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Cities and Towns
of Puget Sound

Puget Sound

City of Seattle: 602,000
Greater Seattle: 3.3 million

sea level

Main Industries

Boeing (aircraft)
Safeco (insurance)
(department stores)
Bio and medical technology, wood products, transportation equipment, food products, and fish-processing are also strong contributors to the economy.

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Seattle Visitor Information

Livable City
In the past few decades, Seattle has quietly grown from a far-flung port city not registering on too many radar screens, to being nationally recognized as one of the most livable cities in the US. This recognition is based on criteria such as a critical mass of advanced technology, diverse economic sectors such as agriculture, services, manufacturing and international trade, superior educational and health care, (First Hill just east of downtown has been nicknamed "Pill Hill" due to the number of medical facilities crowded onto its slopes), public safety, a well-educated work force, quality of life and the international outlook of its people. The popularity of Seattle's natural and cultural amenities, that so epitomize the attraction of the Northwest, see the city now faced with the challenge of preserving its livability under the pressure of increasing residential and tourist populations.

seattle.jpg (14619 bytes)
Looking east towards Seattle, as taken from the Bainbridge Island ferry. Note the Cascade Mountains in the background. Photo by Ray Maxwell

Perhaps because it is the largest city in Washington State, visitors sometimes think it is also the capital, however the state's capital is actually the nearby city of Olympia. Seattle is the seat of King County.

Colorful Port City
Seattle is a major port city for trans-Pacific and European trade. The Port of Seattle is the fifth largest container port in the United States and the 25th largest in the world. You can see heavily laden container ships with exotic ensigns making their way through Elliot Bay transporting some of the $36 billion worth of products that cross the Port's docks each year. A drive across the West Seattle Bridge places you above Elliott Bay's Harbor Island for an aerial view of all this shipping and transportation activity. The Southern approach to the city center via US Highway 99 passes through the area and is so lined with shipping containers that the area appears to be like some kind of anteroom for downtown's commerce. The Port also owns and operates Seattle-Tacoma International Airport; Fishermen's Terminal and Marine Industrial Center; Shilshole Bay Marina and the Bell Street Pier. The Bell Street Pier is an 11-acre complex on the western edge of downtown that includes an international conference center, marina, cruise ship berths, shops and restaurants. It is an attraction in itself.

Cosmopolitan yet Casual
Seattle has the cosmopolitan outlook of a port city with its strong civic, cultural and personal relationships abroad. It is open to new influences and perhaps first landing site for those seeking adventure, or starting a new life. Seattle has a long established gay community, and boasts the nation's longest running gay bar, the oldest lesbian resource center, the oldest gay counseling service, and the second richest foundation devoted to gay issues. Despite a cosmopolitan outlook, Seattle remains unpretentious, and even low-key. Folks who wear jeans to work, and prefer backpacks to briefcases are also those who appreciate the finer things in life, and are open to new influences in food and art.

Artistic Seattle
The international fame of grunge bands Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, the location of the grave of Jimi Hendrix are perhaps the first aspects of art and culture that come to mind. A fertile local music scene is enhanced by regular appearances from acclaimed artists in rock, jazz and classical music. Seattle boasts a large population of artists, supported in part by an innovative public arts funding program. For example, since1973 it has been a legal requirement that one percent of city capital improvement project funds (such as building a skyscraper) be spent on artworks. Year-round you will find something to sample from Seattle's rich cultural scene from museums to art galleries to the performing arts. Seattle has professional symphony, ballet, opera companies and an active theatre community with 80 companies, 13 of which are professional.

Healthy Economy
Seattle has been ranked as one of the best U.S. cities in which to locate a business. A number of high profile companies have helped place Seattle on the map and no doubt also helped to attract people from diverse backgrounds to the area. Headquartered in Seattle, Boeing, Microsoft, and have shown that hi-tech mixes well with national forest. Boeing is the largest aircraft manufacturer in the world and consistently one of the top three exporters in the United States. Microsoft is the world's leading personal computer software company, but is only one of 2,500 software development firms in the state. Biotechnology also contributes to a healthy economy, and large retail employers include Nordstroms and Costco. Compared with other parts of the U.S., the cost of living is relatively high in Seattle and visitors might notice this in the cost of accommodations and restaurant meals. (Read more about the Pacific Northwest's economy...)

Another business which has become an icon of Seattle is Starbucks. With its string of cafes across the nation, and on every second corner in Seattle, Starbucks has fostered the ultimate in individualized consumerism within a tasteful, if homogenized setting. Go there just to listen to its customers place their orders as you ponder what percent fat to have in your milk, the temperature of the water, the size of cup, how many slugs of caffeine.

Seattle was settled relatively late in the history of the US. In 1851 five pioneer families from Illinois settled at Alki Point, but soon moved to the more sheltered eastern side Elliott Bay, where downtown is today. The city was incorporated in 1869. Twenty years later, in 1889, the city was devastated in the Great Seattle Fire, in which the entire business district burned to the ground in one day. Sanitary concerns were behind the building of another better business district on top of the old, with the result that a subterranean Seattle exists in the Pioneer Square district. This can be explored on the Underground Tour - one of the city's most popular tours. With the arrival of the Great Northern Railway in 1893, the city grew rapidly as a main rail terminus. Its first economic boom came in the 1890s, as the last US departure point for those chasing the Klondike Gold Rush. It continued to prosper as a major Pacific port with the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914. In 1962, Seattle hosted the World's Fair, for which the futuristic Space Needle was built.

A new historical data base and web site devoted to chronicling the history of Seattle and King County since the arrival of the Denny party nearly 150 years ago.

In 1852, the town was named for the chief of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes, who were paid $16,000 for the use of his name. The various pronunciations of his name include, See-alt, See-ualt, See-yat, Sealth, and Se-at-tlh. The chief remained a friend of the white settlers until his death in 1866.

Chief Seattle's 1854 Oration
Text of the historical speech, with overview and more links. Part of the Arbor Heights Elementary School web site, as maintained and funded by Mark Ahlness (a third grade teacher at Arbor Heights).

Noah Seattle
Profile of this revered Native American leader, includes an excerpt from the book "The Eyes of Chief Seattle", and a copy of his 1854 speech with notes. On the web site of Chief Seattle Arts, sellers of artworks by American Indians, non-Indians, and Canadian First Peoples.

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