Ahh, Seattle is a city I hold near and dear to my heart, in part due to its rather calamitous history. It got off to a rather wobbly start when the Denny Party first hit these shores in 1851. They were called the Denny Party because they stopped at Denny’s restaurants all along the Oregon Trail. Alright, that’s not entirely true; they never would have survived. They were led by a chap named Arthur Denny and when they first reached the Pacific Northwest it was raining, surprisingly enough. They scouted around and found lots of wide open space out on Alki Point in West Seattle so set up camp there, rather ambitiously naming their new settlement New York, perhaps because it worked so well on the other coast they thought they should give it a try over here. It was subsequently renamed New York Alki (Alki means ‘by and by’ or ‘eventually’ in the local Chinook jargon). Whatever they called it, Alki was the original birthplace of Seattle.
That first winter came and storms huffed and puffed and blew the town down. They rebuilt, repeatedly, but come springtime many of those early settlers decided to abandon Alki for the more enticing mudflats across Elliot Bay where Pioneer Square is today. They called their new town Duwamps in honour of the local Duwamish people and for a while, Duwamps and New York Alki went head to head in a battle for dominance in the area. Duwamps eventually reigned supreme and New York Alki was abandoned.
Meanwhile, a man named Doctor David Swinson “Doc” Maynard arrived from Cleveland and unsurprisingly raised his eyebrows at the choice of name. He was no fool; he knew all too well that Duwamps would be a hard sell to folks back east looking for somewhere to settle. He convinced the good citizens of Duwamps to rename their settlement after the chief of the local Duwamish and Suquamish peoples. The chief’s name was pronounced “Se-Alth” but Seattle proved easier to say and the rest, as they say, was history.
Out on Alki you can still see an echo of its past with a diminutive Statue of Liberty looming large in front of the iconic Space Needle across the bay.