Tukwila History

The earliest people in Tukwila were the Duwamish Tribe who made their homes along the Black and Duwamish Rivers. They named Tukwila for the lush forests of hazelnut trees which grew around them. The Duwamish lived in cedar longhouses, hunted and fished, picked wild berries, and used the rivers for trade with neighboring people.

Pioneer settlers arrived in 1851, traveling by native canoes to farm the rich soil of the Duwamish River Valley. The first settlers were Luther and Diana Collins with their children, Lucinda and Stephen, as well as Jacob Maple with his son, Samuel and Henry Van Asselt. They were joined by Joseph and Stephen Foster in 1852. Local schools and streets are named in honor of these pioneers.

Joseph Foster was very prominent pioneer. He served in the early Washington Territorial legislator, the first superintendent of schools and was a well-respected local leader. His homestead was located at the present day site of the Foster Links Golf Course. A plaque commemorating Foster’s homestead is located on Tukwila’s oldest maple tree at the north end of the golf course. Nearby is a monument citing Foster’s Landing where the riverboats stopped to load and unload goods and passengers.

Tukwila’s location at the crossroads of rivers, trails, highways and railroads has determined it’s destiny as a center of commerce. In the late 1860s, shipping was done by 65-70 flat-bottomed riverboats that traveled the Duwamish, Green and Black Rivers from Seattle to Auburn and back. These boats carried coal from local mines, produce and livestock from valley farms and people.

Early electric rail trains traveled along Interurban Avenue in Tukwila, connecting to Renton and a line to Tacoma. The Interurban Railroad operated a commuter line from 1902 to 1928, making it possible to travel from Seattle to Tacoma in less than an hour. The first Macadam-paved road in Washington State was in Tukwila and bears the name of this new method of street paving. One of the earliest paved military roads is located in Tukwila.

Tukwila was incorporated as a city in 1908. Since that time, the city has continued to grow and flourish as a center of commerce for South King County. At the crossroad for two interstate highways- I-5 an I-405 and within five minutes of an international airport, Tukwila is a local leader in retail/commercial sales, warehousing and distribution of goods and manufacturing.

Over 19,000 people reside in Tukwila. Nestled in the hills surrounding the major commerce corridors are quiet residential neighborhoods. Police, fire, schools, libraries and other vital services work closely with residents to plan for a healthy future. Residents of the City enjoy small town warmth, involvement and caring, while having the benefits of quality services and goods associated with larger cities.

In September of 2010, the Tukwila City Council committed to a 5 year lease of the former Tukwila City Hall to the Tukwila Historical Society and this will allow the city’s historical place in King County can be put on display and shared with the public.

Written by the Tukwila Historical Society and used with permission.