The free online encyclopedia of Washington state history

7861 articles now available.

Diablo Dam incline railway climbing Sourdough Mountain, 1930. Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, 2306.
Children waving to ferry, 1950. Courtesy Museum of History and Industry.
Loggers in the Northwest woods. Courtesy Washington State Digital Archives.

This Week Then


News Then, History Now

Transit Ain't Free

On March 1, 1889, the Front Street Cable Railway, running through the heart of Seattle's business district, began operating. By the end of the century the line was financially strapped and was sold to the Seattle Electric Company as part of a larger consolidation of the city's tangle of street-railway lines. Less than two decades later, municipal ownership won out when the city purchased the entire streetcar system for $15 million -- three times the fair market value.

Food from the Sea

On March 2, 1895, the Bush Act was approved by the state legislature and allowed for the sale of state tidelands for oyster farming. And on March 2, 1923, the United States and Canada signed the Pacific Halibut Convention to regulate the Northern Pacific halibut fishery, where fish stocks had declined rapidly since large-scale commercial fishing began in 1888.

Snowy Debris

Shortly after midnight on March 1, 1910, a peal of thunder dislodged a snow shelf directly above two stalled trains near Wellington, not far from Stevens Pass. Millions of tons of frozen water swept locomotives, carriages, and 96 lives down the mountainside, making this the largest avalanche disaster in United States history. You can visit the site via the Iron Goat Trail.

Church Dedication

Ninety years ago this week, on February 28, 1931, three days of dedication ceremonies began for the Tacoma Buddhist Church, located in the city's Japantown (Nihonmachi) neighborhood. In 1983, in consultation with the Japanese sangha (Buddhist community), the name Tacoma Buddhist Church was changed to Tacoma Buddhist Temple.


Seismic Sensation

Twenty years ago this week, on February 28, 2001, the Puget Sound region was rocked by the Nisqually quake, one of the strongest temblors in more than 50 years. Hardest hit was Olympia, closest to the epicenter, where many older buildings -- including the state capitol -- sustained serious damage. In Seattle, the Alaskan Way Viaduct remained standing, but the aged structure and the seawall below it came under intense scrutiny. But the biggest quake damage in Seattle occurred in Pioneer Square, where residents were still reeling from events that had transpired the night before.


Quite a few Washington towns and cities celebrate anniversaries this week including Prosser, which incorporated on March 2, 1899; Langley, which officially became a town on February 26, 1913; and East Wenatchee, whose votes approved incorporation on February 28, 1935. In King County, SeaTac and Federal Way both got their start on the same dayFebruary 28, 1990, and nearby Burien incorporated on February 28, 1993.

Today in
Washington History

New On HistoryLink

Image of the Week

On February 25, 1987, photographer John Stamets captured images of Husky Stadium as it collapsed during construction.

Quote of the Week

"Of all the fire mountains which, like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest."

--John Muir

Major Funding Provided By

Education Partners