Snoqualmie, located just above the spot where the 3 forks of the Snoqualmie River converge to form the spectacular Snoqualmie Falls, is a city in transition.
The industry, the population, and the per capita income of the residents have all changed dramatically since the 1990s.
From 1960 to 1990 the population grew by an average of 11 people per year – from 1,216 in 1960 to 1,546 in 1990. Then, in the mid-1990s the City annexed 1,300 acres of undeveloped land. That site became home to the “master-planned” community now referred to as Snoqualmie Ridge, and includes 2,250 housing units, along with a Neighborhood Center Retail area, a PGA Tour-sanctioned golf course, and a business park that employs nearly one thousand people.
As of the 2010 census, Snoqualmie’s population stood at 10,670.
Per capita income also underwent a dramatic change, as the city shifted away from logging and agriculture to technology and tourism. The estimated median household income jumped from $52,697 in 2000 to $123,995 in 2013. The per capital income that stood at $22,239 in 2000 rose to $49,060 by 2013. In Snoqualmie, both the unemployment rate and the poverty rate are below Washington and U.S. averages.
Not surprisingly, the cost of living is 31.8% greater than the State average, and 48.2% higher than the national average. These numbers are led by housing, which is 128% higher than the national average and 91% greater than the Washington average.
As of October 2015, the average listing price in Snoqualmie was $550,000 and the median selling price $495,000. Homes ranged in price from about $1 million down to about $200,000, with approximately 30% being offered in the $300,000 – $500,000 range. Condos ranged from 300,000 to a little over $400,000.
A bit of history…
Although the name “Snoqualmie” is derived from a Lushootseed name which can be interpreted to mean “ferocious people,” the Snoqualmie tribe has always been peaceful. In fact, when the first settlers arrived in the 1850s, Chief Patkanim sided with them against warrior tribes. He also signed the Point Elliott Treaty in 1855, ceding all of the tribe’s land to the United States.
Although the Snoqualmie tribe was friendly, other tribes were threatening and tensions ran high between the new settlers and the natives. In response to fear of an Indian uprising, the government built Fort Alden in the area that would later become Snoqualmie.
When those fears didn’t materialize, Fort Alden was abandoned and settled in by the man said to be the first permanent white settler to the Snoqualmie Valley – Jeremiah Borst, who arrived in 1858.
Borst had made a considerable fortune in the California gold rush, so upon arrival in Washington he set about buying land, where he began raising pigs and growing apples. These were transported to Seattle for sale. By the 1880s he was the wealthiest man in the valley.
Others were also buying land, as the abundant timber in the nearby mountains provided jobs for loggers and the fertile valley beckoned to farmers.
One of the more colorful characters of this time was Borst’s niece, Lucindy Fares. She was well known for her hospitality and freely offered “board and bed” to travelers. At one point, a family who was passing through abandoned their son, so she adopted him.
Weighing in at nearly 350 pounds, Lucindy found it hard to get around, so legend has it that she trained her 30 milk cows to line up and step forward when it was their turn to be milked. She must have had an assistant to carry off the milk and provide her with empty pails!
A different sort of farming…
The fertile land in Snoqualmie proved perfect for the growth of hops, so 1882 three Puget Sound partners founded the Hop Growers Association and began planting on land purchased from Borst. 900 of their 1,500 acres were devoted solely to hops, and the venture was billed “The Largest Hop Ranch in the World.” Unfortunately, a combination of market conditions and pests drove the farm into obscurity by the end of the 1990s.
While Borst and other settlers were busy farming, the logging industry was busy growing…
Watson Allen established the first lumber mill in the area around 1872, at the mouth of Tokul Creek. Five years later his operation had been joined by 12 others. Within 15 years more than 140 men were employed in logging and mill work and companies were sending millions of board feet down the river to Seattle.
In 1917, the second all-electric lumber mill in the U.S. was opened across the river from Snoqualmie and the town of Snoqualmie Falls grew up around it.
Education and Pioneer life
As more families moved into the area, settlers saw the need for a school, but early attempts to hire teachers were dubious, at best. Stories have it that the first teacher had children who were described as “Wild things of the woods.” The second teacher was so poorly educated himself that he tried to convince the students that two times zero was two, three times zero was three, etc. The students took matters into their own hands by getting and going home. Another teacher resigned after receiving a sound beating from the girls in his class after whipping a young boy.
