50 Years of Home Rule Governance: The Archives Celebrates the King County Charter and the First Council


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Fifty years ago today, the first King County Council and County Executive were sworn in under the Home Rule Charter. The current Council is celebrating the golden anniversary at today’s meeting with historic images from the Archives collection. Below: read the Charter and follow along with the first swearing-in ceremony on May 1, 1969, through the transcript and photographs taken on that day.

The Home Rule Charter

“A home rule charter for King County by the Board of King County Freeholders,” 1969, Series 872: Documents Collection, box 30, document 480, King County Archives

May 1, 1969: The Swearing-In Ceremony

Hon. Story Birdseye (center, with hand raised), Presiding Judge of King County Superior Court, swears in John O’Brien (left), Chairman (Dist. 5), on May 1, 1969, at the King County Courthouse. Also pictured facing the camera, left to right: Ed Munro (Dist. 7), Dave Mooney (Dist. 9), and Bernice Stern (Dist. 5).

Series 400: Department of Transportation Road Services Division Photograph and Moving Image Files, box 52, file 917, King County Archives


Official proceedings of the swearing-in of the first King County Council and County Executive, May 1, 1969. Series 134: County Council Proceedings, box 1, folder 1, King County Archives


Transcript of the swearing-in of the first King County Council and County Executive, May 1, 1969. Series 134: County Council Proceedings, box 1, folder 1, King County Archives

Portraits: John D. Spellman

County Executive John D. Spellman, 1978
Series 1591: Clerk of the Council Public Relations Materials, box 11, folder 10, King County Archives

Portraits: First County Council

Official councilmember portraits, 1970. Series 705: County Council Photographs, folder 1, King County Archives

Scenes from the late 1980s: Looking back at the construction of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel


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On March 23, the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) will convert to Link light rail trains only, and bus service will be moved to surface streets. At the Archives, we’re reminiscing over these photographs of its construction, showing a glimpse of 1980s Seattle and the people who built the tunnel.

The photos below come from Series 1844: Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel project files and Series 1147: Office of Information Resource Management Printing and Graphic Arts photographs. Ask an archivist if you have any questions about any of these photographs or the other transit-related records held at the King County Archives.

Pre-Construction Survey

As construction began, Metro staff took photographs of the interior and exterior of buildings along the tunnel’s route, ostensibly to document the current condition of the structures.

Documenting Construction

During construction, thousands of photographs were taken, in a variety of formats, to document the complex work required to dig the tunnel and prepare it for service. The photographs below are from the project files and were taken by Ray Halvorson, Ed Hunter, Norm Nelson, Vic Oblas, Keith Nordlund, and Merdad Shahverdi.

Station Construction (1987)

The following photographs were taken by Norm Nelson and Vic Oblas.

Station Construction: International District (1988-1989)

Station Construction: Pioneer Square Station (1988-1989)

Station Construction: Various (1989)

Station Construction: University Street Station (1990)

The photographs below are from Printing and Graphic Arts. Photographers include Ned Ahrens, Tim Healy, and Barton L. Attebery.

Tunnel Construction

Station Construction

The people who built the tunnel

Tunnel Stations

DSTT Events

As we say bon voyage to the buses leaving the tunnel, contact the Archives for more information about the photographs above, to make an appointment to see more, or to ask an archivist about anything else related to King County history!

Digitization and description of photographs: Amanda Demeter and Danielle Coyle

Text and arrangement: Jill Anderson

We’re baaack: Bytes and Boxes’ zombie-like return

Followers may have noticed that Bytes and Boxes “went underground” over the past several months, as an unearthly volume of reference requests has consumed, and continues to consume, the time of your loyal King County Archives staff.

But although we’ve been less than substantial in the social media dimension, rest assured we are actively “undertaking” what archivists love most—providing access to historical records. And, as new accessions continue to come through the door to be incorporated into the collection, and as our clients bring ever-new research challenges, we are discovering treasures and encountering stories at every turn, gathering ideas and materials for upcoming Bytes and Boxes posts.

Who can say what the future will bring?


Above: Fortune teller at King County Employee Association event, circa 1960.  Accession A07-013, Box 2, King County Archives.

It’s Archives Month!

For now, we celebrate October, which is Archives Month, with two public events.


Faces of the Archives

On Tuesday, October 9, from 11am to 3pm, we will be participating in a genealogical research event at the Central Branch of the Seattle Public Library, where local museums, archives, and libraries, along with the Seattle Genealogical Society, will share with the public how each unique collection can contribute to researching individuals. Visitors can explore how people are directly and indirectly documented, using any of 27 trading cards created for the event.  The cards describe people from many walks of life and local history.  A card from the King County Archives collection is shown below:


The main event will begin at noon, when historian Paula Becker will talk about her use of local repositories to research her biography of Betty MacDonald, iconic Northwest author of The Egg and I.  


Archives Road Show 2018


The very next day (Wednesday, October 10), we will again take the Archives’ show on the road to share with King County staff, and anyone else who wanders in, cool things from the Archives!  We’ll be in the King County Chinook Building, at 401 5th Avenue in downtown Seattle, from 9am to 4pm. Picture yourself in the past by taking selfies in our Archives photo booth, check out our exhibits, get your nerd on by marveling over legacy recording media, and take five and enjoy some historical video and film from the collection!

