The Town of Columbia was incorporated in 1892. Among those signing the petition to incorporate as a town in King County were blacksmiths, carpenters, wood choppers, engineers, merchants, sign painters, book-keepers, bricklayers, surveyors, laborers and conductors. At the election on December 28, 1892, 47 voted for incorporation and 12 against. A five-member Town Council was established, with each member serving two-year terms. The Town of Columbia also had a Board of Health, created in 1893, which was composed of three Council members appointed by the mayor. The volunteer fire department, known as the Columbia Volunteer Fire Company, was established in March 1902.
The City of Columbia, like Seattle and other small cities in the area at the time, struggled with the transition from a rural environment to a more urban one. The issues presented themselves in terms of building an infrastructure, such as a water system, sewers and roads, but also in terms of social issues. In November 1903, a petition was presented asking for an ordinance "prohibiting stock from running at large." A committee was appointed to draft an ordinance and it was presented the following month. At that time, a petition with 69 signatures was submitted protesting the ordinance. Council considered the protest, but passed the ordinance 8 to 2.
In addition to petitions for sewer, lights, and water, petitions for the improvements of streets, especially Ferdinand Street, are frequent in the records of the City of Columbia. These four girls, names not known, are standing on Ferdinand Street, a half a block east of Rainier. The planked road is in the background. - Rainier Valley Historical Society, 93.001.404
The small town of Columbia struggled with the issues of growth and building an infrastructure to support the town's population. Complaints and petitions for a water system, improved streets, and a sewer system were common. A letter from Marshal B. B. Burbank describes many of the issues facing citizens.
Columbia achieved "city" status in 1905 when its population reached the required total of 1500. The mayor, W.W. Phalen, called a special election and the public voted in favor of "city" status. Mayor Phalen's annual address to the City Council, reflecting on the year 1905, enumerated needed improvements for the new city, including grading, planking, a sewerage system, water supply, lighting facilities, a telephone plan, and parks and recreation facilities.
Mayor Phalen's address for the year 1906 stressed the need to stop "all waste however small it may be." Phalen expressed disappointment that a chemical engine was purchased for the Fire Department "which falls so short in doing the work required of it." And he noted, "We believe in securing all necessary fire equipments and a thoroughly drilled fire company, but we all believe that a company should be made up of young men who have that get-there and stay ambition which is so lacking in older men."
Phalen enthusiastically supported of annexation to the City of Seattle. He wrote in his 1906 address, "I believe it is the wish of the people and this council that we should call a special election at the earliest possible date, for the purpose of giving to the people, the opportunity of voting to become a part of one of the most up-to-date, enterprising and progressive cities in the world."
The vote on annexation on March 5, 1907, was 109 to 3 in favor of annexation. Columbia became part of the 12th Ward in the City.