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Top: Men pulling B & W into Boeing seaplane hangar on Lake Union, Seattle, 1916. (Museum of History & Industry, Seattle; All Rights Reserved.) Bottom: View of same location today, at the foot of Roanoke Street, July 2011. (Photo by Marcie Sillman.)

Changing The Sound

On September 24, 1991, the rock band Nirvana released its first major label album, "Nevermind." It was an instant success. Almost overnight, the international media turned the spotlight on Seattle. The visitors who flocked to the Pacific Northwest found a city in transition.

Twenty years earlier, in March 1971, Congress cancelled the Supersonic Transport Program. The next day, Seattle's major employer, Boeing, laid off 7,000 workers. For a city that built its economy on aviation, along with timber and the maritime industries, it was a cruel blow. In less than two years, Boeing's workforce declined from almost 100,000 to 35,000 employees. One observer says it felt like the Great Depression.

But by 1986, just 15 years later, Seattle's economy had rebounded and diversified. New industries, not Boeing, would define the region: Microsoft, Starbucks, and Sub Pop Records.

In 2011, 20 years after Nirvana's "Nevermind," Seattle no longer relies on the traditional industries that built it. A knowledge–based economy has supplanted blue collar companies. But traces of those companies remain, amid the high–rise downtown skyscrapers, along the shores of Lake Union, and in the frontier, can–do spirit of the city.

Reported by Marcie Sillman and edited by Jim Gates.

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Timeline: Seattle From Boeing To Biotech

Men Pulling B & W into Boeing Seaplane Hangar on Lake Union, Seattle, 1916.  Museum of History & Industry, Seattle; All Rights Reserved.

The Jet City

Monday, September 26, 2011

Maritime, timber and natural resources industries forged the economy. By the mid–20th century, the airplane company Bill Boeing created had become both Seattle's major employer and integral to the city's sense of self. The sky was the limit for a city that dreamed big.

spacer Dick Wagner, founder of the Center for Wooden Boats, June 2011. Photo by Marcie Sillman.

The 1980s - Grunge, Coffee And Computers

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Seattle was Boeing's town in the mid–20th century. But by the mid 1980s, the city's identity had started a slow evolution. By 1986, Microsoft moved from the Southwest to Redmond. In 1987, Howard Schultz bought a coffee shop called Starbucks, and Sub Pop Records established its worldwide headquarters in Seattle. All three of these startups redefined Seattle for the world and for itself.

spacer Terry Street, South Lake Union, in the heart of Seattle's Biotech District. July 2011. Photo by Marcie Sillman.

The New Dreamers

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

When Bill Boeing flew his first seaplane over Lake Union in 1916, his factory shared the shoreline with seedy houseboats, steamships and coal barges. Ninety five years later, South Lake Union is the hub of the region's next big industry: biotechnology. Aviation and biotechnology are vastly different. But they emerge from a shared attitude: dream big and take risks.