King County history quick facts
King County's Original Boundary(Map created by the King County GIS Center Client Services Group, 2002) The original boundaries of King County were defined in December 22, 1852 as follows:
Commencing at the northeast corner of Pierce County, thence along the Cascade Mountains to a parallel passing through Pilot Cove, then from the point last aforesaid west along the said parallel of latitude to the Pacific Ocean, thence south along the Coast to a point due west of the head of Case’s Inlet, beginning.
King County Elected Officials
The database linked to below contains the names of most elected officials who have served King County and its residents since the county was established in 1852.
Elected Officials Database
Milestones in King County historyClick on a decade to learn about key events in the history of King County government.
U.S. establishes Territory of Oregon on August 14, 1848, while California gold rush spurs western migration.
The federal Donation Land Act granting each Oregon settler 320 acres of "free" land becomes effective September 27, 1850; it terminates in 1855.
Oregon Territorial Assembly creates King County on December 22, 1852.
Doc Maynard issues King County's first marriage license and officiates as David Denny and Louisa Boren married on January 23, 1853.
The Oregon Territorial Assembly appoints J.N. Lowe, L.M. Collins, and A.A. Denny as Commissioners, H.L. Yesler as Probate Clerk, and C.D. Boren as Sheriff.
First meeting of King County Commissioners is held at the home of D. S. Maynard on March 5, 1853.
First recording in King County, the donation-land claim of D.T. Denny is made.
Population of King County is 305 residents.
Military Road is completed between Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River and Seattle.
First annual fair of the King County Agricultural Society is held.
King County engages in flood control when the county commissioners appropriate $400 for turning water from the Cedar River away from the County Road.
King County builds its first bridge. The bridge crosses the Black River near modern-day Tukwila.
City of Seattle is re-incorporated after an earlier attempt at incorporation in 1865 that was repealed in 1867. Henry Atkins is the city's first mayor.
Population of King County is 2,120.
Board of County Commissioners create the office of "overseer of the poor."
The King County Seal is used for the first time in the commissioners' records.
The Sisters of Providence convert a two-story frame house into the county hospital at the county's poor farm in the Duwamish Valley.
Population of King County is 6,910.
First King County-owned courthouse at Third Avenue and Jefferson Street opens — the current site of City Hall Park.
The Sheriff's department requests the National Guard's assistance in controlling Seattle mobs who were attempting to expel Chinese residents from the city.
Eliza Forbes becomes the first female justice of the peace in King County.
Washington enters the Union as the 42nd state on November 11, 1889.
King County hires first full-time public health officer.
Population of King County is 63,989.
County Commissioners approved funds for a new King County Hospital. The hospital, known as the Georgetown Hospital, is built near the mouth of the Duwamish River.
County road employees are first King County employees given an 8-hour day. They were paid $1.50 per day.
The steamship Portland docks in Seattle loaded with gold from Alaska's Yukon River. This discovery of gold in Alaska sets off the Klondike Gold Rush and ushers in a period of growth and prosperity for King County.
King County's first pedestrian/bicycle path opens to public, built on Lake Washington's west shoreline.
Population of King County is 110,053.
King County secures the right of way for the Lake Washington Ship Canal and deeds it to the federal government.
Superior Court granted original jurisdiction over all juvenile cases.
County charity commissioner is appointed. The function of the new office is to screen all applicants for public aid.
A state highway commissioner and a state highway fund are mandated by the Legislature. This legislation shifts responsibility for maintenance of most county roads to the State.
Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition is held in Seattle. King County builds a pavilion that is later used by the University of Washington Forestry Department and the Burke Museum.
Population of King County is 284,638.
King County Port Commission is created by popular vote as a separate municipal corporation.
King and Pierce counties establish an inter-county flood control effort in the Green and White River valleys.
The county-city building (now the King County Courthouse) is dedicated.
County commissioners vote to close "The Willows," a stockade housing "lazy husbands" convicted under the Lazy Husband Act, due to cost overruns.
County undertakes first traffic survey to determine future road improvement needs.
Population of King County is 389,273.
King County acquires property at Sand Point with the intent of developing an airfield for the U. S. Navy. The property is leased to the U.S. Government in January 1923.
The first annual report of the King County Regional Planning Commission is published.
Official Dedication of King County Airport (Boeing Field) is held on July 26 in the Duwamish Valley; 50,000 people attend and William E. Boeing is honored.