In 1889, about the time that train service arrived in the upper valley and turned the area into a tourist destination, the village of Snoqualmie was incorporated. The new accessibility to Puget Sound also increased Snoqualmie’s desirability as a place to live, and sparked a wave of land speculation.
While only about 50 people inhabited the entire valley in 1870, by 1900 429 residents lived in Snoqualmie.
Edmund and Louisa Kinsey were instrumental in the growth of the town, as they established the first hotel, general store, livery, post office, meat market, and dance hall. They also help build the first church. Two of their sons became famous for their photographs depicting the early timber industry in the region.
Power comes to Snoqualmie
The first power plant was built in the late 1900s by Seattle investor Charles Baker, and provided both power and jobs to the region. Today, more than 100 years later, Banker’s original generators are still in use by Puget Sound Energy.
Buffeted by political winds, growth slowed to a crawl
The Great Depression, World War II, and highway construction that bypassed the city all affected the growth of the city. By 1960 it had attained a population of 1,216. Over the next 30 years, life went on as usual; farming and logging remained the primary sources of employment; and the city scarcely grew.
That all began to change in the 1990s.
Today, Snoqualmie is a bustling city, growing at a rapid rate. It is home to a highly educated, ever-growing population with a per capita income far above the averages for either Washington State or the U.S.
Agriculture is no longer a major economic force, and Weyerhaeuer ceased all operations at their mill site in 2003.
In 2012 the City of Snoqualmie annexed 593 acres of the former Weyerhaeuser Mill site and Mill pond and the site became one of the largest undeveloped industrial zoned sites in King County. The potential for future use is there, and will be dependent upon planning and environmental review.
Meanwhile, highly skilled residents commute to Seattle and other nearby cities, or are employed at the Snoqualmie Ridge Business Park working for companies such as Space Labs, Motion Water Sports, T-Mobile, Zetec, Technical Glass, and the King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review.
Shopping in Snoqualmie
Although Snoqualmie residents travel to Seattle or other nearby suburbs to find major shopping outlets, the city does offer a wide variety of gift shops, boutiques, antique shops, thrift stores, and specialty stores offering products ranging from cycles, to tobacco, to flowers, to supplies for making home brew.
The community is served by two grocery stores and one pharmacy, with more available nearby in North Bend.
Restaurants in Snoqualmie offer menu choices ranging from Subway sandwiches, to burgers, to barbecue, to steaks. Ethnic restaurants and pubs offer choices from Indian, to Mexican, to Irish, to Chinese, to Italian. Coffee, pizza, yogurt, ice cream, and donuts are easy to find as well.
The Snoqualmie Casino offers both casual and fine dining in 4 distinctly different venues within the casino.
In addition to the four lounges/bars offered at the Snoqualmie Casino, Snoqualmie is home to the kind of relaxed neighborhood bars where friends stop by to share the news of the day.
The Snoqualmie Casino
This is touted as the only casino within easy driving distance from Seattle. In addition to gaming, entertainment featuring well-known singers and comics is offered in the ballroom – making it a popular destination for a “night out.”
Snoqualmie students are served by 13 schools, including pre-schools and special education/alternative schools. There are no post-secondary schools in Snoqualmie.
Non-academic education: Dirtfish, an advanced rally car driver training school, operates from the former Weyerhaeuser Mill office. Established in 2010, Dirtfish is now the most prestigious professional rally school in North America.
Snohomish health services are provided by Swedish Snohomish Primary Health Care, offering care for everyone from infants to senior citizens. You’ll also find a dentist, eye care, mental health services, and in-home care providers.
Snoqualmie is a youthful city, with 35% of the population being children 19 and younger. It thus comes as no surprise that recreation in Snoqualmie is centered around youth sports and active outdoor activities such as fishing, hiking, and biking. Located in the heart of the Mountains to Sound Greenway, Snoqualmie residents have access to more than 30 miles of trails, many of which are easy and family-friendly.
Snoqualmie is also home to the Northwest Railway Museum, which offers railroad tours and Train Excursions to the top of Snoqualmie Falls for a panoramic view of the valley. If you’ve never ridden a steam-powered train, this is your opportunity.
Snoqualmie’s major community event is Snoqualmie Railroad Days, an annual 3-day festival first celebrated in 1938. Railroad days celebrates Snoqualmie’s spirit and its origins as a railroad and logging town, and as the home of the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe. This popular event draws about 10,000 attendees each year. To learn more about Snoqualmie Railroad Days, visit www.railroaddays.com/ (Note – set link to open in a new browser page)
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