A brief history of Fremont and how it became the Center of the Universe:
We’ll start close-ish to the beginning in 1888 when two Nebraskans, Edward and Carrie Blewett, purchased the land of Fremont from Arthur Denny (one of Seattle’s most influential pioneers) and John Hoyt (Washington Territory Superior Court Justice). I’m guessing Ed & Carrie were homesick because they named this new land purchase after their hometown: Fremont, Nebraska.
It didn’t take long for this land to transform and develop. Of course, there were no bridges at the time so Seattleites of this era were taxied to the northern neighborhoods in steamboats. (And before that, canoes.) This is one of my favorite things to think about when I’m staring out at Lake Union; the ladies boarding in their bustle dresses and fussy hats, the men with their mustaches and canes. The spectacle of it all, I can only imagine.
Years later, streetcar and railway transportation was well underway. With the help of city planners, Fremont had become a major hub for public transportation. It was the place to be if you wanted to take the streetcar up to Woodland Park or Green Lake (the neighborhood just north of Fremont). And in 1910 after the construction of the Interurban railway, Fremont was one of the first stops out of the Seattle area for passengers making the trip up to Everett. With so many of the city’s major railway lines converging and orbiting, if you will, around Fremont, the reputation for being the epicenter of the universe is understandable: or at least within Seattle’s universe.
But Fremont is a go big or go home kind of neighborhood, so in 1991 a group of scientists got together to prove that Fremont was, in fact, the the center of the entire known universe. They buried themselves in extensive research––with no shortage of white lab coats, massive stacks of research books, chalkboards full of mystifying equations, beakers and test tubes and that sort of thing––until one day the stars aligned, so to speak. In that moment, they looked at each other and exclaimed, in unison, “Eureka!” Shortly after, an official declaration was made: Fremont is the Center of the Universe.
I mean, I wasn’t there, but one can speculate.
Also, at this point I should probably mention that in other versions of this story writers chose to put “scientists” and “official declaration” in quotation marks. Some also mentioned that this very legitimate scientific decision was likely made late one night at a bar, and ends with the “scientists” claiming that their “declaration” could neither be proven or disproven. Other writers went even further and pointed out that no science was involved.
Having said that, as an obedient resident of Seattle, I personally take those details with a grain of salt. Facts schmacts. I like the lore, and much like the rest of the city, I’m sticking to it. Case in point: in 1994 the Metropolitan King County Council rolled out an official proclamation to make Fremont’s central status indisuptable.
The proclamation begins with:
“Whereas, Fremont is a State of Mind, not a foreign nation but an ImagiNation based on the freedom to dream….”
And ends with…
“Further, the Metropolitan King County Council plainly postulates and proclaims Fremont to be Center of the Universe…”
I admit, the lines between fact and fiction get a little blurry the further this origin story goes, however, I’m definitely not making this last part up. You can/should read the entire proclamation here.
And if empirical scientific evidence, and a whimsical county council proclamation aren’t enough proof that Fremont is the Center of the Universe, (or at least a dedication to that belief,) then I’d like to point out (with a somewhat straight face) that Fremont’s welcome sign and iconic guide post say so.
If you ask me, it doesn’t get any more legit than that.
Center of the Universe related attractions and where to find them:
Center of the Universe Imposters:
One last thing: Fremont does have some competition as Center of the Universe. So far the list of known imposters includes: East Hills Center (of the Universe) in Grand Rapids, MI….and…the alleged Center of the Universe in Tulsa, OK. However, let it be known that neither of these places have 1/2 the proof, research, or emphatic local support that Fremont does to back up said claims.
I love the way history gives us a sense of place, but am the furthest thing from a historian. In other words, my research on Seattle’s history is limited, and much like the Blewett’s, I’m a transplant from the midwest….so by all means, please fact check me!
All sources should be linked. (I heavily relied on historylink.org, which is a great resource if you want to dig deeper into Washington history.)
*Here’s A little bit more about Seattle’s public transportation history
*I also recently discovered the wedgwood in seattle blog: a gold mine of wonderfully researched essays on Seattle’s history.