We hope folks will attend these fantastic Archives Month events. We’re “dying” to see you!


Randy Revelle’s service to King County

In recognition of Randy Revelle, King County’s third county executive, who passed away last week.

King County Executive Randy Revelle, 1983. Series 415, Department of Transportation photograph files, item 415-1-20-5. King County Archives.

Randy Revelle led King County’s executive branch from 1981 through 1985.

Significant accomplishments of Revelle’s administration included completion of the county’s 1985 Comprehensive Plan, which guided development to balance growth with protection of the environment, rural areas, and quality of life; implementation of the first phases of King County’s farmland preservation program; creation of the Cougar Mountain Wilderness Park; and improved programs for women- and minority-owned businesses. Revelle is also credited for leadership in improvements to mental health care at Harborview Hospital.

Having himself been treated for bipolar disorder, Revelle would move on from local government leadership to become a leader in health care policy and advocacy, emphasizing mental health services.

Seattle Mayor Charles Royer and King County Executive Randy Revelle declaring Public Works Week [1982 or 1983]. Also pictured: Public Works director Donald LaBelle. Series 489, Public Works Department Office of the Director – subject and complaint files, item 489.1.5.1. King County Archives.

Records of Executive Leadership

The records of Revelle’s administration are available for public viewing by appointment at the King County Archives. Archival processing of these records was completed in 2016 by Assistant Archivist Rebecca Pixler (now retired) with support from Archives volunteers and interns.

The collection came to the Archives in 1998 as part of a transfer of 297 cubic feet of County Executive records representing the administrations of Randy Revelle, Tim Hill, and Gary Locke.

Descriptions of Revelle’s records in the Archives are linked to below:

For more information on Randy Revelle, see:

historylink.org entry, Revelle, Randall “Randy” (b. 1941)

King County Executive Dow Constantine’s statement on Ravelle’s passing

Seattle Times obituary

Secondary Value: Using Road Construction Records for Genealogy


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Detail from survey, map no. 101-5.B, showing Fall City in 1913


In an earlier blog post, we talked about the secondary research value of aerial photographs. Secondary value is research that can be done in records that is different from the purposes for which the records were originally created.

In addition to aerial photographs, another good source of secondary research value are the historical records of the King County Road Services Division. These records were originally created to document road construction or maintenance, but can also provide a wealth of information about historical structures, property ownership, or geographic or environmental conditions.

The bulk of these documents are available online, in the Road Services Division’s Map Vault, an online repository of nearly 200,000 plans, drawings, surveys, and aerial photographs. Secondary uses of these records include:

    • Providing contextual detail to basic genealogical facts,


  • Researching historical land or vegetation conditions, or
  • Tracking the development of the built environment.

This post will examine how to locate evidence about an ancestor in road project records and what these records can show.searchfields

Secondary Use Example: Genealogy

Road surveys and road establishment files (also called Road History Packets) can be rich sources of land ownership information, if your ancestor owned land in a part of King County which was unincorporated at the time and if county forces did construction or maintenance work nearby.


Title block from the bottom left corner of the Issaquah-Fall City survey map, containing information that can be used to locate it in the Map Vault


In April 1914, as part of a bond issue to reduce steep grades on county highways, county surveyors created this 3′ x 11.5′ map, showing the alignment of Issaquah-Fall City Rd. (Today the route shown in this survey follows part of Interstate 90 until turning north and following Preston Fall City Rd SE.)


“Survey No. 1137, Issaquah Fall City,” map no. 102-10.A, 1914


Part of determining the route of the road required documenting who owned property along the route and thus would be affected by construction – how access and travel would be improved or hindered, what right-of-way would need to be acquired, or what structures or other property might be taken down or relocate to accommodate the road.

In this survey, just south of Fall City and a cemetery owned by the International Order of Odd Fellows, is the property of William Wallace Pulver. Censuses and vital records indicate that Pulver was born in May 1839 to Harvey and Providence (or Prudence) Pulver, probably in Ontario, Canada. Sometime in the 1890s, he moved to western Washington, and began to purchase land in and around Fall City. In the detail below, the alignment of the road runs right through this part of Pulver’s land, where he had apple trees, a water closet, patches of raspberries and currants, and fencing around his property.


Detail from “Survey No. 1137,” map no. 102-10.A, 1914


This survey map also points to a book of survey field notes, discovered in the notation next to the intersection between the right-of-way and Pulver’s fence: “Fence Post Vol. 352 ‘A’ pg. 13.” That survey field book is also in the Map Vault and provides more detailed notes about the survey around Pulver’s garden. Knowing that William Pulver had a flushing toilet, a garden, and potentially an orchard not only gives us a glimpse of life in the early years of the county, but sheds light on Pulver’s occupation and economic status.

That’s great, but how do I find my ancestors in these records anyway?

In the 1800s and early 1900s, King County roads requested by citizens were initially named after the main petitioner. Thus, Seattle founding father David Swinson “Doc” Maynard shows up in the Map Vault as a petitioner of at least two roads and can be searched for by entering his last name into the “Project/map name” field.



An example using a surname


Clicking the link for the second result to download the Road History Packet for D. S. Maynard Road No. 2 provides not only Maynard’s original signature but also the reports to the King County Commissioners, written by Maynard himself as foreman of the crew surveying the route.

