Special Sections - 125th Anniversary

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  • A commemorative issue published by the Kent Reporter May 22, 2015

    Looking back: The original Kent Recorder newspaper offi ce on South First Street, as captured by photographer W.S. Walbridge in about 1891 or 1892. COURTESY PHOTO, Greater Kent Historical Society


    Kent, youre 125 years old.You started out as a small farming

    town of hops fi elds succeeded in time by lettuce crops and dairy farms. Now, hundreds of companies from a Starbucks roasting plan to Recreational Equipment Inc., (REI) to Boeing call you home.

    Kent has come a long way since it was fi rst incorporated on May 28, 1890, with a population of 793, said Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke. Now, as a hub of innova-tion with over 124,000 residents, were a globally-connected community with so much progress and history to recognize.

    Th e town, originally referred to as Ti-tusville, fi rst became permanently settled by westerners in the early 1860s along the banks of what was then the White River.

    Hops were shipped by rail or river from Titusville, though in 1889 folks were calling you Kent, aft er Kent County in England, a major hops-producing region. But in 1891, an invasion of aphids wiped out your crops.

    Aft er the turn of the 20th century, you turned to dairy farming, and became home to a Carnation Condensed Milk plant.

    Flooding from the Green and White

    rivers was a constant problem. In 1906, fl ooding changed the course of the White River, which reduced the fl ood hazard by half.

    You continued to have fl ooding prob-lems until the federal government built the Howard A. Hanson Dam at Eagle Gorge in 1962 along the Green River.

    During and aft er the Great Depression, you were known as the Lettuce Capital of the World. Aft er World War II, your population grew more rapidly. From 1953 to 1960, you grew twelve-fold.

    In 1965, Boeing opened a space center in Kent, followed several years later by other

    aerospace and high-tech companies. Th at trend continues today with such

    companies as Blue Origin, owned by Ama-zon.com founder Jeff Bezos, which aims to one day feature human travel to space.

    In 1992, the Greater Kent Historical Society formed to promote the discovery, preservation and dissemination of knowl-edge about your history.

    In 1996, the city of Kent purchased the historic Bereiter House, home of one of your early mayors, to serve as the Kent Historical Museum, where your 125-year history comes to life.

  • Kents 125th Anniversary2








    Club of Kent, WA

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    Hops farming disappeared many years ago, but its the reason the city of Kent got its name in 1890 from the Kent County in England, also a boom-ing hops-growing area in the 1800s.

    As hops farming soared locally in the late 1880s, residents considered other names, including Titusville, aft er James H. Titus, a pioneer farmer and black-smith, according to an article in the 1964 Kent News Journal.

    A hotel, post offi ce and the commu-nitys fi rst Odd Fellows Lodge already had the name of Titusville, according to the book, Kent - valley of opportunity: An illustrated history. But Titusville didnt exist in any directory.

    Current Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke read excerpts from the book at a recent City Council meeting, in celebration of the citys 125th anniversary, to explain how Kent got its name.

    Some say (pioneer farmer) Ezra Meeker from the neighboring Puyallup Valley fi rst suggested the name of Kent envisioning a hops culture in White River Valley to rival the county of Kent in England, said Cooke, quoting the book. Others say the name came from a railroad employee who fi rst dis-patched box cars from Stuck Junction for White River hops.

    Hop buyer Isaac Pincus also has been given credit for coming up with the name of Kent, according to the Kent News Journal article.

    No matter how you look at it, hops were very directly related to us being called Kent and being named for our namesake of Kent County, England, Cooke said.

    Aphids destroyed many of the hops crops in the 1890s, and farmers later put in numerous lettuce crops.

    Other names considered included Yesler, aft er Henry L. Yesler, Seattles fi rst sawmill operator. Yesler bought property locally in 1884, a mostly wooded area where downtown Kent now sits from Gowe Street to Willis Street and First Avenue to Fift h Avenue.

    Residents were asked to pick a name by the U.S. Postal Service because it wanted a name that pleased most people aft er a strong debate between Titusville and Yesler.

    With its incorporation in 1890, Kent is the second oldest city in King County, behind only Seattle.

