sound Railroad, 1879

First logs on Columbia and Puget Sound Railroad, 1879

1. Academy of the Holy Names. 2. Beacon Hill.

#72 First Methodist Episcopal Church, 1879

First Methodist Episcopal Church, 1879

First Methodist Episcopal church. Southeast corner of Second Ave. and Columbia St. Built 1854-5 by Henry Adams; demolished 1898.

#73 Old schoolhouse, 1879

Old schoolhouse, 1879

Old Sixth Street School, moved to south side, Marion St and east of Seventh Ave.

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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