This search by surname only works for the main petitioner – in this case, David “Doc” Maynard. Often the property owner petitioning for the road would recruit his or her neighbors to support the petition; these additional signatories are not indexed, unfortunately. However, this means that searching by the name of a known neighbor may yield documents that also mention the ancestor. Look in late 19th- or early 20th-century censuses for the people that lived nearby and search by their surnames as well.

The Map Vault is also searchable by location (section, township, and range) or by road name, so determining the location of an ancestor’s land through other records may also provide information that can be used to search the Vault.

The King County Road Services Division Map Vault is located at http://www.kingcounty.gov/mapvault, and the Road Services Division Map and Records Center can answer questions about how to use the Map Vault (email them at map.roads@kingcounty.gov). The original road history packets and many other historical roads records have been transferred to the King County Archives. Contact us at archives@kingcounty.gov.

Meet the Archives

Those of us in the archives profession are often surprised (shocked!) to discover that there are people in the world who don’t know what an archives is or what archivists do.

So, to help demystify archives in general, and to let everyone see what a friendly and approachable bunch we really are, in this post we share a series of brief interviews with us, the staff of the King County Archives.

And now, we invite you to meet the Archives team…in alphabetical order!


Jill Anderson, Assistant Archivist

What do you do at the Archives?
Much of my time is spent on reference and facilitating the work of the reference team. I create web and social media content, and I research and design exhibits. I process, describe, and scan records for public access, and I coordinate volunteer projects.

How long have you been with the King County Archives, and what did you do before joining the Archives?
I’ve been with the Archives for just over two years. Before I joined the Archives, I was at King County Road Services in a hybrid records management/archives position. Prior to joining King County, I worked at the Densho history project, Yellowstone National Park, and the National Archives and Records Administration in Seattle.

What is one of your favorite records or record series in the Archives collection?
One of my favorite series is Series 1067, the timber cruise reports, which were originally created for the narrow purpose of documenting timber growth, its value, and the resources needed to extract it, but in the process, the cruisers also reported settlement and the built environment in the early days of King County. The reports show early roads, railroad lines, the buildings that made up town centers, and the structures residents erected on their property. Geographic information, like topography and historical river courses, also make these a really fantastic series.


What is something you have enjoyed at the Archives?
This summer, we participated for the second time in 206 Zulu’s Boogie Up the Block street arts event, where we had a booth, set up exhibits, and spoke with residents while artists covered the outside of our building in murals. One of the most memorable conversations I had was with a man who lived a block away, who had been unaware of the Archives or what services we provide. He told me about his teenaged son and the resources that were available (and not available) to his son at school, and I talked about our collections and what kind of research his son could do. It emphasized for me how much time and dedication outreach requires, even for people who live practically next door to an archival facility.

Agnes Castronuevo, Archives Reference Specialist / Administrative Specialist

What do you do at the Archives?
I’m one of two reference specialists at the Archives. I help the public access information and records, in large part property and legal documents that were recorded with King County, but also related records such as historical maps and land use files.

How long have you been with the King County Archives, and what did you do before joining the Archives?
I came to the King County Archives in May 2017. Prior to returning to King County, I served with various agencies throughout the Western United States as an anthropologist and archaeologist: Zone Archaeologist and Tribal Liaison, Inyo National Forest; the first appointed Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw; Cultural Heritage Director, Burns Paiute Tribe; Supervisory archaeologist for Terracon Consultants and Adapt Engineering.

As an archaeologist, I conducted and supervised fieldwork which included pedestrian surveys, archaeological testing of soils, and other archaeological excavation projects, as well as developing historical and environmental contexts for preparation of professional reports submitted to the State Historical Preservation Officer describing my archaeological findings and effects determinations. One of the most interesting projects I have been involved in was the Camp Castaway Field School during which, a team of archaeologists, students, and members of three Native American tribes on the Oregon coast worked together to find the previously unknown location of a shipwreck in 1855, which became a turning point in the history of Euro-American settlement of the Coos Bay area.

What is one of your favorite records or record series in the collection?
I don’t know the collections well enough yet, but if I were to have a favorite, it likely would be anything documenting the history of the communities east of Lake Washington, including early Native American history of the Snoqualmie and Sammamish people.

What’s something you like about working at the Archives?
I think that each and every day, arriving at the Archives and doing my best to serve the people of King County gives me a great deal of job satisfaction. Each person I meet has a unique story to share, and I take pride in my ability to listen empathetically, and assisting them with finding the documents and recordings they seek from the Archives. After all, the constituents of King County are part of the Archives story, and in turn we have the opportunity to become part of their stories.


Danielle Coyle, Archives Administrative Specialist

What do you do at the Archives?
I’m administrative support for the rest of the King County Archives staff. I make sure the records vault and self-service research area are organized and clean. I also assist with processing and indexing materials for the Archives. I’m happy to pitch in whenever some help is needed, whether it’s scanning records for a reference request or purchasing needed supplies.

How long have you been with the King County Archives, and what did you do before joining the Archives?
I’ve been with the Archives just over eight months. Previously, I’ve worked as a textbook sales associate with the University Book Store and have interned with historical and cultural institutions such as the Museum of History and Industry and the Center for Wooden Boats, supporting collections work and outreach programming. I also currently work part-time as circulation staff with the Seattle Public Library.

