At first glance, Seattle Southside might not seem like a destination of mystery and intrigue like Transylvania or Wiltshire, England; but the region has had its fair share of rich and colorful historical events, mysterious landmarks, and unsolved mysteries. From pre-Roswell close encounters of the third kind, to Cold War-era missile launch sites converted to dog parks, get to know the little-known facts about Seattle Southside with this list!

  1. UFO Encounter
  2. Cold War Missile Launch Site
  3. Most Diverse High School in the Country
  4. Women-owned Businesses and Chocolate
  5. Famous Bank Robbers
  6. An Early European Settlement
  7. One-of-a-Kind Attractions
  8. Local Legends: Bruce Bickford

 

1. Seattle Southside Had a UFO Encounter Weeks Before Roswell

Watch the CityStream Segment above to learn more about the Maury Island Incident and other fun oddities around Seattle! In June of 1947, just off the coast of Des Moines near Maury Island, Fred Crisman and Harold Dahl had a close encounter with a UFO. Allegedly, a group of UFOs rained down a metallic substance on their boat, injuring one member of their crew and killing Dahl’s beloved dog! In the days following the encounter, a mysterious man in black made contact with Dahl and threatened him not to tell anyone of the incident or “bad things would happen.” Years later, local filmmakers would recreate the encounter in the 2014 short film The Maury Island Incident. You can even take a walking tour around Des Moines to see the sights on the Maury Island Incident Walking Tour.

 

2. Grandview Off-Leash Dog Park Used to be a NIKE Missile Launch Site

Women walking dogs in front of snowy mountain

With all the happy dogs frolicking around at Grandview Off-Leash Dog Park nowadays, you’d never know that the location used to house a Cold War-era missile defense system. The Nike Project came about in the late 1940s as a defense system against hypothetical incoming Soviet bombers. Nearly a dozen Nike Missile sites were established in Washington state in the 40s and 50s, and one such site is just off Military Road. Since the Nike project fell out of use in the 60s and 70s, most of the sites fell into disrepair and were forgotten about. The launch magazine off Military Road was covered in soil and is now part of the Grandview Off-Leash Dog Park! Take a minute to think about the history of the site the next time you let Fido run wild at Grandview. This spot is a part of our Scenes program highlighting local history, culture, and art. Learn more about the history of this site and the other stops along the Scenes trail.

 

3. Foster High School is the Most Diverse in the Country

International flags on display at Foster High School in Tukwila, WA

The Seattle Southside region is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse places in the world. This diversity is reflected in the red-hot international dining scene, but there’s likely no better example of the region’s diversity than at the local schools. Foster High School in Tukwila is one of the most diverse schools in the country with students from 50 countries who speak 45 different languages. This beautiful diversity is celebrated with dozens of flags hanging in the cafeteria of Foster High. While Foster High School is in the Tukwila School District, the Highline School District, which covers a large portion of Seattle Southside, has 99 different languages spoken by students throughout its school. Such wonderful diversity helps make Seattle Southside the incredible place that it is.

 

4. Woman-Owned Businesses are Big in Seattle Southside

woman standing in front of city and water
Jean Thompson, owner and CEO of Seattle Chocolate. ​Photo credit: JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Who run the world? In Seattle Southside, strong, entrepreneurial women have established and cultivated successful businesses for years! The local legacy of women taking an idea and running with it goes back to the women of a Seattle bridge club who, in 1932, came up with a delicious and easy to make pie crust recipe they called “Crust Ease,” a brand we know today as Krusteaz. More recently, investor and entrepreneur Jean Thompson gave the Seattle Chocolate company a true, rising from the ashes story. After an earthquake destroyed the original chocolate factory in 2001, Jean took over as Owner and CEO and rebuilt the company into the colorful, delicious truffle-bar company we know today. Today, you can take a tour of the factory she built with on the Experience Chocolate factory tour! Finally, the list of local woman-owned and operated companies would not be complete without mentioning Explore Seattle Southside’s former President & CEO Katherine Kertzman. She started our organization from the ground up and her legacy lives on through our work today! Read more about Katherine and the story of Explore Seattle Southside.

 

5. Seattle Southside is no Stranger to Unsolved Mysteries

Dummy parachuting with money flying

In November of 1971, a man who gave the name Dan Cooper purchased a one-way ticket from Portland International Airport to Sea-Tac International Airport. Soon after takeoff, he gave a note to a flight attendant informing her that he had a bomb and demanded $200,000 and four parachutes. Upon landing at Sea-Tac, passengers disembarked, and the man’s demands were met. The plane soon took off with the man and a skeleton crew on board. Twenty minutes into the flight, the man later known as “D.B. Cooper” jumped out of the plane and into history, never to be seen again. This story and many other local legends and historical events are documented at the Highline Heritage Museum in Burien.

 

6. One of the First European Settlements in the Area was at Foster Links Golf Course

Foster Links Golf Course along the Duwamish River

Joseph and Stephen Foster established one of the first European settlements along the Duwamish River in 1852; a site that would later become Foster Links Golf Course. After settling in the area, Joseph Foster later served as an early Washington Territorial legislator and the first superintendent of schools (hence Foster High School). You can still find a plaque commemorating the site of Foster’s original homestead at Tukwila’s oldest maple tree at Foster Golf Links.

 

7. The Area is Full of One-Of-A-Kind Attractions

Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden

 

8. Local Legends: Bruce Bickford

Bruce Bickford

Bruce Bickford, Seattle's famous claymation artist

Bruce Bickford is a legend among animation enthusiasts. Born in Seattle in 1947, Bickford has lived his life almost exclusively in SeaTac, Washington. He began his animation career as a teen, animating clay figures driving model cars, before graduating high school and enlisting in the Marines. After serving in the Marines for three years, including eleven months in Vietnam, Bruce returned home and got right back into animation, producing a few short films. 

In 1973, Bickford was introduced to legendary musician, Frank Zappa. The two would eventually collaborate on multiple musical films, including: Baby Snakes and The Amazing Mister Bickford. Since that time, Bickford has continued to produce striking images in films and shorts, using claymation, stop-motion, and line animation, working mostly out of his garage in SeaTac. 

For more information on Bruce, please visit brettingram.org

 

Shameless plug, we know, but we hear “I had no idea this place existed” every single day! For example, did you know DEFY: Seattle is the largest extreme air sports park in the world? What about the fact that the Robert Morris Earthwork was the first piece of art of its kind to be included in the National Register of Historic Places? Did you know that you can view the world's largest independent aerospace collection at the Museum of Flight? Another great way to take to the skies is to ride in a hot air balloon with Seattle Ballooning (don’t forget to download the Do More-Save More Passport for a significant discount!). Also, have you heard the story about how the Seike Japanese Garden at the Highline SeaTac Botanical Gardens has a history that dates to WWII? We're an area full of hidden histories and stories, and there are many more hidden gems where that came from on our Play page.