History of Redmond, Washington

Warren Wentworth Perrigo and the town’s namesake, Captain Luke McRedmond, were the first pioneers to stake land claims on the north end of Lake Sammamish. The early homesteaders’ greatest challenge was clearing the towering trees, which were of such enormous girth that available equipment was inadequate. While the immediate solution was a method of felling the giants by burning their trunks above the roots, the challenge itself soon led to Redmond’s first economic boom. Loggers poured into the valley in the 1880s, and in 1890 near Issaquah, John Peterson built the first sawmill east of Lake Sammamish. Campbell Mill was built in 1905 at Campton, followed by other prosperous lumber and shingle operations whose substantial payrolls created a demand for products and services.

Steamboats were the only practical transportation during Redmond’s early years of few roads and thick forests. Chugging up and down the Sammamish River and crisscrossing the lake that feeds it, the flat-bottomed boats carried goods and passengers until 1916 when the Chittenden Locks opened, lowering local lakes and waterways by nine feet. In 1888, the year before Washington became a state, the Seattle Lake Shore & Eastern Railway came to this wilderness community, and with its arrival, the marketability of Redmond’s timber was ensured.

During its logging heydays, this was a rollicking town of saloons, hotels, dance halls, movie theaters and eateries. The Redmond Trading Company was the community’s first brick building in 1908, and soon other brick structures were erected, notably: Bill Brown’s Garage, the Old Redmond Schoolhouse, the Brown Building, and the Redmond State Bank, whose largest depositors when it opened in 1911 were lumber mills. But as in other Western towns of the era, most buildings were wooden, and when ablaze, were especially vulnerable to complete devastation for lack of a public water system. Indeed, repeated and disastrous fires were the primary impetus for the stable community of 300 residents to become a fourth-class town in 1912. Incorporation allowed Redmond to tax its thriving saloons and finance a modern waterworks.

Frederick A. Reil was the town’s first mayor, and during his term, Redmond bloomed. Many new buildings rose downtown and automobiles became a frequent sight on Main Street (Leary Way). Four years ahead of the nation, Washington state in 1916 adopted Prohibition, which created bootlegging operations within the town and many liquor stills in the woods surrounding it.

As aggressive logging destroyed virgin forests, the local timber industry quickly faded in the 1920s, and agriculture became the mainstay of Redmond’s economy. On the hills and in the valleys once home to deer, bear and bobcats, farmers struggled to remove massive stumps. They fenced their land for dairy cattle, built structures for chickens and mink, staked acres of berries, and planted profitable farms. The population grew little during this period, with many young adults seeking jobs elsewhere during the Depression.

From the early days of steamboats and horse-drawn stages, the natural progression of better roads and dependable transportation has facilitated Redmond’s growth. The town’s population was 503 in 1940 when the first Lake Washington floating bridge opened, commencing a slow, steady increase of residents. The completion of the Evergreen Point floating bridge in 1963 initiated vigorous residential growth, which like the logging boom of the 1880s, created a demand for local goods and services. Redmond’s hightech industrial growth began slowly in the 1970s, but by century’s end, the population had exploded to 43,610.

With an independent economic and cultural heritage of logging and agriculture, Redmond continues to grow and evolve as a dynamic city. Today, its residents embrace the future with their long tradition of community pride, participation, and pioneer resourcefulness.

For more information on the history of Redmond, Washington please visit:
Redmond Historical Society

16600 NE 80th Street,  Room 106
Redmond,  WA 98052

Monday,  Wednesday,  Thursday
9:30 AM to 4:30 PM
Also by Appointment