Auburn is a city in King County and additionally Pierce County, Washington, United States; with the majority of spatial land area within King County. The population was 70,180 at the 2010 United States Census. Auburn is a suburb in the Seattle metropolitan area. Auburn is currently ranked the fourteenth largest city in the state of Washington.
Auburn is bordered by the cities of Federal Way, Pacific, and Algona to the west, Sumner to the south, Kent to the north, and unincorporated King County to the east. About half of the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation is located within the southern city limits.
Auburn was originally incorporated as Slaughter, Washington after Lt. William Slaughter, who died in a skirmish fighting Native Americans which are now apart of the modern day Muckleshoot tribe in 1855. At the time, the main hotel in town was called the "Slaughter House." In 1893, a large group of settlers from Auburn, New York, moved to Slaughter, and renamed the town to "Auburn." Due to this history, when Auburn was building its second high school in the mid-1990s, there was a grass-roots effort to name the high school "Slaughter High School," but it was eventually decided that the name would be "Auburn Riverside High Schooll," whose mascots are the Ravens.
There are several locations in Auburn on the National and State Registers of Historic Places including the Auburn Masonic Temple .
The city of Auburn, located south of Seattle, Washington, was home to some of the earliest settlers in King County. Nestled in a fertile river valley, Auburn has been both a farm community and a center of business and industry for more than 150 years. Auburn is located near the original confluence of the Green and White rivers, both of which contain runoff water from the Cascade Mountain range. The valley was originally the home of the Skopamish, Smalhkamish, and Stkamish Indian tribes. The first white men in the region were explorers and traders who arrived in the 1830s.
Settlers first came to the valley in the 1850s. In November, a military unit led by Lieutenant William Slaughter camped near what is now present-day Auburn.
A new treaty was written which provided the establishment of the Muckleshoot reservation, which is the only Indian reservation now within the boundaries of King County. The White River tribes collectively became known as the Muckleshoot tribe.
White settlers, the Neely and Ballard families began returning to the area. In 1891, the town of Slaughter incorporated. Although many older citizens considered the town's name as a memorial, many newer residents understandably felt uncomfortable with it. Within two years, the town was renamed Auburn, taken from the first line of Oliver Goldsmith's poem, The Deserted Village: "Sweet Auburn! Loveliest village of the plain."
Auburn had been a bustling center for hop farming until 1890 when the crops were destroyed by aphids. After that, the farms were mostly dairy farms and berry farms. Nevertheless, flooding was still a problem for Auburn farmers up until the Howard A. Hanson Dam was opened in 1962. This dam on the Green River, along with the Mud Mountain Dam on the White River, provided controlled river management, which left the valley nearly flood-free and opened up the rich bottom lands for industrial development.
Another impetus to Auburn's growth was the railroad. The Northern Pacific Railway's subsidiary the Northern Pacific and Puget Sound Shore Railroad opened a line from approximately Puyallup, Washington, through to Seattle, Washington, in 1882. The Seattle-Tacoma Interurban line that allowed easy access to both cities starting in 1902. The railroad, along with better roads, caused many new companies to set up business in Auburn, among them the Borden Condensery (which made Borden's Condensed Milk) and the Northern Clay Company.
Through the twentieth century Auburn grew like many American towns. Many young men went off to fight in the First World War, which was followed by the great influenza epidemic. The 1920s were prosperous for citizens, but the Great Depression of the 1930s left many in need. World War II brought great hardship to many local Japanese-American farmers when they were moved to internment camps and their land taken from them. At the same time, local boys were sent to fight in the Pacific, North Africa, and Europe. Many were wounded and some died in battle.
The post-war era was prosperous to Auburn, bringing more businesses and a community college to the city. In 1963, the Boeing Company built a large facility to mill sheet metal skin for jet airliners. As time went on, many farms disappeared as the land was converted to industrial use. In 1995, The SuperMall of the Great Northwest was built in the valley, bringing in consumers from all over the Puget Sound region.
Much of the city's transition from agricultural small town to industrial and suburban development remains. A monument in the memory of Lieutenant Slaughter, erected in 1918, still stands in a local park. The Neely Mansion, built by the son of a pioneer in 1891, has been refurbished and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Auburn's downtown still maintains a "Main Street U.S.A." appearance.
For 120 years, property owners, business large and small, and individuals have invested and succeeded in downtown Auburn. Auburn’s Station District is undergoing a resurgence. Since 2010, the City of Auburn has invested over $10 million in federal and state funds in downtown projects. The first step in any great project is a strong foundation. The new downtown foundation includes upgraded utilities, fiber conduits, undergrounded power and modern aesthetics above ground. This resulted in the City earning Greenroads™ Bronze Certification as a result of the many environmentally friendly, low-impact development features included in the downtown core and has attracted the high end developments that will spur the city’s growth.
“The area needed 21st century infrastructure to support a 21st century downtown and that is now fully underway,” says Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus.
Landmark Development Group is well underway in the construction of the Trek Apartments, a five story mixed-use project that when complete will revitalize the Station District with 128 market rate apartments and 12,000 square feet of first floor retail. A second group of Seattle developers consisting of Teutsch Partners, Pillar Properties, and Merrill Development have partnered to develop two city blocks of residential-retail projects that will increase the downtown density of the transit station area.
Although the station in Auburn is not necessarily new, the revitalization activity around it is. With rail service comes the ability to support higher density, mixed-use development, broadened labor markets, increased business, travel efficiencies, and growth.
Owner of the Truitt Building and partner in Oddfellas Pub and Eatery in Downtown Auburn, David Allen says, “We’re excited for the future of downtown. I think this is our time. We’ve had a lot of fun with this. Hands down, this is the most fun I’ve had opening a restaurant.”
Auburn has been identified as the center of the largest industrial complex in the northwest because it sits in the middle of six neighboring cities and has access to the major north-south, east-west routes of the region. With a common desire for change and revitalization; Auburn’s citizens, council members, and developers are reenergizing the look and feel of Auburn’s Station District.
It could be said that Auburn’s train station is an anchor for its local businesses and new development. Whether the focus is manufacturing, service, entertainment, or green technology, Auburn’s ability to draw talent from Seattle or Tacoma via the rail makes growing a business and new development in Auburn achievable and sustainable.