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Welcome to the Rainier Valley Historical Society

The Rainier Valley Historical Society records and provides access to the rich history of Seattle's Rainier Valley!

Explore the unique history of the Rainier Valley, Seattle's most diverse community!

In 1890 J. K. Edmiston built an electric railway through the heavily wooded and sparsely populated Rainier Valley, hoping to attract buyers for the lots he had platted in the town he called Columbia. Over decades that followed, unique communities grew up around the streetcar stations: the Italian neighborhood of "Garlic Gulch" at Atlantic Street, intentionally tony Mount Baker, Columbia City with its world-famous fireworks factory, Hillman City's Irish community, and so on, all the way to Taylor's Mill south of Rainier Beach.

Today some of these communities have faded from memory, but others retain their distinct identities, and new communities have taken shape.

African Americans, Latinos, and immigrants from Southeast Asia, East Africa, and elsewhere followed in the footsteps of the Italians, Germans and Irish, making new homes in this uniquely diverse community. They have formed social clubs, faith communities, and community centers.

Our mission is to document the story of the Valley and all its inhabitants through the collection, preservation, and interpretation of documents, photographs, and artifacts. Join us!


Attend RVHS's Annual Meeting for Members and Friends May 7th, at Rainier Arts Center.

You are invited to attend this year’s Rainier Valley Historical Society Annual Meeting. There will be a presentation on the history of South End Seattle Community Organization (SESCO) , with special guest speaker Rodney Herold, one of the early leaders of the organization. We will also have a display of the Franklin High School (Seattle) Hall of Fame inductees, on loan to us from the Franklin Alumni Association in honor of the centennial of the very first graduating class from FHS that attended Franklin for their entire high school careers. There will also be an overview of our monthly Dismantling Racism community forum, now in its second season. Lunch will be served after the program. 


Order our book, Rainier Valley, an Arcadia Publishing Images of America publication. Click here for an order form and here for PayPal.

Download the most recent issue of our newsletter, Rainier Valley Heritage News: Fall 2015


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This web site made possible in part by a grant from 4Culture.