What is one of your favorite records or record series in the collection?
I really like the Parks Department photograph files. As someone who’s not a Seattle native, they’re a really interesting slice of life and everyday history of the region.

Girls’ Pigtail Days, Hamlin Park (Shoreline); circa 1950-1959. Series 467, Park System Photograph Files, King County Archives.

160-467-4-6 Idylwood Park2

Idylwood Beach [Gateway] Park (Redmond); circa 1971-1982. Series 467, Park System Photograph Files, King County Archives.

What’s something you’ve enjoyed since you’ve been with KCA?
Bringing an open house out the Chinook Building. It was great to meet some other King County employees and generate some interest in the work we do here.

Amanda Demeter, Assistant Archivist


What do you do at the Archives?
My role is a mix of public service assisting clients with reference requests, archival processing, and description to make sure our collections are easy to find and use, and outreach. Currently I’m learning as much as I can about county government, operations, and history as well as our different collections and research tools in order to help serve our users.

How long have you been with the King County Archives, and what did you do before joining the Archives?
I started just two months ago, in late December 2017, but I’m looking forward to much longer. Prior to joining King County, I was an archivist at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. I’ve worked primarily in academic and museum archives and special collections libraries, performing a range of duties including reference service, archival processing and preservation, and outreach. Some of my most memorable archives experiences relate to my short-term work as an archivist for a local museum in Nome, Alaska. I participated in a number of outreach events to a community that is very engaged in its history, including speaking to the Rotary Club, presenting to a city committee, and telling junior high students why archives are cool. Climbing into a B-17 aircraft for a reference request at the Museum of Flight was pretty memorable too!

What is one of your favorite records or record series in the Archives collection?
Having only seen a fraction of the collection so far, I’m sure my favorites will continue to change, but one is the 1853 marriage certificate of Louisa Boren and David Denny, the first marriage recorded by King County government.
Page 001 - Record of Marriage Certificates 1853-1869.jpg

Marriage Certificate of David Denny and Louisa Boren, January 23, 1853, Series 95, King County Superior Court Clerk record of marriage certificates, King County Archives.

What is something you have enjoyed at the Archives?
What really stands out to me is how essential our work is here at the Archives. While I love helping people with historical research and I believe that scholarly work is also deeply important, many of the records we provide for people here are necessary for their daily lives – to support their family relationships, to maintain their homes, to be aware of and active in their local government. I’m really proud to be surrounded by colleagues who are conscious of their responsibility to the public and dedicated to making records as accessible as possible.


Greg Lange, Archives Reference Specialist / Administrative Specialist

What do you do at the Archives?
My main responsibility is to respond to queries for government documents or information. I provide assistance to members of the public to obtain requested documents or refer them to the agency that will likely have the information they are seeking. Most document requests to the Archives are for recorded real property records which is what I spend most of my time on.

How long have you been with the King County Archives, and what did you do before joining the Archives?
I am a life-long resident of Seattle and vicinity. For a number of years I worked in new, used and antiquarian bookstores, all of which had significant sections on local and northwest history. I changed careers and brought my local history interest to the Washington State Archives Puget Sound Regional Branch where I remained for fourteen years. PSRA has has local government agency records from King, Kitsap, and Pierce counties. I’ve been a staff member at the King County Archives since 2012.

What is one of your favorite records or record series in the collection?
My favorite King County Archives records are the 1907 Timber Cruise volumes which include detailed maps covering one square mile sections. In addition to forest coverage, the maps and supplemental information document skid roads, rail lines, public right of ways, farms (often including information on crops, orchards, and livestock), mines, etc. These records are especially valuable documenting early settlement and development of east King County. These records were recently scanned and are available online.

Another favorite are the Commissioners’ Road Books, created from the 1850s through 1900. The map volumes provide information on early settlement patterns, and associated volumes of road survey field notes provide details on the natural environment along the route.

Plat of Salmon Bay Road, Road Book 4, Series 320, Commissioners’ Road Books, King County Archives.

What’s something you enjoy about the Archives?
I enjoy responding to the wide variety of queries the Archives receives and figuring out and suggesting the most efficient way to research the query and locate documents.

Karisa O’Hara, Archives Technical Specialist / Administrative Specialist

What do you do at the Archives?
I process incoming accessions, fill orders for marriage certificates that come in through the Washington State Digital Archives, do the daily deposit and accounting, and help anywhere else I am needed.

How long have you been with the Archives, and what kind of work did you do before joining the Archives?
I have been at the Archives for 13 years. Previously I worked for King County Elections in the Absentee department.

What is one of your favorite records or record series in the collection?
The photographs. I love finding random things, like a series of about 20 photos, all showing a man in a yellow car.

[Photos of man in a yellow car, circa 1973-1985] Series 1150, Photographic slides, Office of Information Resource Management: Service Development / Printing and Graphic Arts, King County Archives.

What is something you enjoy at the Archives?
I enjoy creating custom housing for records that don’t fit into standard containers or that need special storage.


Rebecca Pixler, Assistant Archivist (Retired)

[Editor’s note: This interview was conducted just before Rebecca retired in December after 19 years of public service with the King County Archives. Her contributions to the Archives continue to benefit King County and will do so far into the future!]

