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Seattle is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is located in the U.S. State of Washington between Puget Sound and Lake Washington, nearly 108 miles (174 km) south of the United States-Canadian border in King County, of which it is the county seat.
Seattle was first settled November 13, 1851 by Arthur Denny and and his crew, which would subsequently become known as the Denny party. Its first name was New York, then Duwamps, then finally it was renamed Seattle named after Chief Seattle who was chief of the two tribes living in the area. Seattle is an anglicized rendition of Chief Noah Sealth's last name. As of 2005, the city had an estimated population of 573,911 and a metropolitan population of about 3.8 million. Seattle is the hub for the Greater Puget Sound region. Its official nickname is the Emerald City, the result of a contest by a civic-minded association in the early 1980s to designate a
pleasant nickname for the city; the name alludes to the lush evergreen trees in the surrounding area. It is also referred to informally as the Rainy City (also Rain City), the Gateway to Alaska, Queen City, "The Big Barista" and Jet City, due to the local influence of Boeing. Seattle residents are known as Seattleites.
Seattle is often regarded as the birthplace of grunge music, and has a reputation for heavy coffee consumption; coffee companies founded in Seattle include Starbucks and Tully's. Many locals shun these giants in favor of Seattle's many independent, artisanal espresso roasters and cafes. Seattle was the site of the 1999 meeting of the World Trade Organization, and the attendant demonstrations by anti-globalization activists, which were in keeping with Seattle's left-leaning history and reputation. Researchers at Central Connecticut State University ranked Seattle the most literate city in America in 2005. Moreover, a United States Census Bureau
survey showed that Seattle has the highest percentage of college graduates of any major U.S. city. Based on per capita income, Seattle ranks 36th of 522 studied areas in the state of Washington.
What is now Seattle has been inhabited since the end of the last glacial period (c. 8,000 B.C.E.-10,000 years ago). Archaeological excavations at West Point in Discovery Park, Magnolia confirm that the Seattle area has been inhabited by humans for at least 4,000 years and probably much longer. tohl-AHL-too ("herring house") and later hah-AH-poos ("where there are horse clams") at the then-mouth of the Duwamish River in what is now the Industrial District had been inhabited since the 6th entury C.E. The Dkhw'Duw'Absh and Xachua'Bsh people (now called the Duwamish Tribe) occupied at least 17 villages in the mid-1850s, living in
some 93 permanent longhouses (khwaac'ál'al) along Elliott Bay, Salmon Bay, Portage Bay, Lake Washington, Lake Sammamish, and the lower Duwamish, Black, and Cedar Rivers. Most of the Denny Party, the most prominent of the area's early Caucasian settlers (and historians), arrived at Alki Point on November 13, 1851. They called the spot "New York" at first to reflect their aspirations to create a great trading port, later appending Alki, a Chinook Jargon word meaning, roughly, by and by or someday, literally or ironically. They relocated their settlement to Elliott Bay in April 1852. The first plats for the Town of Seattle were
filed on May 23, 1853. Nominal legal land settlement was established in 1855. The city was incorporated in 1865 and again in 1869, after having existed as an unincorporated town from 1867 to 1869.
Seattle was named after Chief Sealth, (si'áb Si'ahl, Noah Sealth), high-status man (appointed chief by the territorial governor) of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes. David Swinson ("Doc") Maynard, one of the city founders, was the primary advocate for naming the city after Chief Seattle. The name "Duwamish" is an Anglicization of Dkhw'Duw'Absh, "the People of the Inside", and a variation of that name is preserved in the name of the Duwamish River. Previously, the city had been known as Duwamps (or Duwumps), an earlier name settlers used for the river.
Seattle is located between Puget Sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean, and Lake Washington. West beyond the Sound are the Olympic Mountains; east beyond Lake Washington and the Eastside suburbs are Lake Sammamish, the Newcastle Hills, and the Cascade Range. The rivers, forests, lakes, and fields were once rich enough to support one of the world's few sedentary hunter-gatherer societies. Opportunities for sailing, skiing, bicycling, camping, and hiking are nearby and accessible almost all the year.
The city itself, somewhat like San Francisco, is hilly, though not uniformly so. Like Rome, the city lies on seven hills: First Hill, Capitol Hill, Queen Anne Hill, Magnolia, Beacon Hill, Mount Baker, and Crown Hill. West Seattle allegedly forms an eighth hill, since the highest point in the city rises 520 feet out of the ocean there in the High Point neighbourhood. The hilliest areas are near an isthmus in the city centre, where Downtown rises dramatically away from the chief harbour, an inlet of Puget Sound called Elliott Bay. The geography of Downtown and its immediate environs has been significantly altered by regrading projects, a seawall, and the
construction of an artificial island, Harbor Island, at the mouth of the city's industrial Duwamish Waterway.
