The history of Othello is one still largely in the making. True, it’s been centuries since the city of Seattle was originally settled, but for many it still serves as the new frontier.
For over 100 years the Seattle neighborhood of Othello has been a landing place for immigrant and refugee communities, and an “incubator” of small, family-owned businesses, including farms, restaurants, and specialty shops. Alongside long-term residents, new arrivals from around the globe have created a vibrant, progressive community that is unique in its diversity, and ready to take hold of its own strong economic future.
Immigrants from many countries and self-starters began to settle the Rainier Valley in the 1850s. Italians, Irish, Scottish, and Japanese communities sprang up first in response to forestry and farming opportunities, setting an enduring tone for the area as an incubator of small businesses.
Subsequent waves of immigration swept the area, particularly following the Vietnam War and ongoing conflicts in East Africa. Young families, elders, business savvy entrepreneurs, and adventurous youth came to Othello seeking refuge and opportunity. In a new phase of pioneering spirit, shops, restaurants, small businesses, community centers, and nonprofits sprang up along MLK Jr. Way between Othello and Graham. A symbiotic mix of cultures, languages, and religions now distinguish Othello as a community, and serve to both preserve and share the diversity now concentrated at its core.
Today, more than 40 languages are spoken in Othello. Amharic, Mandarin, Cantonese, English, Vietnamese, Cambodian Khmer, Korean, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog, and Tigrinya are among the most common. In 2009, Sound Transit opened a new light rail line running along Martin Luther King Jr. Way, including a station at Othello, bringing new development and a new wave of transit-driven community members, continuing a tradition of optimism for a bright, opportunity-filled future.
Get involved. Help make history at Othello.
Life in 98118 (2012), Wendy Call [http://www.onenationindivisible.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/ONIstory6RainierValleyV1.pdf]
Retail Development Strategy for Rainier Valley (2009), Community Land Use and Economics Group, LLC [http://www.helloothello.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Final-OED-Retail-Study-Report-2009.pdf]
Rainier Valley Thumbnail History [http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=3092]
Seattle Housing Authority Chronology (2014) [http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=10774]