What do you do at the Archives?
As an assistant archivist, major professional-level responsibilities include: preserving historical records of King County government, organizing and describing them for researcher access; helping customers find topical information or specific documents; preparing Web content to showcase specific collections; and participating in professional-level staff discussions regarding the archival program. — From April 1999 to November 2000 I also served as Acting County Archivist.

How long have you been with the Archives, and what kind of work did you do before joining the Archives?
I began working at the King County Archives on March 1, 1999. With two brief exceptions early in my career when I was an equal opportunity investigator for the State of Alaska, I have worked in libraries, record centers and archives since 1967 (professional level since 1978). Before coming to King County, I held several positions as a library/records coordinator at, or associated with, the University of Washington.

What is one of your favorite records or record series in the collection?
Series 474 (Engineer bridge file photographs) evocatively documents a rural King County that doesn’t exist so much anymore. Many images are well-composed and visually very attractive. I arranged and described the series, using our existing (c.2004) technology to capture as many access points as I could (this has been carried over through two subsequent collection databases). Later, I suggested a subset of the photographs to a colleague as a Web exhibit; this was developed and can be seen here: The Bridges of King County.

What is something memorable about your work at the Archives?
I’d overseen processing of some Public Health HIV-AIDS program files in 2001-2002. Related graphical materials followed in 2010. Later, County Archivist Carol Shenk thought they’d make a wonderful Web exhibit…and let’s add some oral histories too! At that very moment a talented volunteer walked in the door! She helped us write a successful 4Culture grant and I recruited some friends to do the oral history interviewing. I worked with the talented volunteer to process the 2010 records, write the exhibit text and select images. Carol coordinated the oral histories and did all the hard technical Web work! All the collaboration paid off when the Archives won a heritage award for the exhibit in 2017. I’m proud of this project because, by showing off Public Health’s work, it filled a real gap in the historical record about how the AIDS crisis was handled locally.

Carol Shenk, County Archivist


What do you do at the Archives?
I oversee operations of the Archives. This includes records intake and processing, selection and design of electronic systems, collection care, reference services, and monitoring the archives facility. I appraise the historical value of County records for potential transfer to the Archives, and I work closely with the Records Management Program in their mission to ensure that County records are effectively managed throughout the records lifecycle. I do a lot of other things, too, including responding to research requests and developing exhibits. But first and foremost my job is to support our excellent staff, volunteers, and interns. All this I do with the help of Archives staff, supporting agencies in King County, and our Section Manager Deborah Kennedy.

How long have you been with the Archives, and what kind of work did you do before joining the Archives?
I have been County Archivist since 2013. Prior to that I was Information Manager for the Seattle City Clerk and Municipal Archives. In previous positions I have served as records manager and public disclosure officer, deputy city clerk, cataloguer at Amazon, and adult literacy tutor.

What is one of your favorite records or record series in the collection?
It is hard to choose. I love records that tell stories, like a Commissioners’ zoning file about a community’s objection to a proposed drive-in movie theater. This one-inch file inspired a blog post (see A Theater Near You).

Much of the collection documents how people have used and modified the land since the County’s beginnings in the 1850s. I find these records to be really interesting, as they reveal changing ways people interact with the natural world. The records of the Inter-County River Improvement Commission, which document how waterways in south King County were modified to manage flooding in the early 20th Century, are an example. Such environmental history records can have practical application in natural resources management today.

What is something you like about the Archives?
Again it is hard to choose. I appreciate the commitment among Archives staff to public service, and I enjoy learning from the records in our collection, which help tell the story of the region and its people. It’s exciting when the records help increase understanding and inform decisions today.

I enjoy how archival records document the history of the County’s many and varied departments and functions. They can show the evolution of philosophy and practices within different professions, which reflect the knowledge and culture of a given era.

I very much value our role supporting governmental transparency, and it’s rewarding that we get to share the collection with all kinds of people: engineers, historians, students, attorneys, artists, activists, and people from all walks of life needing to access public records to establish rights or conduct business.

Now that you know a little more about us, contact us with your questions about archives and King County! — The King County Archives Team

Remembering John D. Spellman

In memory of former Washington State Governor John D. Spellman, who passed away yesterday, the Archives shares a few photographs of his service as King County Executive from 1969-1981.

King County Executive Dow Constantine describes Spellman as having been an “amiable, humble man,” and these qualities come through in photos of his interactions with County employees and the public.

413-2-440_KingCountyFair_92.0.0252King County Fair, 1977.


413-2-455_ElectionCampaign1973_92.0.0258Election campaign, 1973.


413-2-250_ParkGrant1973_92-0-0018Grant for parks acquisition, 1973.

413-2-253_GlenEaglespeaker_Kainai_Drum_NW_Inter-Tribal_Club_1970_92.0.0021With Glen Eaglespeaker (Kainai), of the Northwest Inter-Tribal Club, circa 1970.

413-2-212_Students_InCouncilChambers_1971_92.0.0190With students in King County Council chambers, 1971.

413-2-279_AtKingdomeSite_1974_92.0.0050At future Kingdome site, 1974.

413-2-379_DedicationGreenRiverPumpPlant_1973_92.0.0155Dedication of the Green River Pump Plant, 1973.

