The city of Seattle was one of several settlements in the mid to late 19th century vying for primacy in the newly formed Washington Territory. In 1854, territorial governor Isaac Stevens recommended the establishment of a university in Washington. Several prominent Seattle-area residents, chief among them Methodist preacher Daniel Bagley, saw the siting of this University as a chance to add to the city's prestige. They were able to convince early founder of Seattle and member of the territorial legislature Arthur A. Denny of the importance of Seattle winning the school. The legislature initially chartered two universities, one in Seattle and one in Lewis County, but later repealed its decision in favor of a single university in Lewis County, provided locally donated land could be found. When no site emerged, the legislature, encouraged by Denny, relocated the university to Seattle in 1858.
In 1861, scouting began for an appropriate 10 acres (4 ha) site in Seattle to serve as the campus for a new university. Arthur and Mary Denny donated eight acres, and fellow pioneers Edward Lander and Charlie and Mary Terry donated two acres to the university at a site on Denny's Knoll in downtown Seattle. This tract was bounded by 4th and 6th Avenues on the west and east and Union and Seneca Streets on the north and south.
UW opened officially on November 4, 1861, as the Territorial University of Washington. The following year, the legislature passed articles formally incorporating the University and establishing a Board of Regents. The school struggled initially, closing three times: in 1863 for lack of students, and again in 1867 and 1876 due to shortage of funds. However, Clara Antoinette McCarty Wilt became the first graduate of UW in 1876 when she graduated from UW with a bachelor's degree in science. By the time Washington entered theUnion in 1889, both Seattle and the University had grown substantially. Enrollment had increased from an initial 30 students to nearly 300, and the relative isolation of the campus had given way to encroaching development. A special legislative committee headed by UW graduate Edmond Meany was created for the purpose of finding a new campus better able to serve the growing student population. The committee selected a site on Union Bay northeast of downtown, and the legislature appropriated funds for its purchase and subsequent construction.
into the newly built Denny Hall. The regents tried and failed to sell the old campus, and eventually settled on leasing the area. The University still owns what is now called the Metropolitan Tract. In the heart of the city, it is among the most valuable pieces of real estate in Seattle and generates millions of US$ in revenue annually.
The original Territorial University building was torn down in 1908 and its former site currently houses the Fairmont Olympic Hotel. The sole surviving remnants of UW's first building are four 24-foot (7.3 m), white, hand-fluted cedar, Ionic columns. They were salvaged byEdmond S. Meany—one of the University's first graduates and the former head of the history department. Meany and his colleague, Dean Herbert T. Condon, dubbed each of the columns "Loyalty," "Industry," "Faith" and "Efficiency," or "LIFE." The columns now stand in the Sylvan Grove Theater.
Organizers of the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition eyed the still largely undeveloped campus as a prime setting for their world's fair. They came to an agreement with the Board of Regents that allowed them to use the campus grounds for the exposition. In exchange, the University would be able to take advantage of the development of the campus for the fair after its conclusion. This included a detailed site plan and several buildings. The plan for the A-Y-P Exposition prepared by John Charles Olmsted was later incorporated into the overall campus master plan and permanently affected the layout of the campus.
Both World Wars brought the military to the campus, with certain facilities temporarily loaned to the federal government. The subsequent post-war periods were times of dramatic growth for the University. The period between the wars saw significant expansion on the upper campus. Construction of the liberal arts quadrangle, known to students as "The Quad," began in 1916 and continued in stages until 1939. The first two wings of Suzzallo Library, considered the architectural centerpiece of the University, were built in 1926 and 1935, respectively. Further growth came with the end of World War II and passage of the G.I. Bill. Among the most important developments of this period was the opening of the medical school in 1946. It would eventually grow into theUniversity of Washington Medical Center, now ranked by U.S. News and World Report among the top ten hospitals in the United States. It was during this era in University of Washington history in which many Japanese Americans were sent away from the university to internment camps along the West-coast of the United States as part of Executive Order 9066 following the attacks onPearl Harbor. As a result, many Japanese American "soon-to-be" graduates were unable to receive their diplomas and be recognized for their accomplishment at the university until the University of Washington's commemoration ceremony for the Japanese Americansentitled The Long Journey Home held on May 18, 2008 at the main campus.
In the late 1960s, the University of Washington Police Department evolved from the University Safety and Security Division in response to anti-Vietnam War protests. It currently has jurisdiction over the University of Washington campus and University-owned housing, except for the Radford Court apartments in Sand Point. The 1960s and 1970s are known as the "golden age" of the university due to the tremendous growth in students, facilities, operating budget and prestige under the leadership of Charles Odegaard from 1958 to 1973. Enrollment at UW more than doubled—from around 16,000 to 34,000—as the baby boom generation came of age. As was the case at many American universities, this era was marked by high levels of student activism, with much of the unrest focused around civil rights and opposition to the Vietnam War. Odegaard instituted a vision of building a "community of scholars" and convinced the state of Washington legislatures to increase their investments towards the university. Additionally, Washington senators, Henry M. Jackson and Warren G. Magnuson used their political clout to funnel federal research monies to the University of Washington and to this day, UW is among the top recipients of federal research funds in the United States. The results included an operating budget increase of $37 million in 1958, to over $400 million in 1973, and 35 new buildings that doubled the floor space of the university.