City of Tukwila History
The earliest people in Tukwila were the Duwamish who made their homes along the Black and Duwamish Rivers. They named Tukwila for the lush forests of hazelnut trees, which grew around them.
Settlers arrived in the 1850's, traveling by boat and wagon to farm the rich soil of the Duwamish River Valley. The most well known of these settlers was Joseph Foster, early Washington State Legislator, first Superintendent of Schools in Tukwila and namesake of the Foster community. Foster's Landing was a primary stop for riverboats loading and unloading goods and passengers.
Tukwila's location at the crossroads of rivers, trails, highways and railroads determined its destiny as a center of commerce. In the 1860s, shipping was done by 65 foot flat-bottomed boats that traveled the Duwamish, Green and Black Rivers from Seattle to Auburn and back. Carrying local coal, produce and livestock, the journey from Seattle to Tukwila took two days.
Early electric trains traveled along Interurban Avenue in Tukwila, connecting to Renton and to Tacoma. Operating from 1902 to 1928, the commuter train traveled from Seattle to Tacoma in less than an hour. The first Macadam-paved road in Washington State was in Tukwila and bears the name of that new method of street paving.
The City of Tukwila was incorporated in 1908, and much physical growth has come through annexations of other well-developed communities: Foster, Thorndyke, Riverton, McMicken Heights, Duwamish-Allentown, Foster Point and Cascade View.
The annexations were for varying political reasons that generally included land use disputes with the County, increased protection from crime, closer governance, and avoidance of inclusion in the new City of SeaTac.
Initial disagreements among these previously independent communities has decreased and neighborhoods continue as an important political factor.
A significant unifying factor in these annexed areas is that all are in the South Central School District and all of the school district is now in the City of Tukwila. This alignment provides the possibility for unity of initiatives in pursuit of local excellence on two fronts: City service and schools.
Today, Tukwila has a residential population of nearly 15,000 and is home to businesses employing some 70,000 people. Occupying 8.6 square miles, Tukwila is the heart of the Puget Sound region, sitting 12 miles south of downtown Seattle and 17 miles north of downtown Tacoma.
Last Updated: March 3, 2010