Home Page This Department
Seattle City Clerk's Home Page Seattle City Clerk's Home Page Seattle City Clerk's About Us Page Seattle City Clerk's Contact Us Page
Online Information Resources
Search Collections Exhibits and Education Seattle Facts About the Archives

Seattle Facts
Brief History of Seattle
City Officials
Historical Election Results
Ballot Initiatives
City Symbols
Quick Information

Quick Information

The following information constitutes some of the most often asked historical questions handled by the Municipal Archives. It is by no means an exhaustive compilation. For additional quick information relating to tourism, housing, the economy, and other subjects, visit the home page of the Office of Intergovernmental Relations.

Jump to:

Annexed Cities
Between 1905 and 1910, eight small towns were annexed to the City of Seattle, nearly doubling the physical area of the City. Three of the communities--Ravenna, South Seattle, and Southeast Seattle--appear to have incorporated as towns specifically for the purpose of petitioning Seattle for annexation. State law required that a community hold an election at which a majority of voters had to approve the submission of an annexation petition to the City of Seattle. The citizens of Ballard defeated an annexation measure in December 1905 (1033-549 against annexation) before finally approving it in 1907.

The following table lists the dates of incorporation for each town, the date each was annexed to Seattle, the City of Seattle ordinance granting annexation, and the vote in each community (where the figure is known) for annexation.

Town Date Incorporated Date Annexed Annexation Ordinance Annexation Vote
Ballard May 12, 1890 May 19, 1907 16083 998-876
Columbia Jan. 2, 1893 May 3, 1907 15918 109-3
Georgetown Jan. 8, 1904 Apr. 11, 1910 23814 389-238
Ravenna Oct. 11, 1906 Jan. 15, 1907 15228 n/a
Southeast Seattle July 2, 1906 Jan. 7, 1907 15172 221-8
South Park Dec. 9, 1902 May 3, 1907 15917 181-36
South Seattle July 13, 1905 Oct. 20, 1905 12898 n/a
West Seattle April 21, 1902 July 24, 1907 16558 325-8

Area of City
91.5685 square miles. This includes 88.4997 square miles of land area and 3.0688 square miles of water area.

This figure was compiled by the Seattle Engineering Department and is included in the department's official history, Public Works in Seattle. The book notes that the "area includes all water areas between the north and south City Limits from the Pierhead Line on Puget Sound to the Pierhead Line on Lake Washington. Annexed water areas outside these lines are not included."

The World Almanac lists Seattle's area as 84 square miles.

Chief Sealth's Speech
Chief Sealth, for whom Seattle is named, delivered his famous speech in December 1854. No transcript was made at the time. Over the years many versions of the speech have appeared in print. On October 29, 1887, the Seattle Sunday Star newspaper printed a recounting of the speech compiled by Dr. Henry A. Smith who had attended the original oration. Smith's Victorian language is clearly not a verbatim account of what Sealth said, but this version is the most widely accepted accounting of the sentiments expressed by the Chief. The
version of the speech on the Suquamish Tribe website is only slightly modified in language from the article in the Star.

City Charters
Seattle has had four separate Charters during its history. Each has been subject to both minor and major revisions or amendments. The first Charter was approved by an act of the Territorial Legislature. The three subsequent Charters were Freeholder Charters. Freeholder Charters are written by citizens elected at special Freeholder elections and then submitted to the electorate for ratification. Charter dates are as follows:

December 2, 1869
October 1, 1890
March 3, 1896
March 12, 1946

Two proposed Freeholders Charters submitted in 1914 and 1975 were rejected by the electorate.

Copies of all the Charters and Charter revisions are available in both the Seattle Municipal Archives and the City Clerk's Office. Browseable and searchable versions of the current Charter are also available on the City Clerk's web site.

Historical Landmarks in Seattle
The Department of Neighborhoods maintains a
list of designated Seattle landmarks on its website.

Incorporation Date
The City of Seattle was incorporated by act of the Territorial Legislature on December 2, 1869.

On January 14, 1865, the Territorial Legislature approved the incorporation of the Town of Seattle. However, following submission of a petition by several of the Town's citizens, Seattle was unincorporated on January 28, 1867. Records of this two years of municipal government did not survive.

Seattle's First Mayor:
Henry A. Atkins was appointed by the Territorial Legislature following incorporation of the City in December 1869. He was subsequently elected to a second term in July 1870.

First Woman Mayor: Bertha Knight Landes (1868-1943) was elected mayor in 1926 and served one two-year term. She was the first woman elected executive in a major American city and is the only woman, to date, to serve as mayor of Seattle. She was defeated for reelection in 1928.

First Minority Mayor: Norman B. Rice, an African-American, was the first member of a minority group to be elected mayor of Seattle. His tenure began January 1, 1990. Prior to his election, he served on City Council for eleven years.

Mayors Recalled: Seattle citizens have used the power of the recall to remove two mayors from office. Hiram C. Gill was recalled at the election of February 2, 1911, after serving only one year. He was subsequently reelected to a second term in 1914 and a third term in 1916. Frank Edwards was recalled in July 1931, one year into his second term as mayor.

Longest Tenure as Mayor: Charles T. Royer served twelve years (1978-1989), being elected to three terms. William F. Devin was elected to four terms, but three of those were two-year terms. His length of service was ten years.

See a list of all of Seattle's mayors.

First Ordinances
Seattle's first ordinance was approved December 22, 1869. It was designed to regulate public conduct.

ORDINANCE No. 1. For the Prevention of Drunkenness; Indecent or Disorderly Conduct in the City of Seattle. The City of Seattle ordains as follows: That any person who may hereafter be guilty of drunkenness, indecent or disorderly conduct in any street, road, lane, alley or any public place within the limits of the City of Seattle, shall be arrested by the City Marshal, or upon the complaint of any citizen, and taken before the City Recorder of the said City of Seattle for examination, and if deemed guilty of violating this Ordinance, said City Recorder may fine the person so arrested in any sum not exceeding one hundred dollars and costs, and in default of payment of said fine, the person so offending shall be committed to the custody of the said City Marshal under whose supervision he may be put at work on any road or street and work out said fine and costs, being allowed for said work at the rate of one dollar per day until paid.

Three other ordinances were also approved on December 22, 1869:

On the next day, December 23, the City Council passed four more ordinances:

Early Parks

Denny Park was the City's first public park. It was established as City Park in 1884 and renamed Denny Park in 1887. David T. and Louisa Denny gave the land to the City in 1864 for the purpose of creating a cemetery. In 1883, the Dennys drew up a new deed that rededicated most of the property for park purposes. The City disinterred the 221 bodies and reburied them in other local cemeteries.

Other parks established or developed during the 19th Century were Volunteer Park, David Rodgers Park, Dearborn Park, Kinnear Park, Salmon Bay Park, Columbia Park, Jefferson Park Complex, Washington Park, and Woodland Park.

See the Guide to the Don Sherwood Parks History Collection for a description of records and photographs detailing the history of Seattle's parks system and the early planning work of the Olmsted Brothers. For a history and overview of some of Seattle's other parks and gardens, visit the Department of Parks and Recreation website.


Date Population
1870 1107
1880 3533
1890 42,800
1900 80,671
1910 237,194
1920 315,312
1930 365,583
1940 368,302
1950 467,591
1960 557,087
1970 530,831
1980 493,846
1990 516,259
2000 563,374