-posted by Jade D.
In honor of Presidents’ Day, we took a look through our digital collections to find mentions of some of Seattle’s earliest presidential visits. We’ve highlighted the first five below – take a look!
October 11, 1880 marked the date of the first president to visit Seattle with the arrival of Rutherford B. Hayes. Hayes was not only the first president to visit Seattle but also the first to make it to the western territories during his tenure. He arrived at Yesler wharf on the George E. Starr steamer and made brief trips via train to Newcastle and Renton before returning to Seattle for an evening of celebrations.
On May 7, 1891, President Benjamin Harrison came to Seattle. The city was still rebuilding from the fire of 1889 but was decorated extensively for his arrival (as you can see in this shot of 1st Avenue and Yesler Way.) The celebratory crowds were so great that the Post-Intelligencer reported that “partly from the density of humanity and partly through the thrilling intensity of excitement, ladies occasionally screamed and several appeared to be in fainting condition.”
The third president to visit Seattle, Theodore Roosevelt, arrived on May 23, 1903. During his visit, he stayed at the grand Washington Hotel. Although the hotel had been completed in 1889, it had never officially opened for business due to squabbles among the developers and financial troubles. Roosevelt served as the hotel’s first guest. Although the hotel enjoyed a brief period of prosperity afterwards, it was torn down soon after to make way for the Denny Regrade. (Take a look at our digital collections to see additional photos of the hotel’s interior at the time of Roosevelt’s visit.)
On September 29, 1909, President Taft rolled into town to attend the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, a celebration of the Northwest’s prosperity and resources held at the University of Washington campus. September 30 was officially declared “Taft Day” and proved to be one of the fair’s most popular days with over 60,000 people in attendance. Taft himself became quite caught up in the activities, spending more time than previously allotted in the schedule so that he could take in all the fair offered, including panning for gold (a nod to the 1897 Klondike Gold Rush).
Almost 10 years later, on September 13, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson visited Seattle. Coming off the end of World War I in 1918, Wilson was on a national speaking tour to garner support for the League of Nations. His stay in Seattle involved a packed parade down 2nd Avenue and a review of the Pacific Fleet. Wilson stood in his automobile for the length of the parade, waving his top hat to the spectators. One Seattle Times newspaper account reported that Wilson was very pleased with his reception and thought Seattle to be the most gracious of all the cities he had visited.
Want to see more? Check out Special Collections Online for additional historical items like maps, photos and postcards.