Federal Way Tidbits
Federal Way is bordered on the south by Pierce County and on the west by Puget Sound, in the southwest corner of King County. For much of its early history the community was rural. However, in recent years, it has seen explosive development and growth.
The native Indians that lived next to the Green and White Rivers in the east used the region for seasonal campgrounds, although there were no Indian settlements in what is currently known as Federal Way. They would catch clams, during clamming season, and preserve them for transportation, by smoking them. Many native Indians came ashore to greet Captain George Vancouver when, in 1792, he explored the region.
As early as 1824, explorers for the Hudson’s Bay Company might have traveled through the region. They established a small trading post in 1840 next to an Indian trail that ran south and north. Throughout the history of Federal Way, this trail would have a long legacy.
A survey was made for a road to be constructed between Fort Bellingham and Fort Steilacoom in the early 1850’s. In several regions, existing trails were used that includes the one in what is currently known as Federal Way. The road was named Military Road, since it was built for military use. The road was completed between Seattle and Pierce County by 1860.
During this time period, many pioneers that lived next to south Puget Sound selected land claims that were close to Tacoma or Seattle. The first pioneer to homestead relocated to the general Federal Way region in 1871. A man named Sam Stone established his homestead at what is currently known as Redondo, which, at the time, was known as Stone’s Landing. The bay was known as Poverty Bay around this same time.
Other pioneers started moving into the area, and the first school was constructed close to Star Lake by 1880. A man named Jacob Reith helped to construct the road built from split logs. This road later became known as Reith Road. Another man named Arthur Steele settled next to a body of water that is currently known as Steel Lake. Some Small communities that included Adelaide and Buenna built schools of their own. Where the SeaTac Mall is currently located, a man named Taylor Webb moved to in 1890. Some people continue to refer to that region as Webb Center.
In this remote rural setting, most families owned small farms. Although the area remained undeveloped for several years, some sawmills were built on the small lakes. At Stone’s Landing, in 1904, one man named Charles Betts opened the first store.
A dock collapsed at the landing, in 1906 that killed 13 people who had crowded onto it awaiting a steamer. Mr. Betts suggested that the community should change its name to Redondo because he was worried about the stigma from the disaster. Some people hoped that the region would become a recreational destination, much the same as in Redondo Beach, California. A dance hall, bowling alley, and skating rink were all constructed in a little more than ten years. Talk started about a new highway that could be built to run the entire length of the west coast of America. In 1915, construction started and federal funding was secured to between Tacoma and Seattle in 1925. A considerable amount of the new highway, which was designated as U. S. highway 99, either ran parallel or overlaid Military Road. In 1928, the section between Tacoma and Seattle was officially opened.
By now, there were eight small school districts in the region, known as Star Lake, Lake Geneva, Harding, Lakota, Adelaide, Buenna, Redondo, and Woodmont. It was determined that they should all be consolidated into one school district in 1929. The new school district and the first elementary school constructed in this new district were named Federal Way and the Federal Way School.
Development was hindered by the Great Depression and WW II, although the community now had a major thoroughfare. The area remained rural until after the war other than restaurants and gas stations. The first major business that opened next to highway 99 was Merckx’s Farm Store, which opened in 1945. However, it wouldn’t be long before others followed.
By the 1950’s, Highway 99 was being traveled by travelers all along the coast in addition to the residents of King County. For hungry travelers there were Restaurants that included Les’s in and Out Hamburgers, Rocky’s Drive-in, and Rose’s Hi-Way Inn that all offered tasty meals. There were also many different motels that offered a temporary stopover for those travelers who were tired.
One mile east of Highway 99, a stretch of Interstate 5 opened in 1962. This resulted in additional development in the community. In 1964, the Century City complex opened, and in 1965, the Twin Lakes housing development started selling homes. The Weyerhaeuser Corporation started construction on its corporate headquarters and new schools were constructed in Federal Way in 1968.
In 1971, there was an attempt made to incorporate Federal Way as a city. However, the attempt at incorporation was overwhelmingly voted down. In 1981 and again in 1985, attempts were also made without success. The Federal Shopping Way was bought by Teratron Company, although ac the mall was in disrepair. With the opening of the SeaTac Mall, in 1975, the business community received some much-needed relief. During the first week that the mall was open, almost 20,000 people visited the new shopping mall. Across the street, in 1976, the SeaTac Village Shopping Center opened.
The community experience continued development and growth throughout the 1980’s. Campuses for businesses and condominium complexes were being built throughout the community.