The first known non-Indian settler in present-day Clyde Hill was Patrick Downey (1848?-1926), an Irish immigrant who homesteaded a 160-acre tract of land on the southern slope of the hill in 1882. (Part of his property stretched south and east into what later became Bellevue. He and his family lived on the Bellevue side, and were active in the Bellevue community.) Other settlers soon followed, and fruit and vegetable farms sprang up on and around the hill. In its earliest decades Clyde Hill was considered part of the Bellevue community, but over time it developed its own sense of identity, which led to the eventual formation of the Town of Clyde Hill.
There are two different versions of how Clyde Hill got its name. One version says Downey named a ferry landing on Meydenbauer Bay "Clyde Landing" after the River Clyde in Scotland, and the community adopted the name over time. However, a version on the City of Clyde Hill's website says a local pioneer, maybe Downey or maybe not, came up with the name when a new road (now 92nd Avenue NE) was put through the area in the early 1900s. He named it Clyde Road after the Firth of Clyde, a body of water off the western coast of Scotland, and the name eventually became connected with the community.
Clyde or Clyde Hill?
Whichever it was, by the early 1950s Clyde Hill found itself facing the same development pressures that many of its neighbors faced as the Seattle metropolitan area expanded to the Eastside, the area east of Lake Washington. The community's biggest issue with development was that King County allowed lot sizes as small as 6,000 square feet. Many of Clyde Hill's lots were at least 20,000 square feet, and the community wanted to keep it that way. The answer was incorporation -- but the question was incorporation as its own town or with Bellevue?
There was considerable ambivalence in the community about which way to go. Many were just fine with becoming part of Bellevue. Others wanted the community to form its own town. So did leaders in the Clyde Hill Community Club, and they were more vocal. In October 1952 the community submitted a petition to the Board of King County Commissioners to incorporate as the Town of Clyde, but within a week residents of an area within the proposed incorporation boundaries submitted their own petition seeking to withdraw from the proposed town. This area extended north from NE 16th to NE 28th streets and east from 98th to 104th avenues NE. But it quickly became a moot point. In mid-November the board rejected the petition in its entirety because it contained a faulty legal description of the proposed town boundaries.
Less than two weeks later the community submitted a new petition to incorporate, this time as the Town of Clyde Hill. The proposed town boundaries ran east from 84th Avenue NE to 98th Avenue NE along a line just south of today's State Route 520 (and it includes 520 from 92nd to 98th Avenue NE), then south on 98th NE to approximately NE 12th Street, west to 84th Avenue NE, and north back to its northern boundary. (The area between 98th and 104th was not included in the petition, and it eventually became part of Bellevue.) Bellevue likewise filed a petition to incorporate, which included the west side of Clyde Hill (from 84th Avenue NE to 98 Avenue NE), and the board set hearings on both petitions for January 12, 1953.
It was a contentious hearing for the Bellevue petition. Bellevue was also attempting to incorporate Medina and several other local communities. Medina didn't want to join Bellevue, and its representatives had talked the other affected communities, including Clyde Hill, into joining them in seeking exclusion from the Bellevue petition. Clyde Hill almost didn't do it. Even at this late date many in the community still sat on the fence about forming their own town, and shortly before the hearing the Clyde Hill Community Club met and voted to put its petition on hold pending a vote on the Bellevue petition. Leaders of the Clyde Hill Community Club saw it differently, and at the hearing Leslie Rudy, president of the club, helped lead the charge in seeking withdrawal of the west side of Clyde Hill from Bellevue's boundaries.
The board tentatively approved Clyde Hill's request, but its petition to incorporate was put on hold pending the board's final decision on the Bellevue petition. The next week, the board confirmed Clyde Hill's exclusion from Bellevue. This didn't immediately open the door for Clyde Hill's petition, because there were four requests for exclusion from it that the board needed to consider. It did so on February 2, rejected all of the requests, and set an election date of March 24.
Incorporation passed by a comfortable if not overwhelming margin, 148 to 119. The community also voted, 177 to 49, to organize under the mayor-council form of government. Clyde Hill officially became a town of the fourth class when papers were filed with the Secretary of State's office on March 31, 1953. Kenneth "Ken" Day became the town's first mayor, and the town's first council members were F. Lee Campbell, Robert Glueck, P. A. Jacobsen, Leslie Rudy, and A.C. Thompson Sr. One of the first things the new council did was pass a temporary platting and zoning resolution, and today the City of Clyde Hill (its town council voted to organize the town as a non-charter code city in 1998) maintains a minimum lot size requirement of 20,000 square feet, though smaller lots that existed before have been grandfathered in.
The 2010 U.S. Census recorded Clyde Hill's population at 2,984. The city's racial makeup was 84 percent Caucasian and 12 percent Asian, with the remainder split between various races.
City-Data.com reported the average house price in Clyde Hill to be just shy of $1 million in 2013, more than twice the median for King County. The average median income in Clyde Hill -- reported by City-Data.com in 2013 as "over $200,000" -- was nearly triple the King County median. In September 2014 Business Insider (an online news website) listed Clyde Hill as the most affluent small city in Washington, with the average median household income reported to be $210,500.