Valley View Library
History of City of SeaTac
The City of SeaTac is a newly defined area incorporating neighborhoods that have existed for many decades: McMicken, Bow Lake, Angle Lake and Riverton. In an effort to help foster a sense of community and an understanding of the history of the city, Valley View Library and the City of SeaTac worked for three years (1993-1996) on the SeaTac Oral History Project, in which historical information about the City and its neighborhoods was collected. That project culminated in the release of a video titled "SeaTac Chronicle: Voices From a City," which was released May 1996. The video is available for check-out from King County Library System, and can be purchased for $19.95 through "Friends of Valley View Library," 17850 Military Road South, SeaTac, WA 98188. (Contact Karen Hardiman, Managing Librarian, 206-242-6044 for more information.)
By the 1870s, Seattle was a growing city and many families were moving south and building homes and farms along the banks of the Duwamish/Green River - where transportation was available along the waterways. One of those families was the Kellys. This photo shows their barn and homestead located on the river they called Duwamish. In the background is the ridge of trees and forests that lay between the valley and Puget Sound. Few of these people had the time or interest to venture over the ridge, so it was pretty much uninhabited until about 1875, when newly married Mike Kelly decided to see what was on the ridge. "Mike took our dog and his gun and struggled up the western hillside. What a surprise he got when he finally reached the top and found a beautiful valley with two streams, huge trees, and fertile land. Right then and there he named it Sunnydale. He posted his intention to homestead by putting a stake in the ground; and then hurried home to tell about the treasure he had found. - From Diary of Jane Fenton Kelly, homesteader
Throughout most of the 19th century, the area now incorporated as SeaTac was densely populated with trees. Duwamish Indians camped in the area during the summers to harvest fish from Angle Lake, and possibly game as well as berries and other edible plants which grew naturally. In 1990, a canoe was discovered at the bottom of the lake. Duwamish and Muckleshoot tribes both claimed the canoe, each side asserting their people are indigenous to the area.
(Left to right) Mr. Devlin and Bill and Henry Dennis posed in front of the big trees in the area of the present airport. They were on a "scouting trip" to this area to see if they could find some good land for a family farm. This spot was near the eventual site of the Dennis/Utterback farm - near South 176th Steet and Des Moines Way South.
Military Road, which winds across the ridge overlooking Kent Valley and brushes the east side of Angle Lake, was the first major road in the area. Originally part of the Fort Steilacoom-Fort Bellingham Military Road, it was built to facilitate travel between forts for soldiers fighting in what is termed "The Indian Wars." Completed in 1860, the road was the first to connect Seattle to Tacoma, and it literally paved the path for settlers to come to the area.
In 1871, Mike Kelly, a Seattle pioneer and explorer, came to the area looking for inexpensive farmland to homestead. He filed a claim for 160 acres in the area now called Sunnydale, but he needed a road between his new home and that of his in-laws, so he obtained a permit from Seattle and built a new road joining the two homesteads. Kelly Road was expanded by later settlers, until it eventually reached Des Moines. In 1916, this road was paved with bricks and acquired the name Des Moines Way Highway, which now defines the western border of the City of SeaTac. In 1922, 1,800 elm trees were planted along the road to commemorate Washington State's World War I dead, and the road was re-named Des Moines Way Memorial Drive.
By the early 1900s, many settlers had joined Mike Kelly and his in-laws, and the town of Riverton, now a neighborhood in SeaTac, emerged. The land was still inexpensive, and people farmed much of the produce and dairy products which were sold at the Pike Place Market.
By 1928, Pacific Highway South cut its way through SeaTac. In addition to increasing access to the area, the creation of the highway provided a new source of revenue for the area. Road travelers needed services, and gas stations, hotels, restaurants and taverns were built to accommodate people passing through.
As roads developed, the area became increasingly accessible to residents of Seattle, who built summer homes around Angle Lake. People came to Angle Lake for church camps, and some owned private cabins. The Reeplog family, who lived at Angle Lake, took advantage of the growing interest in the lake's beauty, and built a resort that featured a dance hall and a swimming area. The resort, called "The Angle Lake Plunge," burned down in 1957, about the same time King County acquired the land and turned it into a public park. Angle Lake Park remains popular to SeaTac residents today.
Population in the area tripled in the 1940s, due to the influx of jobs related to the defense industry, particularly at Boeing. In the early 1940s, Seattle recognized the need for a major airport in addition to Boeing Field, and in March of 1942, the Port Commission voted to build and operate an airport serving the greater Puget Sound area. In January 1943, ground was officially broken for airport construction, and the first regularly scheduled jet service by Pan Am Airlines began in October 1959. The airport underwent a major expansion and transformation in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The airport has probably been the largest contributor to the growth of population in SeaTac. In addition to creating jobs directly related to the airport and airlines, the industry has created additional need for hotels, convention facilities, restaurants, bus shuttles and other transportation companies, and places of entertainment, including--to the dismay of many residents--"adult entertainment."
In 1989, residents who were used to depending on King County for services, decided they were ready to have local control of their government and services, and voted for incorporation. The City of SeaTac, and the airport it surrounds, is now the terminus for the entire northwest area.
To view more photographs or read more information about the history of
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Last Updated: June 26, 2007