    Senate leaders joined Kent offi cials in Olympia to honor the citys 125th birthday and proud history with a proclamation. At the April 23 ceremony were, from left: Gina Hungerford; Doug Levy; Sen. Karen Keiser; Brittany

    Jarnot; Ronald Moore; Sen. Joe Fain; Kent Council President Dana Ralph; Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke; Michelle Wilmot; and Sen. Bob Hasegawa. COURTESY PHOTO

    How did Kent get its name?


    Th e state Senate recently passed a resolution, celebrating Kents 125th anniversary and its evolution from an agrarian community to an economic dynamo.

    Sens. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, Joe Fain, R-Auburn, and Bob Hasegawa, D-Beacon Hill, sponsored Senate Resolution 8671, which honors the citys past and praises its growth as a resourceful and diversifi ed community.

    Kent is known for creating the fi rst lunar rover, design-ing next-generation rockets, and serving as a globally-con-nected hub of innovation and transportation.

    Th e Kent Valley is now the fourth-largest manufacturing and distribution center in the United States, Keiser said. Our economic engine gener-ates $49 billion annually, one-eighth of Washington states total gross domestic product.

    In the 1860s, the area was called Titusville, and it was a major hops-growing center. Th e city was incorporated as Kent in 1890, named aft er a region in England known for its fi ne hops.

    Honoring Kents 125th an-niversary really means honor-ing the many great people who make up the community, Fain said. Bringing together such a diverse community, including

    people from many backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities and inter-ests, has led to a unique place for many to call home.

    Kents 125,000 residents represent one of the most diverse and vibrant cultures in the state, speaking 137 diff er-ent languages, Hasegawa said. With more than 43 percent of Kent residents speaking a primary language other than English, this is a community that stands as a testament to the increasing diversity of our wonderful state.

    Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke, on hand to watch the passage of the resolution from the

    Senate honors Kents 125th anniversary


    Kent is the states sixth largest city, is a culturally-rich destination, featuring diverse neighborhoods, award-winning parks and an exceptional school district. REPORTER FILE PHOTO

    Census Pop. %

    1890 853

    1900 755 11.5%

    1910 1,908 152.7%

    1920 2,282 19.6%

    1930 2,320 1.7%

    1940 2,586 11.5%

    1950 3,278 26.8%

    1960 9,017 175.1%

    1970 16,275 80.5%

    1980 23,152 42.3%

    1990 37,960 64.0%

    2000 79,524 109.5%

    2010 92,411 16.2%

    2013 124,435 34.7%


    Source: U.S. Census[ more HONOR page 11 ]

    History During the 1880s the town dis-

    covered hops production as its major source of income. Owing to an aphid invasion that aff ected hops crops in Eu-rope, hops from the Puget Sound area commanded high prices. Hops produc-tion in the White River Valley ended soon aft er its own invasion of aphids in 1891.

    Aft er the turn of the 20th cen-tury, dairy farming became a popular

    industry. Kent was home to a Carnation Condensed Milk plant.

    Flooding from the Green and the White Rivers was a constant problem. In 1906, fl ooding changed the course of the White River. Th e Green River continued to present problems until the creation of the Howard A. Hanson Dam at Eagle Gorge in 1962.

    During and aft er the Great Depres-sion, Kent was known as the Lettuce Capital of the World.

    [ more KENT page 8 ]

  • Kents 125th Anniversary4


    555 West Smith Street Kent, WA 98032253-852-2345 www.curranfirm.com

    Over time our name changed, but not our dedication to our clients

    1948 Kelleher & Curran

    1957 Curran & Ratcliffe

    1961 Curran & Curran

    1966 Curran, Kleweno & Curran

    1969 Curran, Kleweno, Johnson & Curran

    1983 Curran, Kleweno & Johnson

    1997 Curran Mendoza

    2007 Curran Law Firm

    CURRANlaw firmServing the community for over 65 years

    Founder Jim Curran

    A Kent pioneer and his place: OConnell legacy lives onBY MARK KLAAS


    From his perch atop a small tractor, Tom OConnell appears at peace, puttering about his familys enduring farm.

    I love this place, said OConnell, the 91-year-old patri-arch of a f