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Columbia City Historic District

Columbia City is one of hundreds of communities across the country which blossomed with its connection to an electric streetcar. A trolley line was built through the village in 1890 and within three years enough industry and residences relocated to Columbia to incorporate it as an independent city. It became the center of commerce and industry for the lumber and milling industries that dominated the early economy of the Rainier Valley. However, Columbia City remained a sparsely populated village with a population just above 300 until 1900, when the city boomed after the establishment of its own trolley station. It quickly grew into a "full-service community," boasting a bustling business district that centered around Rainier Avenue as well as its own city government. Property values skyrocketed as the streetcar provided easy access to the growing employment opportunities of Seattle. Rapidly expanding Seattle annexed Columbia City in 1907, a change that occurred throughout the metropolitan area during this period. The area boomed again in the 1920s, when claustrophobic Seattle residents used the streetcar to reach vacation homes along the shores of nearby Lake Washington. This trend found early root in a neighborhood called The Highlands, a 1914 creation of Charles Stimson, that quickly became a popular retreat for Seattle's prosperous and well-to-do. During this period of growth, Columbia City added a number of architecturally varied public buildings that still stand today, including a Mission Revival school, a Craftsman Police Station, and a Colonial Revival Carnegie library. Although the trolley station is long gone, the buildings included in the Columbia City Historic District still trace their roots to the influence of this important mode of transportation.

The Columbia City Historic District is located in the southeastern region of Seattle, and is roughly bounded by South Hudson St., South Alaska St., 35th Ave. and Rainier Ave. The district includes a mix of commercial and private buildings. For more information visit Columbia City's website.

Columbia City Carnegie Library Columbia City Carnegie Library
Photograph by Florence K. Lentz

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