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May 19, 2015 – May 25, 2015

Anacortes Story

On May 19, 1891, 125 years ago this week, Anacortes incorporated after a tumultuous year of economic boom and bust. In early 1890 the Oregon Improvement Company invested millions in developing the small community, causing a rapid rise in population and development. Eight months later the company's finances collapsed and residents began leaving town as quickly as they had arrived. The following spring those who remained decided to guide the town's destiny themselves and voted to incorporate.

Anacortes developed on a deep-draft harbor near thick forest land. Lumber played an important role in the fledgling town's early growth, as did the fishing industry, which attracted a robust number of Croatian immigrants. As it grew, the town had its share of big-city problems, but by 1915 it was a hub for the growing cod-fishing industry and home to 11 fish canneries.

In 1926 voters approved the creation of the Port of Anacortes -- the state's last deep-draft port to date -- but after the economic crash of 1929 residents began looking for ways to diversify the city's economy. In 1953 they welcomed a Shell Oil refinery, followed by a Texaco refinery four years later. Coming at a time when the logging and fishing industries were experiencing a drop-off, the oil industry boosted Anacortes, but came with its own drawbacks. Just last week hundreds of protesters descended upon the refineries, demanding action on climate change.

Over the past 125 years Anacortes has been home to several notable Washingtonians, including legendary mountaineer Wolf Bauer, bird and animal sculptor Philip McCracken, music-industry pioneer Alice Morrison, eclectic eccentric Harry Everett Smith, and even Bobo the gorilla. Anacortes is also a popular tourist destination and the gateway to the San Juan Islands via ferry.

Teddy's Oratory

On May 22, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt hit the campaign trail in Washington, beginning with a speech in Chehalis from atop the McKinley Stump. The platform had been built in 1901 for President William McKinley, whose visit was canceled after his wife took ill. McKinley was assassinated not long afterward and Vice President Roosevelt ascended to the office.

Roosevelt's Chehalis visit was the first stop of a whirlwind tour. The next day, in Seattle, he signed in as the inaugural guest at the Washington Hotel atop Denny Hill and toured Fort Lawton. Two days later he briefly visited North Yakima before heading off to Walla Walla, where he spoke at Whitman College.

Roosevelt won the election and five years later dispatched the U.S. Navy's Great White Fleet from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, where its itinerary included a tour of Puget Sound.When the ships arrived in Elliott Bay on May 23, 1908, many Seattleites beamed with pride upon seeing the USS Nebraska, which had been launched from the Moran Brothers shipyard four years earlier. The Nebraska was the only battleship ever built in Washington state, and its construction was buoyed by $100,000 raised by local boosters.

News Then, History Now

Fiery Winds Blow: On May 20, 1885, most of Whatcom's business district was destroyed by fire, but local tipplers were able to save much of the town's liquor supply. And on May 20, 1958, a massive fire destroyed the Seattle Cedar Manufacturing plant in Ballard, carrying five-foot-long pieces of burning lumber up to two miles away.

Three in a Row: Blaine incorporated on May 20, 1890, and Hoquiam incorporated the next day. Three days later Davenport in Lincoln County was reincorporated after losing its original incorporated status following Washington's statehood.

Musical Guest: On May 21, 1918, singer and songwriter Arthur Freed performed at the Jewish Welfare House at Camp Lewis, the major army base in Pierce County. That fall he returned to Camp Lewis after being drafted into the army. Freed later became a driving force in Hollywood and produced many classic musicals of the 1940s and 1950s, including An American in Paris, Singin' in the Rain, and Gigi.

Under Arrest: On May 24, 1935, 9-year-old George Weyerhaeuser, heir to the world's largest producer of lumber, was kidnapped on his way home from school in Tacoma. After a $200,000 ransom was paid the boy was released unharmed and the largest manhunt to date in the Northwest began. Two arrests came quickly, but it took nearly a year for the FBI to track down the ringleader.

Fish in the Sea: On May 20, 1977, crowds bubbled with excitement over the opening of the Seattle Aquarium. Funded by Forward Thrust bonds, the aquarium was an immediate success. Since its opening, visitors to the award-winning aquarium have seen additions, expansions, and an array of ground-breaking (surf-breaking?) exhibits and other explorations into the life aquatic.

Owls in a Tree: On May 23, 1991, the town of Forks shut down when its citizens traveled en masse to Olympia to protest critical-habitat protections for the northern spotted owl. Three years later U.S. District Court Judge William L. Dwyer upheld the federal government's management plan in a key decision interpreting the National Environmental Policy Act.

Quote of the Week

History is but the record of the public and official acts of human beings. It is our object, therefore, to humanize our history and deal with people past and present; people who ate and possibly drank; people who were born, flourished and died; not grave tragedians, posing perpetually for their photographs.

                    --Bill Nye (but not the Science Guy)

Image of the Week

Arlington incorporated on May 20, 1903.

Today in Washington History      RSS Feed

Bothell beginnings: Bothell Post Office opens on May 25, 1888.

Moran Shipyard in Seattle completes 12 steamships on May 25, 1898.

President Theodore Roosevelt visits North Yakima on May 25, 1903.

President Theodore Roosevelt visits Whitman College and Walla Walla on May 25, 1903.

Black Student Union demands a black trustee at Seattle Community College on May 25, 1969.

New Essays This Week       RSS Feed

Kent Library, King County Library System

New $3.2 million Kent Library is dedicated on October 12, 1991.

Mercer Island Library, King County Library System

Mercer Island opens its first public library on January 11, 1945.

United States Coast Survey in Washington Territory

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