Population of King County is 463,517.
Four thousand unemployed workers from across Washington storm and occupy the City-County Building for three days.
King County Planning Commission is established.
Federal public works program established (Works Progress Administration) by FDR to address severe unemployment problems of Great Depression. Improvements to the King County airport (Boeing Field) and many road construction projects are undertaken under the auspices of the WPA.
State Legislature enacts County Park Law that allows county acquisition of parks and recreation sites. County establishes it first parks department.
Washington State Aid Highway Act passes. This act provides state aid for the construction and maintenance of county roads, bridges, etc. It also mandates collection of the motor vehicle excise tax.
County commissioners establish the department of public works.
Population of King County is 504,980.
King County acquires property at Sand Point with the intent of developing an airfield for the U. S. Navy. The property is leased to the U.S. Government in January 1923.
New 5,825 foot paved runway opened at King County International Airport.
U.S. enters World War II.
President Roosevelt issues executive order forcing the relocation of West Coast residents of Japanese ancestry.
War Department authorizes the extension of the paved runway at the County Airport to 7,536 feet.
Twenty-first amendment to the state constitution, granting counties the right to home rule, is ratified.
Legislature enacts County Parks and Recreation Facilities bill, which repeals 1937 law.
Population of King County is 732,992.
Legislature repeals the 1945 School Recreation Subsidy Bill; county assumes activity programs.
King County Parks organizes first Junior Olympics.
"Too Little — Too Late," a report regarding need for park acquisition, including beach/waterfront properties is published.
$2.5 million parks bond issue fails; first parks budget for land acquisition — $50,000.
Seattle City Council decides to expand the Duwamish River sewage treatment plant and build a primary treatment plant at West Point.
Juvenile court and detention facility moved to current location (1211 E. Alder).
Resolution 13978 establishes "permanent" county parks and recreation board.
Commercial aviation history is made as the Boeing Company's 707 "Dash 80" Prototype makes maiden flight from Renton plant to King County International Airport. (Boeing Field)
Seattle-King County Civil Defense Fund is established as the local organization responsible for managing fallout shelters, chemical, biological and radiological defenses (including emergency communications and warning systems and preparedness training).
Seattle and King County approve measure to establish Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle (METRO) to clean up the pollution in Lake Washington. The Metro Council is assembled with representatives from major jurisdictions in the region.
King County opens its first landfill.
Metro Council adopts the first comprehensive sewer plan for the region, including the construction of regional treatment plants at West Point and Renton; Duwamish River Plant closes.
Population of King County is 935,014.
Washington Supreme Court upholds agreements between Metro and Seattle, clearing way to begin implementation of sewer plan.
The 1962 World's Fair, "Century 21 Exposition," opens in Seattle when President John F. Kennedy activates the 600-foot Space Needle by remote control.
County arts center established at Moshier Memorial Park.
Marymoor Park, King County's first regional park, is purchased for $1.1 million.
U.S. Army grants Metro a 99-year easement for approximately 30 acres of land at West Point for sewage treatment plant.
King County Sheriff's Department adds first marine patrol unit.
Metro begins construction of its $12.9 million primary treatment plant at West Point.
King County adopts a comprehensive zoning plan, Resolution 28742, October 13, 1964. The new plan repeals the 1958 resolution, number 18800, which established and adopted a comprehensive plan for unincorporated King County.
Metro begins secondary waste treatment plant in Renton.
King County acquires its first computer, an IBM 460 Model 30. The county treasurer and assessor use the computer to calculate property taxes. That year property tax statements are broken down to show how the funds are distributed between the port, library, fire and hospital districts as well as for other services provided by the county.
The Seattle-King County Health Department becomes the first public health department to be accredited by the U. S. Public Health Service.
200 county citizens are appointed to the Forward Thrust Committee to prepare a balanced capital improvement program for King County.
King County Art Commission is established.
King County Parks receives National Gold Medal Award from National Sports Foundation.
King County Work Training Program is created.
King County adopts a "home rule" charter. Nine-member county council and county executive form of government replaces the three-member board of county commissioners. The sheriff ceases to be an elected official and is appointed under the office of the executive.
The Park Board is eliminated under county home rule charter; Parks is reorganized as division of Parks and Recreation within the Department of Community and Environmental Development, later the Department of Planning and Community Development.
The King County Mental Health Board and program are established to develop and administer State funds provided for community mental health programs (King County Code 2.32.010).
