In 1905, the newly renamed Seattle Renton & Southern Railway extended south to Renton. In 1912 the streetcar line went bankrupt and was reorganized as the Seattle & Rainier Valley Railway. Its last run was just after midnight on January 1, 1937. Meanwhile, Columbia City’s ambitions to become a seaport were thwarted with the completion of the Lake Washington Ship Canal in 1917, which lowered Lake Washington by nine feet and caused Wetmore Slough to dry up. The former slough was used as a dump from 1941 to 1963, and is now Genesee Park.
A major early employer was the Hitt Fireworks Company (1905–1960s) located at what is now Hitt’s Hill Park. It employed 200 workers in the 1930s and was credited for firework displays at several world’s fairs and Fourth of July celebrations. During World War II it produced smoke screens and parachute flares. The Hitt Fireworks Company also provided pyrotechnic effects for some major release films including Gone with the Wind.
As African Americans moved to Seattle to be part of the wartime industrial boom, many settled in the area, and in the 1960s the area began to suffer the effects of redlining and racism. By the 1970s, the neighborhood had fallen victim to poverty, housing stock had deteriorated, and many storefronts along Rainier Avenue S. were vacant.
The Columbia City business district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 as the Columbia City Historic District, extending north to S. Alaska Street, south to the intersection of 39th Ave S and Rainier Ave S, east to 39th Ave S., and west to the alley east of 35th Ave S.
Beginning in the late 1980s, Columbia City saw a large influx of minority professionals, artists, gay and lesbian couples and “urban pioneers” seeking classic housing stock at low prices. By the late 1990s, Columbia City was already referred to as one of Seattle’s most creative neighborhoods. In the last decade,[when?] it has seen some of the sharpest rises in property values in the entire Seattle metropolitan area. The result has been widespread gentrification, including the restoration of many of the older homes and, in the last several years, the building of numerous condos and the planned construction of several hundred more. As of 2008, Columbia City is one of Seattle’s most diverse neighborhoods in terms of income and ethnicity, encompassing everything from public housing to multimillion-dollar view homes.
Today, the thriving pedestrian business district along Rainier Avenue S. is home to six bars, a grocery store, a number of restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, assorted retail, an art gallery, fitness facilities, a fraternal clubhouse, a movie theater, and multiple live music venues.
Housing stock include craftsman bungalows, a mix of market-rate and low-income apartment buildings, and townhome developments. Community estimates have put the number of new homes in the planning pipeline as numbering at least 1,500. Many of these developments are in formerly vacant lots.
Train service at the neighborhood’s Link Light Rail station began in July 2009, connecting the neighborhood to both SeaTac airport and Downtown Seattle. Rainier Vista, once a post-war suburban public housing project, has been redeveloped into a mixed-use, mixed income community built around the light rail station, and includes more than 900 new homes (some subsidized, some rental, some owner-occupied)
Bike Works is a community charity that lets kids earn bikes by learning to repair them. The Boys and Girls Club has opened a new regional facility in the neighborhood. The neighborhood’s large Genesee Park and Playfield is also the site of the Rainier Valley Community Center. The Rainier Arts Center and Southside Commons on either sides of Columbia Park are spaces for arts and cultural events. The Rainier Valley Historical Society documents and interprets the history of the larger district. The SouthEast Economic Development organization operates a number of affordable housing units and supports economic development and the arts, including Columbia City Gallery and the Rainier Arts Center, in the district.
Festivals and Events
The Rainier Valley Heritage Parade and Summer Streets Party happens in August. Beat Walk is a live music series on the streets and in business within the Historic District, happening on second Sundays of June through October. A farmer’s market operates May to mid-October along S Edmunds St with many in the neighborhood gathering for a dinner picnic in adjacent Columbia Park.
Content credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitol_Hill_(Seattle