Click here for more photos of Columbia City.
Columbia City is a neighborhood, urban village, business district, landmark district & National Register Historic District in SE Seattle. There is confusion over the extent of Columbia City. Boundaries that appear on internet maps correspond with the Seattle City Clerk's Geographic Indexing Atlas. The City of Seattle has no official neighborhood boundaries. Hillman City & Rainier Vista are often lumped in with Columbia City. As a longtime area resident, I think Columbia City is contained by 48th Ave S on the east, Martin Luther King Jr Way S on the west, S Brandon St on the south, S Alaska St on the north & the 3 blocks between S Alaska St, S Oregon St, 33rd Ave S & Rainier Ave S.
The City of Seattle designated the Columbia City Residential Urban Village in 1994. Those boundaries correspond roughly with those given above, except for the addition of Rainier Vista & the S Genesee St Business District along Rainier Avenue where it connects to the North Rainier Hub Urban Village. Residential urban villages provide a focus of goods and services for residents & surrounding communities, but not a concentration of employment. Columbia City includes low-rise multifamily with townhouses, apartment buildings & commercial zones.
Columbia City was incorporated in 1893, then annexed by Seattle in 1907. In the early days, economic activity was limited mostly to logging & the lumber mill (the 1st business built in Columbia City) on the NW corner of Rainier Ave S & S Brandon St. The Seattle, Renton & Southern Railway reached Columbia City in 1890, when the area was still densely forested. Columbia City shipped surplus lumber to Seattle, but much of Columbia City's lumber was used to build in & around Columbia City. From 1900 to 1907, Columbia City grew rapidly. Many of existing buildings in the landmark district were built then.
Columbia City was named after Christopher Columbus. Streets were named after the famous explorers Ferdinand Magellan (S Ferdinand St) Henry Hudson (S Hudson St) & Amerigo Vespucci (S Americus St). Lots were sold beginning in April 1891, shortly after regular railway service began. In 1892, the town had more than 40 residences, a town hall, a school with 75 students, a post office, 2 churches, a park, various stores & trains to Seattle every 30 minutes.