The Parks Department organizes first King County Special Olympics.
King County Population is 1,159,369.
The Department of Human Resources establishes the Public Defense program to provide legal representation to individuals without resources to pay an attorney.
Properties in King County are listed for the first time on the National Register of Historic Places.
Urban Trails plan adopted.
The King County Charter Review Commission recommends merger of Metro and King County. Other charter review commissions will make this same recommendation in 1978 and 1987 before the merger is approved by a vote of the people in 1992.
The King County Planning Department begins a survey of historic sites. A total of 140 sites in Seattle and King County are included.
King County Parks Department assumes control of county fair.
Congress passes the Clean Water Act requiring secondary treatment at all municipal wastewater treatment plants by 1977.
King County International Airport (Boeing Field) is selected from 610 competing airports in the Northwest to receive the Airport Improvement Award.
King County Council passes ordinance 1511 establishing the 1% for Art Program, the first county-level public arts program in the country.
The first King County Annual Heritage Festival is held at Marymoor Park.
Metro begins operating Seattle and King County public transit systems.
King County International Airport is awarded first Airport Operating Certificate issued to a nonscheduled air carrier airport by the the FAA in the Northwest Region.
Enhanced 9-1-1 emergency system begins.
The division of human services (DHS) is created in the health department and includes mental health, developmental disabilities and the drug commission.
Puget Sound Water Quality Defense Fund sues to stop Metro's plan to pipe solids waste from Renton to West Point.
"The Uniform Alcoholism and Intoxication Treatment Act," Revised Code of Washington 70.96A is enacted and decriminalizes being drunk in public. The law places with county governments the responsibility and authority for treating persons "found to be intoxicated in public."
In December 1974, King County opens the first King County Alcoholism Treatment Facility (also known as the King County Detoxification Center) in Cedar Hills.
King County Mental Health Board adopts priority definitions to assure that the limited resources are used to support services for those persons with the most severe mental illnesses.
King County began the King County Affirmative Action Program to serve as an internal equal employment opportunity and affirmative action office.
The first 1% for art projects in parks: Mt. Rainier Pool, Enumclaw Pool, and Ober Memorial Park on Vashon Island.
King County Emergency Service Patrol established. The ongoing service provides transportation to incapacitated persons to hospital, sobering and other services.
The Kingdome sports stadium is dedicated. It is the first domed stadium in Washington State. Over 52,800 cubic yards of concrete were used in the construction.
County council adopts ordinance 2991, establishing heritage sites as open space policies as an amendment to the "King County Comprehensive Plan" of 1964.
King County Community Gardening Program created by King County Parks.
Detention and probation services transferred from superior court to the county executive.
Phase I of the King County Historic Sites Survey/Historic Resources Inventory is inaugurated. A total of 542 sites are documented by the project.
Legislature passes Senate Bill 2430 enabling King County/Metro merger.
Farmlands preservation bond issue passes.
Lake Washington reaches highest level of water clarity in its recorded history, a direct result of Metro's efforts.
Local chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) met for the first time to organize a King County Women's Commission.
Juvenile Justice Act effects a major change in the philosophy guiding juvenile justice. Due process is emphasized and youth are held accountable for criminal actions.
King County Airport celebrates 50-year anniversary with plaque presented by community.
The county council establishes the Office of Historic Preservation.
The first articulated bus arrives in Seattle.
Metro transit ridership reaches 49.4 million riders.
King County Women's Advisory Board and women's program established. Both mandate the fostering of "programs, legislation, and polices for the benefit of women throughout King County." Over the next five years they will complete a general needs assessment of women in King County, including minority women. Focus will be on community education and advocacy.
Burien Little Theater is first in-residence community theater in the county. It is based in a county park.
King County population is 1,269,749.
County Council adopts ordinance 4828, establishing the King County Landmarks Commission.
First in-depth countywide assessment of women's needs is conducted. Findings include the need for "more government funded services, improved accessibility of services with multilingual and culturally sensitive staff."
King County automates the recording of marriage licenses. Marriage licenses are no longer recorded in ledgers by hand.
A special mental health unit begins operating in the King County Correctional Facility.
Enhanced countywide 9-1-1 system is implemented.
Intensive mental health community support program services began in King County.
Washington State Legislature revised the Community Mental Health Services Act (RCW 71.24) defining priority populations and establishing community support services as the service of choice.
King County enacts Fair Employment ordinance.