413-2-384_SpellmanBar1973_92.0.0160Pouring a beer, circa 1973.


413-2-414_ArtsCommission1969_92.0.0219King County Arts Commission event, 1969.

413-2-419_Fishing1969_92.0.0224Fishing, circa 1969.




(Photos are from Series 413, County Executive John Spellman Photograph files, King County Archives.)



Visualizing King County: timber cruise reports from 1907-08


New online! The King County Archives recently completed a project to image and rehouse 45 volumes of Assessor’s timber cruise reports dating from 1907-08. Valued by researchers for their detail and accuracy, the reports are a unique resource for this time period in King County. We are thrilled to make high-quality copies of these records easily accessible through our public search site.

Topography: natural and built

The imaged reports document natural topography like ridges, swamps, and waterways; vegetation and soil types; human impacts such as areas that have been burned or logged; and the built environment, including trails, houses, farms, roads, mines, mills, and railroads.


Map from report for Section 18, Township 20, Range 11E, showing burnt-off areas, mill-worker housing, the Northern Pacific Railroad line and Morgan’s Mill railroad spur, Friday Creek, and the Green River.

What was here?

In identifying structures and landmarks, the reports provide information about land use in early 20th Century King County. When conducting research for our own Bytes and Boxes post about the Lake Wilderness Lodge, we were delighted to find reference to a summer cottage in the vicinity of what was to become Gaffney’s Resort.

Who was here?

Many of the reports note the names of landowners—and even the names of tenants—occupying a plot of land, along with inventories of equipment, livestock, orchards and other property. These lists can tell us about individuals, and they can help us picture day-to-day life in rural King County in the early 20th Century. Some reports provide a record of communities and property of Native Americans and people of color.

Detail from report for Section 7, Township 22, Range 5E, listing property on surveyed section.

What’s a timber cruise?

King County conducted timber cruises from 1907 through 1967 to estimate the taxable value of forested land. In creating the 1907-08 reports, timber cruisers surveyed potential timberlands, mapping and describing natural topography, and they noted human-made features, landmarks, and significant property. The surveys were conducted and documented using the Public Land Survey System, a geographic reference system that is the basis for legal land descriptions still used today. The earliest timber cruise reports are of particular interest not only because of their vintage and content, but also because of their beauty.


Aesthetic quality

The maps are beautiful!

Map from report for Section 2, Township 20, Range 7E.


Imaging for access and preservation

While imaging and indexing projects are labor-intensive, providing high-quality digital copies of records online makes them widely accessible to historians, scientists, students, genealogists, and others interested in the history of our region’s natural environment, infrastructure, communities, and residents. Online access also serves to protect these unique records for posterity by minimizing the need to physically handle the original paper volumes.


Historic preservation

The King County Historic Preservation Program will be combining the timber cruise map data with other GIS data developed as part of a three-phase Cultural Resources Protection Project, which focuses on improving archaeological resource protection in the County.


Zoom in!

The high-resolution scans provide such detail that one archivist claimed to have had an out-of-body experience when zooming in on a map. Our goal is to encourage use of these wonderful records, and the quality of the images will enable reproduction in online and print publications.

Detail from map from report for Section 4, Township 22, Range 5E.


Thanks to…

Scanning was made possible by support from King County’s Archaeological Mitigation Grant Fund.

The Archives would like to thank volunteer Julia Alforde for the many hours she spent reformatting images and completing data entry to enable online access to the scanned records. Thanks also to conservator Lisa Duncan Goedeke and her intern Jenessa Lingard, who carefully rehoused the original timber cruise volumes into custom archival boxes after they were scanned.


Accessing the reports by geographic location

Note: This section has been updated to correct the coverage map found below and in the instructions in PDF format, March 12, 2019.


Following are instructions for retrieving a timber cruise report for a given location. Click on the below images to enlarge, or
download instructions in PDF format


The reports cover most King County townships that were relatively undeveloped at the time of the survey, shown below. Not every section within each given township was surveyed.



Use King County iMap to identify the Section, Township, and Range of the area of interest.



Use the Township and Range information to locate the correct timber cruise volume by searching on the Archives search site.



Navigate within the volume on the Archives search site to locate an individual section map, or download the entire report to view all maps and textual matter for the township.


Celebrate Archives! Photo-ops for Puerto Rico, local activism, and moving history

If you are near downtown Seattle between 9am and 4pm on Wednesday, October 25, be sure to stop in the lobby of the Chinook Building at 5th & Jefferson, because…



In celebration of Archives Month, the King County Archives will be setting up in the lobby of King County’s Chinook Building! We will be sharing exhibits, information about the collection, archival film and video footage, and even some Archives-themed swag.

Best of all, as part of the King County Employee Giving Campaign, visitors will be able to put themselves inside historical images in our Archives “photo booth.”

Donations will go to Project HOPE, to help hurricane victims in Puerto Rico.

Assistant Archivist Jill Anderson drops in on the King County Assessor’s Office, circa 1936.

Activism in Archives at Douglass-Truth

That evening, head up the hill to the Douglass-Truth Branch of the Seattle Public Library in Seattle’s Central District, and join the King County Archives, the Seattle Municipal Archives, and Seattle ARCH (Activists Remembered Celebrated & Honored) for stories of local activism, as told through archival records.


