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The 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition


The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (AYPE), held in Seattle from June 1 to October 16, 1909, followed on the heels of the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland, Oregon. Initial inspiration for the fair came from a group of Alaska's gold rush pioneers in 1905. In 1906, Seattle businessmen altered the original plan, postponed the 1907 date (so as not to conflict with the Jamestown, Virginia tricentennial celebration) until 1909, and sought financial support for an enlarged scope. The AYPE followed a tradition established in 1876 when Philadelphia held a Centennial Exposition. It was an opportunity for Seattleites to display pride in their heritage and their patriotism.

Although funding was provided at the state level, much of the financial burden for the Exposition fell to the City of Seattle. Many city departments worked tirelessly before the AYPE to secure funding or put personnel in place to ensure the fair's success. These departments expressed their concerns, ideas, and requests to City Council and the Mayor through various communications and reports. The Police, Fire, Parks, and other departments all contributed to a smooth-running and safe Exposition.

For years after the close of AYPE, the Seattle Parks Department leased the Exposition property from the University and maintained the grounds. The Regents of the University of Washington assumed maintenance of the grounds in April 1915 and the City's involvement with the AYPE properties ended.

Although the anticipated influx of people and the anticipated stimulus to economic growth did not materialize as a result of the Exposition, the City and promoters counted AYPE as a success. Traffic was handled well, the boulevard system was completed in time for visitors to enjoy the scenery, and the police ably protected "the lives and property of the citizens and visitors during the Exposition." The University benefited by the expansion of its campus. Permanent benefits for the city included many additional miles of streetcar tracks, additional fire alarm boxes, a boulevard system, and a statue of William Seward.