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Redmond History

The Logging Days

Warren Wentworth Perrigo and the town’s namesake, Captain Luke McRedmond, were the first pioneers to stake their claim 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 mode of 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 arrived, and with it the success of Redmond’s timber was ensured.

During its logging heyday, Redmond was a rollicking town of saloons, hotels, dance halls, movie theaters, and eateries. The Redmond Trading Company, built in 1908, was the community’s first brick building, followed by Bill Brown’s Garage, the Old Redmond Schoolhouse, the Brown Building, and the Redmond State Bank, whose first depositors were lumber mills. Like other Western towns of the era, most of Redmond’s 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.

A Town is Born

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, now Leary Way. Four years ahead of the nation, Washington state adopted Prohibition in 1916, spurring bootlegging operations within the town and many liquor stills in the surrounding woods.

The local timber industry lost momentum in the 1920s after the aggressive logging of past decades took its toll on local resources, 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 the massive stumps logging left behind. 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.

Redmond Historical Society

Infrastructure Fuels Growth

From the early days of steamboats and horse-drawn stages, the introduction of better roads and dependable transportation has facilitated Redmond’s growth. When the first Lake Washington floating bridge opened in 1940, the town had only 503 residents. The completion of the Evergreen Point floating bridge in 1963 instigated vigorous residential growth, which created a demand for local goods and services. Redmond’s high-tech industrial growth began slowly in the 1970s, and by the millennium, 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.

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