The Pacific Northwest: An Interpretive History

By Carlos Arnaldo Schwantes | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
A Quickening Pace of Life:
Immigration and Urban Growth

I saw Tacoma in 1887, and again in 1889 and 1890, and the growth of the city in this short time was such that in both cases I could hardly recognize the place. It seemed as if some fairy had visited the town and changed every black stump into a four-story brick building by touching it with her wand. The cause of this sudden "spurt" was the completion of the Cascade Division of the Northern Pacific Railroad, and the Stampede Tunnel, which opened up the vast coal-fields along this road, and made the Pacific Coast cities independent of Pennsylvania coal.-- Henry T. Finck, The Pacific Coast Scenic Tour ( 1890): 220.

During the ten years following completion of a northern transcontinental railroad in 1883, the Pacific Northwest experienced a rate of growth seldom equaled in other regions of the United States. A person who visited Seattle in 1880 and returned in 1893 would barely recognize the place. The straggling village of wooden structures and dirt streets had blossomed into a metropolis of brick and stone, its thoroughfares bustling with trade and commerce. There were substantial business blocks, pretentious residences, churches, schools, a university, and social organizations--all symbolizing economic achievement and cultural refinement--electric lights, gasworks, and factories and plants manufacturing everything from soda water and cigars to furniture and stump pullers. An expanding network of streetcar lines encouraged the growth of new neighborhoods at the city's edge.

The region experienced some temporary setbacks, as occurred when a

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