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King County Archives

A repository of county government records
King County Archives
1215 E. Fir St.
Building A
Seattle, WA 98122

206-296-1538
archives@kingcounty.gov

Monday - Friday
9:00 am - 4:00 pm

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Hooverville

hoovervillet

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Seattle's Hooverville, named for the Depression era president, was established in 1931 by unemployed men of varied ethnic backgrounds. The settlement consisted primarily of unskilled laborers who had worked previously in a number of industries, including logging, fishing and construction.

Hooverville was bounded by the Port of Seattle, warehouses, and Railroad Avenue. At its height, there were more than 200 shacks located along Seattle's waterfront on filled-in tide lands formerly occupied by the Skinner & Eddy shipbuilding corporation. Other Seattle shacktowns included a settlement located at Smith Cove on top of a garbage dump and a village called Louisville in the southern industrial section.

Hooverville was viewed as a hazard and a nuisance by city officials. In 1932, the City burned several of the Hooverville dwellings. Residents literally dug themselves in, placing tin covers on underground dugouts to protect themselves against a second attempt by the City to burn the shacktown. Officials agreed to meet with the residents and to allow the shacktown to exist as long as certain regulations were met.

Almost a decade later, in 1939, the outbreak of war in Europe and the advent of the Lend-Lease Agreement with the Allies brought employment opportunities in the airplane and shipbuilding industries for shacktown residents.

In 1941 the City Council convened a shack abatement committee chaired by a Health Department representative. This committee also included officials from the Fire, Building and Police Departments. A shack elimination program ensued. Authorities posted eviction notices, and destroyed the shacks with fire and bulldozers.