Mukilteo, Washington
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History of Mukilteo, Washington

Though Mukilteo was officially incorporated on May 8, 1947, the city has a historic role in the development of the Puget Sound. It was at Mukilteo that the Point Elliott Treaty was signed between Governor Isaac Stevens and the chiefs of 22 Puget Sound tribes on January 22, 1855.

The treaty ceded land to the United States from Point Pully (now called Three Tree Point south of Seattle) to the British (Canadian) border in exchange for a variety of benefits, including land, education, health care and hunting and fishing rights. The treaty was signed before more than 2,500 Native Americans.

According to the Mukilteo Historical Society, the town became the first settled by Europeans in 1858 and was the county seat of Snohomish County from 1861 to 1867, when the city of Snohomish became the county seat. Initially the settlement was called Point Elliott, the name given the location by the Wilkes Expedition in 1841.

It its early years, Mukilteo was a fishing village, trading post, and a port-of-entry. Surrounding wooded hills filled with Douglas fir, cedar and hemlock supported a lumber mill and the town also had a cannery, brewery and a gunpowder plant. Traces of the powder mill remain in the name of Powder Mill Gulch, a ravine that provides rail access from the Mukilteo waterfront to the Boeing wide-body plant at Paine Field.

By 1900, the population was only 350. Then in 1901, the federal Lighthouse Board decided to put a light and fog signal at the point in Mukilteo. The lighthouse, which still stands today, was completed in 1906

Even at incorporation in 1947, almost a century after the Point Elliott Treaty, Mukilteo’s population stood at only 775. But by 1947, there was ferry service to Whidbey Island, a fuel storage facility for the Air Force on the waterfront, and a major rail line for the Great Northern Railroad along the city’s entire waterfront.

The first growth spurt for the city came with the 1980 annexation of an additional 1.2 square miles to the south along the Mukilteo Speedway or WA 525, which increased the population to 4,130 people. In 1991, the Harbour Pointe area was annexed, doubling the size of the city to 6.25 square miles. The annexation increased the city’s population to just over 10,000 and also presaged a shift from the Old Town commercial center near the ferry to new shopping and banking facilities at Harbour Pointe. With development since the Harbour Pointe annexation, the city's population has reached 19,360 (2005). The city has agreed to an urban growth area that includes approximately 15,000 additional potential residents.

The major parkland in the city is the former state park and lighthouse, next to the ferry docks. In 1954, the state acquired 17 acres of land around the lighthouse and made it into a state park, including a popular boat ramp. In 2003, the state faced a budgetary crisis and offered to cede the park to the city, which the city accepted. The city renamed the park Mukilteo Lighthouse Park and has plans for redevelopment that may ultimately spend $6 million for new facilities.

Substantial development is expected along the waterfront in the next five to 10 years, with the state planning to build a new ferry terminal east of the current location. The Mukilteo-Clinton ferry provides service for 3 million passengers per year with two ferries currently serving the run.

The transportation hub will use some of the land being turned over by the federal government on the site of the old fuel docks. Included is an $18 million terminal for Sounder commuter rail service, which currently runs from Everett to Seattle but does not stop in Mukilteo. In addition, the city and Port of Everett are working to redevelop the remaining acreage on the tank farm property for private and public use.

For more information, visit the Mukilteo Historic Society.

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