Territorial University (University of Washington) opens on November 4, 1861.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 2/19/2003
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 5242
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On November 4, 1861, the Territorial University (later, University of Washington) opens in downtown Seattle. The university was located at present-day 4th Avenue and University Street, where the Olympic Hotel was built in 1924.

The cornerstone had been laid early that year, on May 21, 1861. The university opened with 30 students and one teacher, Asa Shinn Mercer (1839-1917). Primary grade subjects were taught along with other subjects. It was not until 1902 that the university abolished preparatory subjects and became an institution of higher learning exclusively. This occurred several years after the university's 1895 move to its present campus on Lake Washington in what is now known as the University District neighborhood in Seattle.


Roberta Frye Watt, Four Wagons West: the Story of Seattle (Portland, OR: Metropolitan Press, 1931), 280; J. Willis Sayres, This City of Ours (Seattle: Seattle School District No. 1, 1936), 101, 102.

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