The man-made Lake Washington Ship Canal bisects the city, incorporating four natural bodies of water: Lake Union, Salmon Bay, Portage Bay, and Union Bay. The canal connects Puget Sound to Lake Washington, the Chittenden Locks (Ballard Locks) forming the juncture where saltwater meets freshwater.
An active geological fault, the Seattle Fault, runs under the city. Although neither the Seattle Fault nor the Cascadia Subduction Zone have caused an earthquake since the city's founding, the city has been hit by four major earthquakes: December 14, 1872 (magnitude 7.3); April 13, 1949 (7.1); April 29, 1965 (6.5); and the Nisqually Earthquake of February 28, 2001 (6.8). The Cascadia subduction zone poses the even greater threat of an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 or greater, capable of seriously damaging the city and collapsing many buildings, particularly Downtown and the Industrial District, which is built on fill.
Seattle has a calm and mild temperate marine climate, since the temperature is moderated by the sea and protected from winds and storms by the mountains. Despite being partially in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, the city of Seattle has a reputation for frequent rain. In reality, the "rainy city" receives an unremarkable 38 inches (970 mm) of precipitation a year, less than most major cities of the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, such as New York City, which has an annual average 47.3 inches (1200 mm) of precipitation. Seattle's worldwide reputation for rain derives from the fact that it is cloudy an average of 226 days per
year (vs. 132 in New York City) and the fact that most of its precipitation falls consistently as drizzle or light rain, with snow typically falling within the city limits only once or twice a year. While not all that much rain falls in total, then, the winters are filled with days on which at least a little rain does fall, and even if it does not rain it usually looks as if it may. Annual average temperatures range from a low of middle-to-upper 30s F (just above 0 C) on winter nights to a high of lower-to-middle 70s F (middle 20s C) on summer days. Seattle's hottest recorded temperature was 100 F (37.7 C) on July 20, 1994; the coldest recorded
temperature was 0 F (-17.7 C) on January 31, 1950.
To the west 80 miles (130 km), the Hoh Rain Forest, in Olympic National Park on the western flank of the Olympic Mountains, receives an annual average rainfall of 142 inches (3600 mm), and the state capital, Olympia, south of the rain shadow, receives an annual average rainfall of 52 inches (1320 mm). Snowfall is infrequent, especially at lower altitudes and near the coast, and is usually light and fleeting. On January 13, 1950, Seattle's record for snowfall was set at 20 inches (508 mm). Sunnier and drier "California weather" typically dominates from mid-July to mid-September. An average of 0.79 inches (20 mm) of rain falls in July and an
average of 1.02 inches (26 mm) falls in August.
The Puget Sound Convergence Zone is an important feature of Seattle's weather. In the convergence zone, air arriving in the area from the north meets air flowing in from the south. Both streams of air originate over the Pacific Ocean; airflow is split by the Olympic Mountains to Seattle's west, then reunited by the Cascade Mountains to the east. When the air currents meet, they are forced upward, resulting in convection. An active convergence zone results in rain at the very least (snow in the Cascades), and sometimes more severe weather such as thunderstorms and hail. Usually the zone forms north of Seattle in the Edmonds and Lynnwood area, but
depending on the relative strengths of the winds it can range as far south as Pierce County or as far north as Skagit County.
An exception to Seattle's dampness often occurs in El Nino years, when the marine weather systems track as far south as California and little precipitation falls in the Puget Sound area. Since the region's water comes from mountain snowpacks during the drier summer months, El Nino winters not only produce substandard skiing but can result in water rationing and a shortage of hydro-electric power the following summer.
The Space Needle is Seattle's most recognizable landmark, having been featured in the logo of the television show Frasier and the backgrounds of the television series Grey's Anatomy, not to mention several films. "The Needle", dates from the 1962 Century 21 Exposition. Contrary to popular belief, the Space Needle is neither the tallest structure in Seattle nor is it in Downtown. This misconception results from the Space Needle often being photographed from Queen Anne Hill, where it is closer to the viewer than are the downtown skyscrapers. The fairgrounds surrounding the Needle have been converted into Seattle Center, which remains the
site of many local civic and cultural events, such as Bumbershoot, Folklife, and the Bite of Seattle. The Seattle Center Monorail runs from Seattle Center to Westlake Center, a downtown shopping mall: a distance of about a mile.
