Yesler Creek History

Yesler Creek remained unaffected by European settlement until the late 19th century when the Lake Shore and Eastern Railroad expanded to northeast Seattle (Barret, 1981; p. 6). The first major development of the area began with the establishment of Yesler Mill – also known as the “Yesler Coal, Wood, and Lumber Company” (Barrett, 1981; p. 13) – which was constructed in 1888.  By 1892, the mill supported 36 employees who could cut “7,500 board feet of lumber every twelve hours” (Larson, 2005; p. 169). The success of the mill encouraged the growth of a small town, called the Town of Yesler, which included thirty-eight homes, a single church, and Yesler School (Barrett, 1981; p. 13, 38).

Image of the Yesler Coal, Wood, and Lumber Company (Barrett, 1981).

The town continued to grow steadily, and its district was annexed by the City of Seattle in 1910 (Barrett, 1981; p. 28). By the 1920s, the area included farms, housing, and a golf course (R. Larson, personal communication, February 13, 2012). The Union Bay area literally expanded in 1916 when the city lowered Lake Washington and filled in the bay with garbage and dirt (Barrett, 1981; p. 31).  Furthermore, access to the Town of Yesler increased after the construction of the NE 45th St viaduct in the 1930’s (Barrett, 1981; p. 51).

Map of the Yesler Creek area (Barrett, 1981).

Few changes occurred in the area surrounding Yesler Creek during the mid-20th century after residents prevented a developer from building apartment complexes near the creek. Instead the University of Washington bought the land and left it untouched until the opening of the Children’s Hospital in 1953, which put much of Yesler Creek’s stream channel in culverts (Barrett, 1981; p. 65). Today, the creek is now almost entirely in culverts, with the few open stream channels located just north of NE 65th St, near 40th Ave NE and NE 60th St, and in the Burke Gilman Playground Park (City of Seattle).


Barrett, C., & Laurelhurst Community Club. (1981). A history of Laurelhurst. S.l: s.n..

City of Seattle. (1999). Streams and Watersheds of Seattle [map].  Retrieved from

Larson, R. J. (2005). The flora of Seattle in 1850: Major species and landscapes prior to urban development.

Larson, R. J. (2012, February 13). Personal Interview.