1920 to 1930

Population: 3,301
Area: 1.8 square miles

Although the privately owned Bryn Mawr airstrip foreshadowed the importance of aviation in the city’s history, the 1920s belonged to the automobile. Renton’s livery stables were replaced by its first auto dealerships, signaling a national trend. By 1928 automobiles and buses effectively did away with the Interurban Railroad between Seattle and Renton.

Asphalt was quickly replacing brick as a covering for roadways; eliminating demand for Renton’s paving brick. In 1927 the Gladding McBean Company purchased the Denny-Renton brick plant, diversifying its product line to give it many more years of life. The “Sunset Highway” to Spokane had just been completed and ran through downtown Renton. Numerous auto camps, the forerunners of motels, sprang up along this new highway at the outskirts of town. Wooden sidewalks were quickly replaced by concrete.

In 1923 the Central School was replaced by a new Henry Ford School, named in hopes that the automobile magnate would help fund its construction. A new city hall was also constructed at this time. The Seattle Water pipeline was laid through the middle of Renton, and today it continues to convey water daily to Seattle and surrounding communities from the Cedar River Watershed.

Electricity was becoming more widely used and in 1929 Renton’s Shuffleton Steam Power Plant was built to meet the demand. Foreshadowing Renton’s future in the aviation industry, Charles Lindbergh flew over the town in 1928, just a few years after the Bryn Mawr Airport was created.

As the railroad car industry slumped, Pacific Car and Foundry began building bridge spans. The Ku Klux Klan held its first state convention outside of town at Renton Junction; some Rentonites showed up, but no local chapter was organized.

Many of the shops and stores within Renton were family owned and operated. Startups for this decade included the Owl Café (now Rubattino’s), Stokes Mortuary, and Renton Savings and Loan Association.

Then the stock market crashed and the Great Depression took hold.

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