The County Landmark Preservation Program designates its first landmark property, Willowmoor (the Clise Residence located at Marymoor Park).
County Council passes motion #5772 adopting the King County Executive Task Force's "Mental Health Goals and Objectives."
Metro study documents serious toxic pollution problems in the region's waterways, including those in Elliot Bay.
The 1985 King County Comprehensive Land Use Plan is adopted after ten years' work.
Last year Metro timetables are produced by typewriter.
Museum of Flight, 9404 East Marginal Way South is dedicated.
King County Child Care Program is created as a direct result of a child care needs assessment conducted by the King County Women's Program.
Construction permits in King County increase, by 1988, the volume of building activity characterized as a "boom."
King County Transportation Plan is developed; plan includes a comprehensive list of 800 recommended road improvements to serve transportation needs through the year 2000.
By a 2-to-1 margin, King County voters approve an advisory measure calling for accelerated planning to begin rail service by the year 2000.
King County Veterans Program adds mental health counseling.
King County enacts Public Accommodations ordinance and opens the Dutch Shisler Center.
King County recycling program established.
King County Affirmative Action Program renamed King County Office of Civil Rights and Compliance. The enactment of anti-discrimination legislation in the 1980s and the addition of the minority/women's business program changes the focus of the organization.
The parks department adopts King County Open Space Plan.
The advent of health and human services brings an increase in funding for the Women's Program. This results in work heavily weighed toward planning, coordination, contract development and management.
The county prepares its first Voters' Guide.
King County Childcare program begins work with five county shelters for homeless families.
King County Prosecutor's Offices creates Kid's Court, an award-winning court awareness program that helps victims of sexual abuse and their families understand the court process and deal with the difficulties of testifying in court.
Population of King County is 1.5 million.
Judge William Dwyer rules the Metro Council unconstitutional. County council and cities convene "Summit I" to discuss reorganization.
Bus service begins on September 15, 1990 in the $483 million transit tunnel in downtown Seattle.
County Assessor's Department receives an international award for excellence in providing public information.
King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way opens for the Goodwill Games.
First King County Web site is launched.
Voters of both Seattle and King County approve an amendment of the county's charter that authorizes the merger of King County with Metro. The implementation of the merger is phased in with changes scheduled to take place in 1994 and 1996.
Excavations at West Point reveal Native American middens of archaeological significance.
Women's shelters for domestic violence victims open in East and South King County.
First unincorporated area council formed.
First archaeological property (Bear Creek Shell Midden) and first ethnic property (Mukai property, Vashon) are designated as King County landmarks.
Metro and City of Seattle begin selecting shoreline improvement sites using the $30 million set aside to mitigate for potential loss of shoreline public open space caused by upgrading West Point.
Metro and King County merge: Metro becomes King County Department of Metropolitan Services and reports to the County Executive.
Regional Transit Authority (RTA) Transit Plan passes.
King County Regional Justice Center opens in Kent. The Center has courtrooms, detention facilities and administrative offices.
Department of Development and Environmental Services (DDES) becomes self-supporting in 1999.
PugetPass, the first regional transit pass is made available and is honored by all of the region's transit agencies.
Seattle hosts the annual World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting. During the three-day event, protesters clash with police officials in what would become known as the "Battle in Seattle."
The Office of Public Defense receives an outstanding service award from the Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) for providing outstanding service during WTO.
The Sounder, Sound Transit's new commuter train makes its debut, traveling the 42 miles between Seattle and Tacoma in 42 minutes.
King County Veteran's develops the Veterans Incarcerated Project, which receives the Governor's Quality Initiative Award.
Washington State voters approve Initiative 695, which replaces the graduated motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) with a flat $30 fee. The courts find the initiative unconstitutional but the flat fee is enacted by the State Legislature.
DDES contracts with 17 suburban cities to provide permit processing and Fire Marshal services.
King County population is 1,737,034.
Childcare Wage Incentive Project ordinance passed by King County Council.
King County Prosecutor's Office creates the domestic violence unit to handle the prosecution of all felony domestic violence cases in the county as well as all misdemeanor domestic violence cases in the unincorporated areas. The unit provides advocacy for victims and a variety of other assistance and support.
King County International Airport selected by the National Air Transportation Association (NATA) as one of the "100 Most Needed Airports" in the United States.
Vehicle license renewal is available online for the first time.
First King County transit centers that include housing open in Redmond and Renton.