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.

Quick Information about Seattle

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.

TownDate IncorporatedDate AnnexedAnnexation OrdinanceAnnexation 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

For information about all of the city's annexations to date, see our interactive annexation tool.

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. The current Charter is 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 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.

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.

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.

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:

Ordinance No. 2
An Ordinance Concerning Swine.
Adopted December 22, 1869

The City of Seattle does ordain as follows:

That from and after the fifteenth day of January, A.D. 1870, no hogs shall be permitted to run at large within the City of Seattle at any time, and if found running at large it is made the duty of the City Marshal to impound each and every such swine, in a common pound prepared by said Marshal for such purpose; whence they shall not be released until the owner or some other person shall pay to the City Marshal the sum of one dollar for his fee in receiving and discharging or selling each and every swine so impounded, and the sum of fifty cents for the proper sustenance of every such animal for every twenty-four hours the same shall be kept, and such owner shall be subject to a penalty of two dollars for every such animal found running at large; and it shall be the duty of said Marshal, when he shall have impounded any such animal, to give forty-eight hours notice of the sale of said swine, by posting notices in two public places; and if the owner fails to redeem said swine, the same shall be sold at Public Vendue and the proceeds used to defray the expenses of said sale, and the overplus, if any, to be paid into the City Treasury.

Ordinance No. 3
An Ordinance Regulating Stove Pipes.
Approved December 22, 1869

The City of Seattle does ordain as follows:

Section 1. That no stove pipe of any stove shall be put up unless it be conducted into a chimney made of brick or stone; except when the Marshall shall deem it equally safe if otherwise put up to be certified under his hand. And any person putting up the pipe of any stove contrary to the provisions of this Ordinance, shall for every such offence forfeit two dollars, and the further sum of one dollar for every twenty four hours the same shall remain up, after the notice given by the City Marshal.

Sec. 2. No chimney shall hereafter be commenced in any loft, unless there are stairs or a fixed ladder leading to the same, and is easy of access at all times, under a penalty of ten dollars for every week either shall remain, after notice shall be given by the Marshall to alter the same.

Sec. 3. Stove pipes shall not be less than four inches from any wood or other combustible material, unless there is a double circle of tin connected together, and air holes through the connecting tin between said pipe and the combustible substance, under a penalty of five dollars, and the sum of one dollar for every day it shall remain after notice from the Marshal to alter the same; and all fines or penalties collected under this Ordinance to be paid into the City Treasury.

Ordinance No. 4
An Ordinance Regulating Fees of the City Recorder and City Marshall
Approved December 22, 1869

(No text available)

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

Ordinance No. 5
An Ordinance Concerning Dogs.
Approved December 23, 1869

The City of Seattle does ordain as follows:

That from and after the fifteenth day of January, A.D. 1870, no dog or bitch shall be permitted to run at large within the limits of the City of Seattle. If so found running at large, it shall be the duty of the City Marshal to impound each and every such dog or bitch in common pound, prepared by said Marshal for such purpose; from thence they shall not be released until the owner or some other person shall pay to the City Marshal his fee of one dollar for the impounding of said dog or bitch, and the sum of fifty cents for the keeping of said dog or bitch for every twenty-four hours they shall be kept, an and such owner shall be subject to a penalty of three dollars for every such dog or bitch running at large; and said dog or bitch shall not be retained in said pound over forty eight hours; and if said owner does not redeem said dog or bitch by paying said penalty and fees, the City Marshal may kill or dispose of said dog or bitch; and if the owner refuses to pay said penalty and fees, he shall be compelled to notify the same in the manner set forth in Ordinance No. 2. Provided that nothing in this ordinance shall authorize the destruction of any dog or bitch running at large, if said dog or bitch shall be licensed or numbered, as provided in the Second section of this Ordinance.

Sec. 2. The Clerk of the Common Council is hereby instructed, and it is made his duty upon the application of any person for a license for any dog or bitch, upon the receipt of five dollars, issue license to such person, numbering said license, which number shall be put upon a collar of leather or metal in plain characters, which collar shall be placed upon the neck of said dog or bitch, so licensed; such license to continue for one year.

Sec. 3. Any person who shall put upon the neck of any dog or bitch any number without first obtaining a license, shall pay a penalty of twenty-five dollars, and in default of payment to be obtained in the same manner as other fines are recovered.

Sec. 4. No slut shall be allowed to run at large while in heat, under a penalty of five dollars for each offense.

Sec. 5. It shall be duty of the Clerk to pay all moneys received by him tin the cases provided in this Ordinance into the City Treasury, retaining fifty cents for every licensed issued, for his fee.

Ordinance No. 6
An Ordinance Relating to Theatricals, Shows or Exhibitions, &c.
Approved December 23, 1869

The City of Seattle does ordain as follows:

That all theatricals, shows, concerts or exhibitions, wherein a compensation is received, shall be required to obtain a license or permit from the Clerk of the Common Council, and it is made the duty of the Clerk to issue license to any person or persons making application for said license, upon the receipt of five dollars for each exhibition, and the Clerk shall retain fifty cents for his fee for every license issued.

Sec. 2. Hereafter all circuses and menageries are hereby required to pay to the Clerk of the Common Council the sum of twenty-five dollars for each exhibition, for a permit or license, before they shall be allowed to proceed with said performance.

Sec. 3. If any person or persons shall attempt to exhibit or perform as aforesaid, without first obtaining a license according to the provisions of this Ordinance, he or they so offending shall forfeit or pay for every such offense a sum not less than ten nor more than fifty dollars in addition to the amount of the license, in the discretion of the City Recorder, to be paid over to the City Treasury.

Ordinance No. 7
An Ordinance for the Prevention of Reckless and Fast Driving Through the Streets and Upon Sidewalks Within the City of Seattle.
Approved December 23, 1869

The City of Seattle does ordain as follows:

Section 1. That from and after the passage of this Ordinance if any person or persons shall willfully ride any horse, or drive and horse or other animal attached to any carriage, wagon, cart or other vehicle whatsoever at a reckless or immoderate gait through the streets, lanes or alleys of the said City of Seattle, the person or persons so offending shall for each and every such offense forfeit and pay a fine of not less than five nor more than fifty dollars.

Sec. 2. That if any person or persons shall unnecessarily ride, drive or lead any horse upon any sidewalk within the said City of Seattle, he or they shall, upon conviction thereof, be fined in any sum not exceeding twenty-five dollars.

Sec. 3. Persons violating the foregoing sections may be apprehended by the Marshal if seen in the act; or arrested upon a warrant to be issued by the City Recorder on the complaint of any citizen.

Sec. 4. Fines and penalties under this Ordinance shall be paid over by the City Recorder into the city treasury.

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.

Population Statistics

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
2010 608,660
2020 737,015

Municipal Archives, City Clerk

Anne Frantilla, City Archivist
Address: 600 Fourth Avenue, Third Floor, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 94728, Seattle, WA, 98124-4728
Phone: (206) 684-8353

The Office of the City Clerk maintains the City's official records, provides support for the City Council, and manages the City's historical records through the Seattle Municipal Archives. The Clerk's Office provides information services to the public and to City staff.