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An Overview of Redmond's History

Redmond, Washington, sits in a fertile basin created by ancient glaciers that once covered much of the region. Thousands of years before the first fur trappers entered the area's dense forests, the Sammamish Valley's rich bottomland provided shelter and food for Native Americans who welcomed the newcomers of largely European descent. The abundant salmon in the Squak Slough, or Sammamish River, was so great that men were said to rake the fish from the water, and thus, the frontier settlement that eventually came to be called Redmond was first known as Salmonberg.

In 1871,Warren Wentworth Perrigo and the town's namesake, Captain Luke McRedmond, were the first pioneers to stake land claims on the north end of Lake Sammamish. The early homesteaders' greatest challenge was clearing the towering trees, which were of such enormous girth that available equipment was inadequate. While the immediate solution was a method of felling the giants by burning their trunks above the roots, the challenge itself soon led to Redmond's first economic boom. Loggers poured into the valley in the 1880s and, in 1890 near Issaquah, John Peterson built the first sawmill east of Lake Sammamish. Campbell Mill was built in 1905 at Campton, followed by other prosperous lumber and shingle operations whose substantial payrolls created a demand for products and services.

Steamboats were the only practical transportation during Redmond's early years of few roads and thick forests. Chugging up and down the Sammamish River and crisscrossing the lake that feeds it, the flat-bottomed boats carried goods and passengers until 1916 when the Chittenden Locks opened, lowering local lakes and waterways by nine feet. In 1888, the year before Washington became a state, the Seattle Lake Shore & Eastern Railway came to this wilderness community, and with its arrival, the marketability of Redmond's timber was ensured.

During its logging heydays, Redmond was a rollicking town of saloons, hotels, dance halls, movie theaters and eateries. The Redmond Trading Company was the community's first brick building in 1908, and soon other brick structures were erected, notably: Bill Brown's Garage, the Old Redmond Schoolhouse, the Brown Building, and the Redmond State Bank, whose largest depositors when it opened in 1911 were lumber mills. But as in other Western towns of the era, most buildings were wooden and, when ablaze, were especially vulnerable to complete devastation for lack of a public water system. Indeed, repeated and disastrous fires were the primary impetus for the stable community of 300 residents to become a fourth-class town in 1912. Incorporation allowed Redmond to tax its thriving saloons and finance a modern waterworks.

Frederick A. Reil was the town's first mayor, and during his term Redmond bloomed. Many new buildings rose downtown and automobiles became a frequent sight on Main Street (Today's Leary Way). Four years ahead of the nation, Washington state in 1916 adopted Prohibition, which led to bootlegging operations within the town and many liquor stills in the woods surrounding it.

As aggressive logging destroyed virgin forests, the local timber industry quickly faded in the 1920s, and agriculture became the mainstay of Redmond's economy. On the hills and in the valleys once home to deer, bear and bobcats, farmers struggled to remove massive stumps – often with dynamite. They fenced their land for dairy cattle, built structures for chickens and mink, staked acres of berries, and planted profitable farms.


The population grew little during this period, with many young adults seeking jobs elsewhere during the Great Depression. A silver lining from that era was the community spirit that led to the Redmond Bike Derby – a fundraiser begun in 1939 to buy Christmas decorations for the town and school athletic gear. The nation's oldest, continuous bike race, the event itself grew to become Derby Days, Redmond's annual civic festival.


From the early days of steamboats and horse-drawn stages, the natural progression of better roads and dependable transportation has facilitated Redmond's growth. The town's population was 503 in 1940 when the first Lake Washington floating bridge opened, commencing a slow, steady increase of residents. The completion of the Evergreen Point floating bridge in 1963 initiated vigorous residential growth, which like the logging boom of the 1880s, created a demand for local goods and services.


Some land parcels were set aside as parks, the largest of which was Marymoor – formerly the Willowmoor Farm. Among its notable dwellers was Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman, Jr., who spent his childhood summers living and raising cattle there.


Redmond's high-tech industrial growth began slowly in the 1960s, and by century's end helped push the population to 45,256. The first tech companies to locate here included United Control (1961), which made aircraft electronics. United Control was bought by Sunstrand, then by Allied Signal. This company is today owned by Honeywell Corporation. Rocket Research Company started operations in Redmond in 1968. Today named Aerojet Rocketdyne, its heritage includes manufacturing thrusters for NASA's Mars missions. Nintendo of America moved its corporate offices to Redmond in 1982, and Microsoft arrived in 1986. Along with smaller tech companies, those corporate giants brought an influx of workers, and their families, from other countries, making Redmond a much more diverse town than just a few decades earlier.


Other major companies to locate in Redmond included Eddie Bauer (clothing), Genie Industries (lifting equipment), Physio-Control (medical devices) and Sundstrand (aircraft equipment maker later absorbed by Honeywell).


Redmond continues to grow and evolve as a dynamic city. Today, its residents embrace the future with their long tradition of community pride, participation, and pioneer spirit.


Written in 2001 by Society co-founder Naomi Hardy. Updated in 2013 by Miguel Llanos and Rosemarie Ives.

Want to learn more?  Read our posts in the "First 100 Years of Redmond" series.

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