By Louise Jones-Brown
Tukwila Historical Society
Just as the landscape was changed by the residents who were making a life for their families, the Tukwila community has been affected over the past century in many ways. At the turn of the 20th Century, the Interurban Railway served the community. As our featured photo shows there was a very important hub of activity at what became known as the Renton Junction Station. As a country station, it was the interchange for trains, including Northern Pacific freight trains, making their way to Renton, Kent, Tacoma and Seattle.
In the 1910s and 1920s, this junction was the location of the Renton Junction Grocery, which was owned by Chris and Amanda (Jorgensen) Hansen. They lived in an apartment above the store. Amanda’s sister, Dora – who was married to Fred Nelsen, had a home and dairy farm just a five-minute walk from the station. To give a present day prospective, the Fred Nelsen farm was just east Family Fun Center, and the train trestle ran along what is now Grady Way and ran north on the Interurban Avenue. Fred and James were brothers and part of a family that had immigrated from Denmark in the early 1880s.
It was then, and is now, a true crossroads of traffic and commerce. The horse and buggy in the photo are contrasted by the sign on the left behind the building that reads “gasoline,” as well as an advertising sign on the fence that identifies “Zerolene,” which is a motor oil. Further examination of the photo also reveals that the store and boardwalk were elevated above the marsh, as were the Interurban tracks to avoid the natural wetlands.
These Renton Junction residents were related to one another and shared many stories of their lives growing up in the small community. Alma Nelsen Taylor, daughter of Fred and Dora Nelsen, reminisced for our Tukwila history book that the Interurban motorman would watch for the children on their way to school and if they just happened to have missed the train, he would back up the coaches to wait for them. Occasionally, the Nelsen children were invited to the front car of the train and allowed to drive it. The hill above this area was referred to as Tukwila Hill and was well known for the hazelnut grove. In the fall, there would be sacks full of the nuts. We have a few Hazelnut plants located behind the Tukwila Heritage and Cultural Center in Hazelnut Park which is a most appropriate name to honor the history of our community.
Louise Jones-Brown is president of the Tukwila Historical Society, which operates the Tukwila Heritage and Cultural Center, 14475 59th Ave. S. The center’s phone number is 206-244-4478 and the email is firstname.lastname@example.org.