Settled in 1851–52, Seattle remained a small lumber town until the coming of the Great Northern Railway in 1893. Despite strikes, anti-Chinese riots, and a fire in 1889, growth was rapid. The city became a boomtown with the 1897 Alaska gold rush and developed into the nation's chief link with Alaska. It grew further with the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (1909), the opening of the Panama Canal (1914), and the completion (1917) of a canal and locks making the city both a saltwater and a freshwater port. Aiding its industrial growth was the presence of coal in the area and the development of hydroelectric power. Long a center of radical labor movements, Seattle was the scene of a major general strike (1919) led by the Industrial Workers of the World. During the 1960s, Seattle's port expanded enormously; it now has numerous major terminals, a 600-boat commercial fishing terminal, and a huge marina for private boats. In 2001 an earthquake did significant damage to the city, mainly in the historic Pioneer Square area.
Situated between the majestic Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges, with Mt. Rainier to the southeast and Mt. Baker to the northeast, Seattle is not far from many national and state parks and recreation areas. The city is a cultural center with numerous museums and art galleries, including a Frank Gehry–designed rock music museum; the Museum of History & Industry (
Mohai, 2012) located in an imaginatively revamped 1942 armory; a variety of theater and musical organizations; and an arboretum, a zoo, and the Central Library (2004, by Rem Koolhaas). Its symphony orchestra performs in Benaroya Hall (1998) and its opera and ballet in McCaw Hall (2003). The city's professional sports teams include the Mariners (American League baseball) and Seahawks (National Football League). It is the seat of the Univ. of Washington, Seattle Univ., and Seattle Pacific Univ. Seattle was the site of the 1962 world's fair. That fair's symbol—the 600-ft (183-m) Space Needle—is a skyline landmark. Also remaining from the fair are the Pacific Science Center and a cultural and recreational park; the first publicly operated U.S. monorail connects the park with the downtown.
See R. Sale, Seattle, Past to Present (1976); M. C. Morgan, Skid Road: An Informal Portrait of Seattle (rev. ed. 1982).
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