This Week Then: Five Washington Towns Celebrate Birthdays

Plus: Significant fires in Washington history
| Updated: June 6, 2019
  • Snoqualmie, home of "Twin Peaks," turns 116 this week
Snoqualmie, home of "Twin Peaks," turns 116 this week

This week we look at five Washington towns and cities that are celebrating birthdays. We begin with Colville -- the county seat of Stevens County -- which incorporated on June 7, 1890. The town traces its roots to Pinkney City, established in 1859 to serve the garrison and surrounding area at the military's Fort Colville. After the fort closed in 1882, many of the residents moved, along with some of the buildings, to Colville's present location just three miles south.

Five days later and almost 70 miles south, the Spokane County Board of Commissioners certified the incorporation of Medical Lake on June 12, 1890. The city is located on the shores of a mineral-rich lake that the region's Indian tribes believed to have curative properties. The first non-Native settlers also believed the lake had healing powers, hence its name. By the 1930s Medical Lake had faded as a resort town, but received an economic boost in World War II when what would become Fairchild Air Force Base was built nearby.

In King County, Snoqualmie incorporated on June 9, 1903. For generations, nearby Snoqualmie Falls had been a sacred site as the birthplace of the Snoqualmie Tribe. Soon after non-Native settlers arrived in the Northwest in the 1850s, the falls became a tourist destination, and later a source of hydroelectric power. In the early 1990s the town provided a backdrop for the popular Twin Peaks television series, and later experienced dramatic growth with the Snoqualmie Ridge development project.

We end with two King County communities that share a birthday one year apart. On June 8, 1953, the town of Normandy Park incorporated on the shores of Puget Sound between the cities of Des Moines and Burien. First developed in the 1920s and 1930s, the community's post-war growth -- and fears that King County was looking at the area for a sewage-treatment plant -- led to its cityhood. And on June 8, 1954, Beaux Arts Village incorporated along the shores of Lake Washington near Bellevue. Proposed as an art colony in 1909, Beaux Arts Village is one of the state's smallest municipalities, but also one of its most affluent.

Fiery Conflagrations

On June 6, 1888, fire broke out in a Ritzville hotel, spread to adjoining buildings, and eventually destroyed most of the town's business district. On June 7, 1904, a fire in Lynden -- most likely caused by an arsonist -- wiped out the town’s hotel, a saloon, the fraternal hall, and many shops and homes. And on June 10, 1924, flames caused $150,000 worth of damage in downtown Kalama.

One of the state's most memorable fires occurred on June 6, 1889, when a Seattle cabinetmaker accidentally ignited his shop at 1st Avenue and Madison Street. Fanned by a hot, dry breeze, the flames quickly spread through the wood-framed downtown. Volunteers struggled to douse them, but the town's privately owned water system delivered only a trickle. By that night, 64 acres of central Seattle had been reduced to a "horrible black smudge," in the words of visitor Rudyard Kipling.

This story was originally published at HistoryLink.orgSubscribe to their weekly newsletter.

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