The original University building, c.
In 1854, territorial governor Isaac Stevens recommended the establishment of a university in the Washington Territory. Prominent Seattle-area residents, including Methodist preacher Daniel Bagley, saw this as a chance to add to the city's potential and prestige. Bagley learned of a law that allowed United States territories to sell land to raise money in support of public schools. At the time, Arthur A. Denny, an early founder of Seattle and member of the territorial legislature, aimed to increase the city's importance by moving the territory's capital from Olympia to Seattle. However, Bagley eventually convinced Denny that the establishment of a university would assist more in the development of Seattle's economy. Two universities were initially chartered, but later the decision was repealed in favor of a single university in Lewis County provided that locally donated land was available. When no site emerged, Denny successfully petitioned the legislature to reconsider Seattle as a location in 1858.
In 1861, scouting began for an appropriate 10 acres (4 ha) site in Seattle to serve as a new university campus. Arthur and Mary Denny donated eight acres, while fellow pioneers Edward Lander, and Charlie and Mary Terry, donated two acres on Denny's Knoll in downtown Seattle. More specifically, this tract was bounded by 4th Avenue to the west, 6th Avenue to the east, Union Street to the north, and Seneca Streets to the south.
On November 4, 1861, Washington opened as the Territorial University of Washington. The legislature passed articles incorporating the University, and establishing its Board of Regents in 1862. The school initially struggled, closing three times: in 1863 for low enrollment and again in 1867 and 1876 due to funds shortage. Washington successfully awarded its first graduate Clara Antoinette McCarty Wilt in 1876, with a bachelor's degree in science.
19th century relocation
By the time Washington State entered the Union in 1889, both Seattle and the University had grown substantially. Washington's total undergraduate enrollment increased from 30 to nearly 300 students, and the campus's relative isolation in downtown Seattle faced encroaching development. A special legislative committee, headed by UW graduate Edmond Meany, was created to find a new campus to better serve the growing student population and faculty. The committee eventually selected a site on the northeast of downtown Seattle, called Union Bay, and the legislature appropriated funds for its purchase and construction. In 1895, the University relocated to the new campus by moving into the newly built Denny Hall. The University Regents tried and failed to sell the old campus, eventually settling with leasing the area. This would later become one of the University's most valuable pieces of real estate in modern-day Seattle, generating millions in annual revenue with what is now called the Metropolitan Tract. The original Territorial University building was torn down in 1908, and its former site now houses the Fairmont Olympic Hotel.
The sole-surviving remnants of Washington's first building are four 24-foot (7.3 m), white, hand-fluted cedar, Ionic columns. They were salvaged by Edmond S. Meany, one of the University's first graduates and former head of its history department. Meany and his colleague, Dean Herbert T. Condon, dubbed the columns as "Loyalty," "Industry," "Faith", and "Efficiency", or "LIFE." The columns now stand in the Sylvan Grove Theater.
Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition on the UW campus toward Mount Rainier
20th century expansion
Organizers of the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition eyed the still largely undeveloped campus as a prime setting for their world's fair. They came to an agreement with Washington's Board of Regents that allowed them to use the campus grounds for the exposition, surrounding today's Drumheller Fountain facing towards Mount Rainier. In exchange, organizers agreed Washington would take over the campus and its development after the fair's conclusion. This arrangement led to a detailed site plan and several new buildings, prepared in part by John Charles Olmsted. The plan was later incorporated into the overall UW campus master plan, permanently affecting the campus layout.
Both World Wars brought the military to campus, with certain facilities temporarily loaned to the federal government. Regardless, subsequent post-war periods were times of dramatic growth for the University. The period between the wars saw a significant expansion on the upper campus. Construction of the Liberal Arts Quadrangle, known to students as "The Quad," began in 1916 and continued to 1939. The University's architectural centerpiece, Suzzallo Library, was built in 1926 and expanded in 1935. After World War II, further growth came with the G.I. Bill. Among the most important developments of this period was the opening of the School of Medicine in 1946, now consistently ranked as the top medical school in the United States. It would eventually also led to the University of Washington Medical Center, ranked by U.S. News and World Report to be among the top ten hospitals in the nation.
Aerial view of campus, circa 1922.
During this era, many Japanese Americans were sent away to internment camps along the west coast, as part of Executive Order 9066 following the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Many Japanese American students and "soon-to-be" graduates were unable to receive diplomas, or be recognized for accomplishments at the University, until Washington's commemoration ceremony for the Japanese Americans entitled The Long Journey Home, in May 2008.
From 1958-1973, the University of Washington saw tremendous growth in students, faculties, operating budget, and prestige under leadership of Charles Odegaard. UW student enrollment had more than doubled to 34,000 as the baby boom generation came of age. However, this era was also marked by high levels of student activism, as was the case at many American universities. Much of the unrest focused around civil rights and opposition to the Vietnam War. In response to anti-Vietnam War protests by the late 1960s, the University Safety and Security Division became the University of Washington Police Department.
Odegaard instituted a vision of building a "community of scholars", convincing the Washington State legislatures to increase their investments towards the University. Washington senators, such as Henry M. Jackson and Warren G. Magnuson, also used their political clout to build research funds for UW. The results included an operating budget increase of $37 million in 1958 to over $400 million in 1973, and solidified UW as a top recipients of federal research funds in the United States even today. Establishment of technology giants such as Microsoft, Boeing and Amazon near UW has also proved to be highly influential, not only improving graduate prospects, but also helping to attract millions of dollars in university and research funding through its extensive list of distinguished faculty and alumni network.
In 1990, the University of Washington opened additional campuses in Bothell and Tacoma. Although originally intended for students who have already completed two years of higher education, both schools have transitioned into four-year, degree-granting universities. The first freshman class for these campuses came in the fall of 2006, and both campuses now offer a selection of master's degree programs as well. In 2012, the University began exploring plans and governmental approval to expand the main Seattle campus, which includes significant increases in student housing, teaching facilities for the growing student body and faculty, as well as expanded public transit options.
The UW station, completed in March 2015 with six months ahead of schedule and $150 million under budget, connects Seattle's Capitol Hill to the UW Husky Stadium within 5 minutes of rail travel time. It represents a previously unavailable option of transportation into and out of the campus, designed specifically to reduce dependence on private vehicles, bicycles and local King County buses.