42 Fun Facts About Seattle, Washington

by Janis on September 3, 2014

Seattle, Washington

We called Seattle home for nearly 7 years, and loved the view of the Space Needle at sunset from the balcony of our apartment on Westlake Avenue.

In anticipation of an upcoming weekend trip back to Seattle, we thought it would be fun to do a little background research on the city.

Here are 42 Fun Facts about Seattle, Washington:

1. The land that is now the city of Seattle has been inhabited for at least 4,000 years.

2. George Vancouver was the first European to visit Seattle in May 1792 during his 4-year-long expedition to chart the Pacific Northwest.

3. The Denny Party, a group of American pioneers – who left Cherry Grove, Illinois on April 10, 1851 in a westward-bound wagon party — is credited with founding Seattle because they settled at Alki Point on November 13, 1851.

4. Seattle was first economic growth boom was built on the timber industry. Early arriving developers converted a forest of trees more than a 1000 years old and 400 feet high into logs, and then milled timber for shipping to San Francisco.

5. The Klondike gold rush greatest boom period for Seattle after gold was discovered in Canada’s Klondike region in August 1896. Seattle established itself as the jumping-off point for transportation to and from Alaska and the gold fields of the Yukon.

6. The Boeing Company, founded in the Seattle area by William Boeing, was originally a boat company. Mr. Boeing was fascinated with flying and airplanes.

7. World War II meant significant growth for Boeing, when the US government suddenly needed tens of thousands of planes a year, making Boeing the largest employer in Seattle.

8. While Boeing closed plants and laid off 70,000 workers after the war, the company soon reinvented itself as the world’s leading producer of commercial passenger planes.

9. During World War II, Seattle was the point of departure for many soldiers sent to the Pacific. Many of these soldiers quartered at Golden Gardens Park.

10. Seattle is the birthplace of Starbucks, the world’s largest coffee chain. You can buy a unique mug (if you collect them) at the original Starbucks in Pike Place Market, first opened in 1971.

Smith Tower, Pioneer_square

Smith Tower is located near Seattle’s Pioneer Square.

11. Smith Tower, a 42-story building constructed in 1914, was once the tallest building west of the Mississippi. Now the top floors are condos.

12. When the Space Needle was built in 1962 for the Seattle World’s Fair, it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River.

13. In 1959, Edward E. Carlson, then president of Western International Hotels, sketched a vision of the Space Needle on a napkin as a focal point for the futuristic World’s Fair in Seattle, whose theme was the 21st Century.

14. Mr. Carlson’s vision for the space-age tower was inspired by the Stuttgart Tower in Germany.

15. The bridge that connects Seattle and Medina across Lake Washington is the world’s longest floating bridge. It is officially the The Governor Albert D. Rosellini Bridge at Evergreen Point. When you travel on I-90 from Seattle to Mercer Island, you travel on the world’s first floating bridge, built in 1950 

16. Medina is the home of the United States’ wealthiest man, Bill Gates, co-founder and former chairman of Microsoft. Mr. Gates has a net worth of $72 billion, according to the September, 2013 Forbes ranking.

17. In 1966, at age 11, Bill Gates won a dinner at the Space Needle restaurant offered by his pastor. Gates won the prize by memorizing the Sermon on the Mount –chapters 5, 6, and 7 of the Gospel of Matthew – and reciting it flawlessly.

18. Seattle is home to the world’s first gas station, opened on East Marginal Way in 1907.

19. The 1919 Seattle General Strike was the first general strike in the United States, with 60,000 shipyard workers walking off their jobs.

20. Today Seattle has two downtown cruise terminals and is a major departure port for Alaska and Pacific Northwest cruises.

cruise ship docks in Seattle21. During the 2014 cruise season, Seattle hosted 178 cruise ships calls, and more than 805,000 passengers.

22. Seattle is ranked the most literate city in the country, with the highest percentage of residents with a college degree or higher.

23. The Seattle Public Library system has the highest percentage of library card-holders per capita in the country.

24. Seattle was the first city in the US to play a Beatles song on the radio.

25. At 76 stories and 937 feet, the black-colored Columbia Center is Seattle’s tallest building and is 12th tallest building in the country. Locals nicknamed it the “Darth Vader” building.

26. As you can witness on the Underground Tour, Seattle was literally built on top of the old city after the Great Fire of 1889.

27. Seattle’s annual rainfall is less than that of Houston, Chicago and New York City.

28. People in Seattle buy the most sunglasses per capita than any other U.S. city.

29. Bertha Landes, elected 1926, was the first female mayor of Seattle, and of any U.S. city.  However, since Bertha, all of Seattle’s mayors have been male.

30. Only Murano, an island near Venice, Italy has more glassblowing studios than found in Seattle.

31.  Seattle has the second-highest per capita rate of live music performances in the United States. New York City is first.

32. More people bike to work in Seattle than in any other similar-sized city in the U.S.

33. Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet has the highest per capita ballet attendance in the country.

34. Seattle is the birthplace of Jimi Hendrix while Bing Crosby was born in nearby Tacoma.

35. Seattle was the first city to have police on bicycles.

36. Seattle has nearly 500 houseboats, more than anywhere else in the U.S.

37. The largest man-made island in the U.S. is Seattle’s Harbor Island.

the first Starbucks

The first Starbucks is near Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

38. Pike Place Market features the longest continuously operating farmer’s market in the US.

39. Kim Basinger, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Julia Roberts all turned down the role of Annie in Sleepless in Seattle before Meg Ryan got the part.

40. After it was started in Oakland, California, Seattle was home to the second chapter of the Black Panther Party, founded in 1968.

41. The Washington State Ferry System is the largest in the country and the third largest in the world, carrying more than 25 million passengers each year.

42. Seattle’s Pier 52 is the busiest ferry terminal in the United States.

Have you visited Seattle, or do you live there? What “fun fact” can you add to this list? 

Learn more about Seattle with these resources:

Top 10 Seattle
Not For Tourists Guide to Seattle 2017

Seattle Rain or Shine: A Guide to the Usual and Unusual

Check out these other Fun Facts posts:

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