The largest and most active trading center in the vicinity of Seattle, which covers the flats formed by the Cedar River and the former Black River. For years, the main street was flanked with one- and two-story frame buildings reminiscent of another age, but the war boom of the early 1940s brought growth and modernization to the city. Population in the area greatly increased when the Boeing Aircraft Company established one of its main production plants here; more than 1100 B-29 Super Fortresses were built for war combat duty.
Dr. R. H. Bigelow discovered coal in the hills at the end of what is now Williams Street in 1853. Captain William Renton, for whom the town was named, was one of the organizers of the coal company that began large-scale operations in 1873. Coal mines, clay-products plants, foundries, mills, truck farms on the fertile surrounding flats, greenhouses, and poultry ranches furnished employment here and the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad curveed through the southern edge of town. It was platted in 1876 by Erasmus M. Smithers; an early name was Black River Bridge.
While many of the structures associated with Renton’s early years are gone, in 2001 the city commemorated the location of several historic sites with a trail of interpretive markers, implemented as part of Renton’s Centennial celebration.