1960 to 1970

Population: 18,453
Area: 14.2 square miles

The early 1960s were boom years in Renton. With the Boeing Company’s production of commercial airplanes in full swing, Renton celebrated the opening of its first shopping center. Interstate 405 forever changed the city’s appearance by cutting a wide swath across the foot of Renton Hill, along the edge of the historic downtown area. The “Renton S Curves” were almost instantly synonymous with traffic jams. The “Renton Loop” in the heart of the downtown became a cruising circuit for Renton teens (and their cars) to see and be seen, but as the practice became rowdier, the city wrote laws prohibiting it.

Pacific Car and Foundry supplied the steel structure used to create the Space Needle for the Century 21 World’s Fair. Rollerland, a popular roller skating palace, burned to the ground.

In 1965 Tukwila’s Southcenter Mall opened, draining Renton’s downtown core of its large retail stores and shoppers. The city’s business district stagnated, and city government looked for downtown revitalization ideas. Under the city’s youngest leader, twenty-five year old Mayor Don Custer, a municipal/civic center was conceived. In 1966 a dramatic new library opened over the Cedar River. Two years later a new Renton City Hall was inaugurated at 200 Mill Avenue. The Renton Historical Society was also founded in 1967, in response to the pace of change.

In the 1960s Valley Medical Center also opened its doors, and Renton’s second high school opened in the Highlands, named for school superintendent Oliver M. Hazen.

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