Learn the histories of local organizing against new freeways in the 1960s and 1970s, Seattle’s open housing campaign, the citizen-led movement to have the King County logo changed from a crown to the likeness of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and more, from the recent and not-so-recent past.


Moving History returns: Sound & Color

Archives Month may end on October 31, but we will continue celebrating! Mark your calendars for another Archival Screening Night on Sunday, November 12, at the Northwest Film Forum. Happy hour starts at 6:30pm, show begins at 7:30pm. For this showing, we will be contributing more gems from the Kingdome collection.

Disability Awareness Month – a history of Metro’s Accessible Transit Services


Above: Metro Bus, 1978. A10-024, King County Metro Historic files, King County Archives.

King County Metro: By the People

Today an industry leader in public transit, Metro has been shaped by citizen involvement since its establishment by the voters of King County 60 years ago. One significant area of Metro leadership and citizen engagement has been the development of accessible transit services for people with disabilities.

The Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle (“Metro”) was formed in 1958 with a public mandate to improve local water quality. Over time, Metro expanded to other civic projects and services. The Forward Thrust bond campaign, headed by community activist James Ellis, promoted a range of regional projects, such as development of parks and pools and the construction of a multi-use stadium, the Kingdome.

Forward Thrust: A Transit System for King County

In 1968, a proposal for a regional integrated transportation system was brought to the voters as a Forward Thrust bond measure. The first two Forward Thrust transit referendums, in 1968 and 1970, were rejected by voters facing an uncertain economy. But in 1972, King County voters authorized Metro to expand its services and operate a regional bus system that would incorporate the Seattle and Overlake transit systems.


Above: King County Council Motion 900, August, 1972, endorsing the Forward Thrust transit plan. County Council Motions, Series 306, Box 11, 1972, King County Archives.


Above: Schematic of regional transit system, circa 1972. A10-024, King County Metro Historic files, King County Archives.

Buses as public transit in King County – a brief history


Above: Trolley buses in Seattle, 1941. A10-024, King County Metro Historic files, King County Archives.

Commuters, shoppers, and day-trippers in King County’s early years relied on scheduled wagon runs and water transport (the “Mosquito Fleet” of steam ferries) for public conveyance. In the late 19th and early 20th Century, street railways and cable cars provided for most public transit. With the rise of the automobile in the early 1900’s, auto stages — precursors to buses — ran scheduled routes. Trolley and motor buses were introduced in Seattle the 1920s and would by 1941 replace street railways and cable cars as the primary means of efficiently moving large groups of people within and between urban areas. (For more King County transit history, see Metro’s Transit Milestones timeline.)


Above, Seattle Transit bus, 1948. A10-024, King County Metro Historic files, King County Archives.

Opinions about Buses

Civic activism has a long history in the Northwest, and the development of the new Metro transit system in the 1970s was no exception. Residents debated the merits of electric trolley versus diesel and the practicality of articulated buses. They weighed in at meetings and in newspaper articles and letters to editors.


Above: From “Metro Proposal Not a Diesel vs. Trolley Issue,” Seattle P-I, August 24, 1972 p. 12. Misc. clipping for graphics, A10-024, King County Metro Historic files, 1970-1979, King County Archives.


Above: Cartoon by Alan Pratt appearing in the Seattle Times [ca. 1972]. Misc. clipping for graphics, Accession A10-024, King County Metro Historic files, 1970-1979, King County Archives.


Above: Metro Transit Express, circa 1973. Series 1247, Department of Transportation, Office of the Director, Box 1, DVD 001, King County Archives.

The Elderly and Handicapped Transportation Project Task Force

In in the mid-1970s, the Elderly and Handicapped Transportation Project task force was formed. In keeping with the active civic involvement in the development of the transit system, the group consisted of a Citizens Action Committee working with advisors from Metro, King County, and the City of Seattle. The group studied ways to make public transportation accessible to people with disabilities.

The project report included input from local service organizations, transportation professionals and the general public. Their findings, published in 1976, laid out not only the significant physical and economic barriers to access, but social/psychological and administrative/bureaucratic ones as well.


Detail from “The Elderly and Handicapped Transportation Project Task Force findings: barriers to access,” 1976. Department of Planning and Community Development, Planning Division, Series 291, Box 8, 1977-1980, King County Archives. (Click on image to open findings (PDF).)


The Right to Accessible Public Transit

In 1975, Metro put out a bid for 145 new buses to expand the system. Before it was finalized, John Martin, a University of Washington student with disabilities, requested a restraining order on the bid. Martin argued that without including access for persons with disabilities Metro was violating state laws that prohibit discrimination in public transportation.

The restraining order was rejected by the court as not reflecting an emergency situation, but Martin was later called to testify at Metro hearings on the subject. Martin’s protest brought attention to the issue of accessible transit. Metro subsequently revised the bid to include a requirement for wheelchair lifts on all 145 buses. In 1980, the buses, newly outfitted with wheelchair lifts, arrived.

In the resolution accepting the delivery of the new buses, the Metro Council declared, “With the delivery of these buses, Metro was able to begin accessible service.”

The initial wheelchair lifts installed turned out to be flawed, however, and the first buses including them were rejected.

