In Walking Washington’s History: Ten Cities, a follow-up to her bestselling Hiking Washington’s History, Judy Bentley uses engaging guided urban walks to trace the state’s history and show each city’s importance in the unfolding story of Washington state. By walking each city, Bentley suggests, you gain a deeper understanding of how history connects with the visible markers overhead and underfoot. Here Bentley offers a glimpse of these cities through photos of their historic main streets.
Learn more about Washington’s urban history and celebrate the publication of Walking Washington’s History at these events:
Seattle Public Library with Elliott Bay Books, Central Library, Sunday, April 24 at 2:00 p.m.
Words, Writers, and West Seattle at Barnes and Noble, Westwood Village, Friday, May 6 at 5 p.m.
Every historic city in Washington had a main street although it wasn’t always called that. Sometimes it was a trail that became the main way through town—the Nez Perce Trail in Walla Walla, the Oregon Trail in Olympia. Sometimes the main street was a river, such as the Columbia River in Vancouver or the Spokane River in Spokane; a bay could also be the central thoroughfare, as in the case of Commencement Bay in Tacoma or Port Gardner Bay in Everett. In Seattle the first main street was a skid road for logs, now known as Yesler Way. These arteries were the centers of civic life, the places where the most important moments in a city’s history occurred.
The wagon road at Fort Vancouver, established in 1825, paralleled the Columbia River, the first avenue of east-west transport in the region. The town of Vancouver grew on the river’s banks west of the fur-trading post, starting in the 1840s and 1850s. It ballooned as a city during World War II when Henry Kaiser located shipyards on the river’s northern and southern banks.