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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.


1967 view of the Renton Municipal Airport.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

1946 view of main highway between Renton and Seattle.

Source: Washington State Archives

Points of Interest Points of Interest icon

Liberty Park

Liberty Park (Houser Way N and Bronson Way N) is Renton’s oldest park facility, with the land purchased by the city in 1914. It is comprised of an expanse of lawn,playground facilities, tennis courts, wading pools, and picnic grounds. At the edge of the park stood a Carnegie Library, a two-story burned-brick structure built in 1914, but razed in 1968 for park expansion. A larger library was constructed in 1966, located near the site of the Carnegie Library.

Renton Fire Station

The Renton Fire Station, designed by Ivan M. Palmaw, and built by the Works Project Administration, is significant to the City of Renton as a structurally unaltered example of Moderne or Art Deco architecture. It also stands as the first fire station used by a paid, full-time fire department in the city of Renton. All other stations had been used by volunteers only. Constructed from 1939 to 1942, building has housed the Renton Fire Department for more than 37 years.

Horse Trough

The Horse Trough, at Wells St. near the City Hall, was presented to Renton in 1910 by the local fire department. It is a combination trough and drinking fountain, presided over by a bust of Chief Seattle.

Renton History Museum

The Renton History Museum, housed in the old fire department building, is immediately adjacent to the horse trough and holds an impressive collection of artifacts and photos representing the city’s history

Renton Substation of the Snoqualmie Falls Power Company

The Renton Substation of the Snoqualmie Falls Power Company is significant as a once-important component in an early hydroelectric generation and distribution system. It also boasts a collection of local “firsts:” it is Renton’s first brick building, made of bricks from King County’s first brick yard, sited adjacent to the first railroad line built by the founding fathers of Seattle, and the terminus of the Rainier Valley Lines. It is also the only brick building built before 1906 still standing in Renton.