Tukwila History

Tukwila’s earliest residents were members of the Duwamish Tribe who made their homes along the Black and Duwamish Rivers.   They named the area Tukwila for the lush forests of hazelnut trees which grew throughout the area.   The Duwamish lived in cedar longhouses, hunted and fished, picked wild berries, and navigated the rivers for trading with neighboring people.

Traveling by native canoes, pioneer settlers arrived in 1851 to farm the rich soil of the Duwamish River Valley.   First among them were Luther and Diana Collins with their children Lucinda and Stephen, 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 a very prominent pioneer who served as an early Washington Territorial legislator, the first superintendent of schools, and 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 memorializing 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 helped determine its destiny as a center of commerce.   In the late 1860s, shipping was done by approximately 65 flat-bottomed riverboats that traveled the Duwamish, Green and Black Rivers, from Seattle to Auburn and back.   These boats carried coal from local mines, as well as produce and livestock from valley farms and people.

Early electric rail trains traveled along Interurban Avenue in Tukwila, making connections 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.   As the crossroad of two interstate highways – I-5 and 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.

More than 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 engage with residents to provide for a desirable quality of life.   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 2010 and again in 2016, the Tukwila City Council approved lease agreements with the Tukwila Historical Society.   The Society occupies the former Tukwila City Hall – a nationally registered historic place and one of the City’s oldest structures – allowing city history to be put on display and shared with the public.