Other notable Seattle landmarks include the Smith Tower, Pike Place Market, the Fremont Troll, the Experience Music Project (which is at Seattle Center), the new Seattle Central Library, the Washington Mutual Tower, Broadway, a street made famous by the Sir Mix-A-Lot song Posse On Broadway, and the Columbia Center, which is the fourth tallest skyscraper west of the Mississippi River and the twelfth tallest in the nation. (On June 16, 2004, the 9/11 Commission reported that the original plan for the September 11, 2001 attacks included the Columbia Center as one of ten targeted buildings.)
Starbucks Coffee has been at Pike Place Market since the coffee company was founded there in 1971. The first store is still operating a block south of its original location.
Seattle has been known as a significant center for regional performing arts for many years. The century-old Seattle Symphony Orchestra is among the world's most recorded orchestras and performs primarily at Benaroya Hall. The Seattle Opera and Pacific Northwest Ballet, which perform at McCaw Hall (which opened 2003 on the site of the former Seattle Opera House at Seattle Center), are comparably distinguished, with the Opera being particularly known for its performances of the works of Richard Wagner and the PNB School (founded in 1974) ranking as one of the top three ballet training institutions in the United States. The Seattle Youth Symphony is the
largest symphonic youth organization in the United States, and among the most distinguished. The historic 5th Avenue Theatre, built in 1926, has continued to stage Broadway quality musical shows featuring both local talent and international stars. The theatre's "Chinese Timber Architecture" is based on The Forbidden City's Imperial and Summer Palaces. In addition, Seattle has about twenty other live theatre venues, a slim majority of them being associated with fringe theatre. It has a strong local scene for poetry slams and other performance poetry, and several venues that routinely present public lectures or readings. The largest of these
is Seattle's 900-seat, Romanesque Revival Town Hall on First Hill.
Seattle is often thought of as the home of grunge rock musicians like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Temple of the Dog, and Mudhoney, all of whom reached vast audiences in the early 1990s. The city is also home to such varied musicians as avant-garde jazz musicians Bill Frisell and Wayne Horvitz, rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot, smooth jazz saxophonist Kenny G, heavy metal band Nevermore, industrial rockers KMFDM, and such poppier rock bands as Goodness and the Presidents of the United States of America. Such musicians as Jimi Hendrix, Duff McKagan, Nikki Sixx, and Quincy Jones spent their formative years in Seattle. Ann and Nancy Wilson of the band
Heart, often attributed to Seattle, were actually from neighboring Bellevue, as were progressive metal band Queensryche.
Since the grunge era, the Seattle area has hosted a diverse and influential alternative music scene. The Seattle-based record label Sub Pop-the first to sign Nirvana-has signed such non-grunge bands as Murder City Devils, Sunny Day Real Estate, Skinny Puppy, The Postal Service, and The Shins. Other Seattle-area bands of note in this period include Death Cab for Cutie (Bellingham), Foo Fighters, Modest Mouse (Issaquah), and Sleater-Kinney (Olympia).
Earlier Seattle-based popular music acts include the collegiate folk group The Brothers Four; The Wailers, a 1960s garage band; the Allies and the Heaters (later "the Heats"), 1980s teen-pop bands; from that same era, the more sophisticated pop of the short-lived Visible Targets and the still-performing Young Fresh Fellows and Posies; and the pop-punk of The Fastbacks and the outright punk of the Fartz (later Ten Minute Warning), The Gits, and Seven Year Bitch.
Seattlites have also collaborated with innovative, experimental musicians from around the world, while the city has hosted their performances. French composer Jean-Jacques Perrey, who pioneered electronica in the 1960s, has worked with Seattle native Dana Countryman, best known for his work with the 1980s Seattle pop/humor group the Amazing Pink Things. Perrey performed the tracks resulting from his work with Countryman at his first American show, in Seattle in 2006.
Spoken word and poetry are also staples of the Seattle arts scene, paralleling the explosion of the independent music scene during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Seattle's performance poetry scene blossomed with the importation of the poetry slam from Chicago (its origin) by transplant Paul Granert. This and the proliferation of weekly readings, open mics, and poetry-friendly club venues like the Weathered Wall, the OK Hotel, and the Ditto Tavern (all now defunct), allowed spoken-word/performance poetry to take off in a big way. The Seattle Poetry Festival (launched first as the Poetry Circus in 1997) has featured local, regional, national, and
international names in poetry such as Michael McClure, Anne Waldman, Ted Jones, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ismael Reed, Seku Sundiata, and many others. Regionally famed poets like Bart Baxter, Tess Gallagher, and Rebecca Brown have also been featured at the Poetry Festival, as well as numerous other events such as the world-famous Bumbershoot Arts Festival.