Where is Washington State?
Washington State (not to be confused with Washington, DC, the nation’s capital), is in the Northwest United States. There are only two states that are further north than Washington. Can you name them?
This state is bordered by just two other states – Oregon, which is south or below it, and Idaho, which is east of it. On the west side of Washington is the Pacific Ocean. On the north side is British Columbia, a province or region on the far west side of a country called Canada.
With all of these clues, can you find Washington State on a US map?
What Really Happened to Washington State?
Washington State would look and feel very different if nine events didn’t happen. Here are several of them:
- Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark were famous explorers back in the early 1800s. This country acquired territory back in 1803 from France, which was known as the Louisiana Purchase. Lewis and Clark led a military expedition across this western territory or frontier for roughly three years to explore and map it. Their expedition was a major chapter in our nation’s history because it stimulated a lot of interest in the area now known as Washington State and helped pave the way for settlers to move here. Famous people like John Jacob Astor established a fur-trading post near the mouth of the Columbia River.
- The state experienced more than its fair share of fires and other disasters – both natural and man-made. In 1889, the entire central business district of the state’s largest city, Seattle, burned to the ground. Funnily enough, it was known as The Great Seattle Fire. Apparently, a pot of glue in a cabinetmaker’s shop boiled over. Within 18 hours, 25 commercial blocks had been reduced to rubble. The city’s residents decided to rebuild on top of the rubble rather than relocate. There was so much debris that the streets had to be raised up to 22 feet!, but this time around, they erected buildings with brick and steel instead of wood.
- In 1902, the largest forest fire ever recorded in Washington State’s history destroyed over 200,000 acres and killed dozens of people. Laws were passed to help prevent large fires like this from breaking out again. Years later, in 1980, a massive volcano (Mt. St. Helens) erupted. It was among the greatest volcanic explosions ever recorded in North America. Spokane, a city about 250 miles away, was cloaked in total darkness. Ash fell as far east as central Montana!
- The Grand Coulee Dam took eight years to build. Thousands of people were lured to the area during the Great Depression with hopes of finding work. When completed in 1942, it provided the enormous electrical power necessary to make aluminum that was needed to build WWII planes and ships. The water delivered to the region helps grow cereal grains to fruit, vegetables, and specialty crops such as mint and wine grapes.
Stuff You Should Know about Washington State
- Washington State had the largest volcanic eruption in the continental US (lower 48 states) in more than 100 years. The name of the volcano is Mount St. Helens.
- It’s the only state in the country that’s named after a US president – George Washington, the nation’s first president.
- Still the largest city in the state, Seattle was originally called New York. The first group of people to settle in the area (now west Seattle) were from New York State. But they renamed the territory “Seattle” after a Duwamish Indian chief who befriended them.
- Seattle is known for its Space Needle, a 605-foot tall structure; and Pike Place Market, a farmer’s market.
So what’s so special about them? Partly their history.
Seattle was the site of the 1962 World’s Fair. Since the fair’s theme was “The Age of Space,” the organizers wanted some type of futuristic structure that symbolized mankind’s dream of space exploration. The chief organizer of the fair, Edward E. Carlson, sketched the concept for the Space Needle’s original flying saucer on a cocktail napkin. Since then, it has been the city’s most recognizable symbol.
Pike Place Market started because of greed. Prices involving produce, especially onions, skyrocketed between 1906 and 1907. Farmers, who sold their produce to wholesalers, complained about being paid prices that were very low. But the same wholesalers then sold the produce to residents at sky high prices, which made many people angry. So in 1907, Pike Place Market was created as a place where farmers could sell produce directly to people at reasonable prices.
Crazy, Funny or Just Plain Weird
Perhaps the state’s strangest attraction is a tree on Vashon Island that partially swallowed what is now an old, rusted bicycle. Over the years, the tree’s bark wrapped around the middle of the bike. The handlebars and front and back tires are still exposed and remain elevated, approximately seven feet off the ground. There are many stories about this strange tree that seemed to eat a bicycle but no one really knows why or how this happened.
Washington also has its fair share of old, silly laws:
- It is illegal to purchase or sell a mattress on Sundays;
- If you shop on Sundays, you also can’t buy televisions and meat!
Tell Me More
Another not-so-known fact is that Seattle was the first major American city to elect a female mayor. Bertha Knight Landes held the office from 1926 to 1928 and fought hard against corruption. She even fired the chief of police. The city hasn’t had another female mayor since.
Know of any other interesting tidbits about the state? Please email your fun fact(s) to: firstname.lastname@example.org along with your first name and state. If published, we’ll credit you for the information!