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City History

History and Development of Renton

Just over 100 years ago, Renton was just an open space along the trail from Seattle. Framed by densely wooded hills, and the Black and Cedar Rivers running through it, the land had long been home to the Duwamish people. The Duwamish built permanent villages and fishing weirs along the rivers.

History Logging imageHenry Tobin and his wife Diana were among the first settlers of European descent. In 1853 they built their first home on a donation claim on the banks of the Cedar and Black Rivers. After Tobin's death in 1857, Diana married Erasmus Smithers. Smithers platted the town of Renton on part of the land that he and his wife owned.

In 1873, Smithers organized the Renton Coal Company, with the financial backing of Captain William Renton. Capt. Renton, a wealthy businessman, was also one of the founders of the first sawmill. Along with his partner William Talbot, Renton was responsible for the construction of the first railroad used in the territory.

On September 6, 1901, the town of Renton was incorporated. Renton's first mayor was Dr. Abijah Ives Beach, a physician who provided care for the miners of Renton's coal mines. The first town offices were situated in Tonkin's General Store, located where Tonkin's Park is today.

History - US JunkBetween 1920 and 1930 Renton slowly evolved from a fledgling town to an urban center. Coal mining and other early industries, like Pacific Car and Foundry (PACCAR), remained an important part of the City's economy through the 1930s. Other small businesses formed to serve the needs of coal miners and their families.  In 1927 the U.S. Junk Company opened, and several moves and name changes later, continues to do business as McLendon Hardware today.

During World War II the Boeing Airplane Company stepped up its aircraft production, a turning point for the city. In 1941 Renton's population was 4,488, but the building of the Renton Boeing plant for the production of the famous B-29s brought thousands seeking employment.

After the war, the majority of these people continued to make their homes in Renton, and have since been absorbed into other industries in Renton and nearby Seattle. Unlike other war industrial areas that declined after the end of the war, Renton's population remained constant.

Currently a community of over 100,000 residents and growing, Renton is still home to the Boeing Commercial Airplane Group, PACCAR, The Landing, and home of the Seattle Seahawks training camp, in addition to numerous small businesses and service industries.

For additional information, please visit the Renton History Museum.

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