Curved around the shore of Elliott Bay, with Lake Washington behind and the snowy peak of Mount Rainier hovering faintly in the distance, SEATTLE has a magnificent setting. The insistently modern skyline of glass skyscrapers gleams across the bay, an emblem of three decades of aggressive urban renewal.
Seattle's beginnings were inauspiciously muddy. Flooded out of its first location on the flat little peninsula of Alki Point, in the 1850s the town shifted to what's now Pioneer Square, renaming itself after the Native American Chief Sealth (hence Seattle). This was soggy ground, and the small logging community built its houses on stilts. As the surrounding forest was gradually felled and the wood shipped out, Seattle grew slowly until the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897 put it firmly on the national map. World War I boosted shipbuilding, and the city was soon a large industrial center. Trade unions, based around the shipworkers, grew strong, and the Industrial Workers of the World, or "Wobblies," coordinated the US's first general strike here on February 6, 1919.
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the Boeing airline corporation was crucial to the city's wellbeing, booming during World War II and employing one in five of Seattle's workforce by the 1960s. The prosperity that Boeing and more recent success stories such as Microsoft and internet shopping site have brought the city is obvious, reflected in a restored old center, a nationally acclaimed arts scene with vibrant movie and music industries, and a flood of coffee houses and excellent seafood restaurants. No longer overshadowed by the two big California metropolises, Seattle now regularly tops magazine surveys of desirable places to live, attracting migrants across the social and economic spectrum, which has led to both exponential growth and increasingly nightmarish traffic jams. As if to round out the turbulent decade, a February 2001 earthquake shook Seattle's foundations, and reminded its resi dents that they're just as prone to Pacific Rim tremors as their southern counterparts in the Golden State.
Despite the dizzying expansion, the city's more established neighborhoods remain distinctive, and Seattle has a pleasantly down-to-earth ambience. However, its new-found affluence jars uncomfortably with a visible street community of teenage runaways and homeless people - as well as a growing radical scene that splashed across the world's newspapers and TV screens with the WTO trade conference in 1999, an event that saw black-clad anarchists rioting amidst peaceful protesters in turtle outfits.
Downtown Seattle's main attractions are the busy stalls and cafés of Pike Place Market and the restored nineteenth-century Pioneer Square , lined with restaurants and taverns. A stroll along the more touristy waterfront ...
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