Newspaper clipping: “Metro gets go-sign on bid for 145 buses.” A10-024, King County Metro Historic files, King County Archives.

Engineering a Wheelchair Lift


Above: Modifications to Flyer model bus for wheelchair lift, 1979. A10-024, King County Metro Historic files, Box 2, King County Archives.

Metro committed to finding a wheelchair lift that would work – and put significant effort into making it happen. This was at a time when the majority of transit agencies were not supporting the move toward lift-equipped fleets.

A former Boeing engineer, Ed Hall, became interested in the problem and experimented in his garage with lift designs for public transportation. Hall’s successful design, marketed under the name “Lift-U”, was approved and his wheelchair lifts were installed on the new Metro buses, and eventually on the entire fleet.

Above: Photographs showing belt securing wheelchair in bus, 1981. A10-024, King County Metro Historic files, Box 2, King County Archives.

New Infrastructure and Services

In 1978, Metro applied for and received $1.7 million in Federal Urban System funds to put in place improvements at bus zones, including ramps and other aids for disabled riders.

In addition to the inclusion of wheelchair lifts, Metro staff, working with a Metro advisory committee of blind and deaf-blind transit users, pioneered the use of Bus Identifier cards for blind, deaf-blind and limited English speaking riders. Transit operators were trained in the specific needs of these groups.

Access Vans

Along with accessible buses and services tailored to specific groups with disabilities, a fleet of vans, operating jointly between Metro and local service organizations, were acquired to provide door-to-door service for disabled riders.


Access Van, A10-024, King County Metro Historic files, Box 2, King County Archives.

The Americans with Disabilities Act

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was ratified in Congress and signed into law by President George H. W. Bush. The Act codified the rights of individuals with disabilities to equal access to employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and access to state and local government programs and services.

The road to the ADA had been long one. Equal access in public transportation had first come to the public eye many years before, spurred by the Urban Mass Transit Act of 1964. A later revision in 1974 included provisions for accessible access, but it was not until the late 1980’s that congress took the steps that led to the passage of the ADA.

Changes under the Americans With Disabilities Act

In 1992, King County voters approved the merger of Metro and King County government, bringing Metro transit services into a new County Department of Transportation.

A special task force established at the request of the County Council reviewed Metro’s paratransit programs, both to ensure their compliance with the law and to identify potential cost savings where the needs of seniors and people with disabilities might be met through changes to the overall transit system or through other programs.

A Council report showed that at the time of the ratification of the federal American with Disabilities Act in 1990, paratransit services had accounted for 1% of the Metro transit budget. The report projected that by 2004, that percentage would rise to 11%. Representatives from King County’s Accessible Services Committee, senior and disability interest groups, and the general public participated on the task force, and input was sought from Metro transit customers.

Excerpts from public comments regarding proposed changes to Access transportation’s paratransit program, submitted to the King County Special Transportation Services Task Force in 1998 and 1999. A11-028 Department of Transportation, Transit, Paratransit policy background, 1997-1999, Box 2, King County Archives.


Training for Metro Operators

From Metro Transit’s earliest days, Metro drivers received training in how to serve riders with disabilities. The below excerpts from training videos in the Archives collection instruct drivers not only in policies and procedures, but also in the importance of treating all riders with respect.

Outtakes from “Metro Regional Reduced Fare Permits,” 1995, Metro. A17-035 Department of Transportation, Transit / Paratransit Rideshare Operations, Outreach and training videos, King County Archives.

The following video provides Access drivers training in serving passengers with disabilities who use letter boards to help communicate.

Outtakes from Metro Access driver training video, “Communications with Letter Boards,” (circa 2000), King County Metro. A17-035 Department of Transportation, Transit / Paratransit Rideshare Operations, Outreach and training videos, King County Archives.

Access was providing more than 1,000,000 trips to King County residents by 2006. That year, King County Executive Ron Sims ceremoniously presented keys to 21 new vans, paid for by a grant from the Washington State Department of Transportation, to local service agencies such as Senior Services, Puget Sound Essential Services, and Providence Elder Care.

King County Executive Ron Sims presenting Access van keys to non-profit agencies, 2006. A17-035 Department of Transportation, Transit / Paratransit Rideshare Operations, Outreach and training videos, King County Archives.

Metro Accessible Services Today

Today, Metro accessible services, including Access vans, provide over 1.3 million trips per year.

Community involvement was influential in the development of the regional transit system and the push to provide services to the disabled community. Thanks to the collaborative work of the task forces and the contributions of civic minded residents, King County Metro provides services beyond the requirements established by ADA.

Citizens continue to have an important influence in shaping Metro’s transit and paratransit services. The Transit Advisory Commission, comprised of King County residents, plays an active role in consulting and advising the Regional Transit Committee. In addition, Metro is forming an Access Community Advisory Group to help Metro strengthen its Paratransit Access service.

For more information about Metro’s paratransit services or to learn about joining the Advisory Group, please visit:

For Further Research

This post is based on documentation in the King County Department of Transportation’s historical files, records of the King County Council, and other series in the King County Archives collection. Note that the majority of historical records from the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle, prior to merging with King County in 1994, and Seattle Transit are held by the Puget Sound Regional Branch of the Washington State Archives.

Please feel free to contact us with your research questions!