WSU Life

Pullman Area Profile


Pullman History

The Palouse area history dates back more than 10,000 years. Native Americans were here first, then Lewis and Clark passed through nearly 2 centuries ago on their journey to the mouth of the Columbia. They were likely the first non-indigenous people to set foot in Washington.


Railroads arrive

The first Columbia and Palouse Railway train came over the line to Pullman on September 8, 1885. The Spokane and Palouse Railroad from Spokane to Genesee, Idaho, was built in 1887.


City is incorporated

The town of 250 to 300 people was named after George Pullman of railroad car fame and fortune. Differing accounts tell of events that led up to the city’s founding.


Fire destroys the city

A stable fire on Grand Street spread to the rest of the town, destroying all the business buildings except the Herald and the hotel within 2 hours. Thereafter, business buildings were required to be constructed of brick and warehouses covered with corrugated iron.

Pullman selected as site for a land-grant university

The community grew with the establishment of businesses and the decision by the state to locate its land-grant university in Pullman.


Washington State College opens

The first college catalog lists 21 freshmen and 63 preparatory students. The college was established at a time when the state had only 3 cities maintaining high schools.


Military Academy burns to the ground

Military Hill was named after the 1891 prep school for young men.


World War I soldiers train on campus

Influenza epidemic claims 41 soldiers’ lives


Great Depression takes a toll

College faculty and staff take an average 25 percent cut in salary during a 2-year period.


World War II brings enlisted men to campus

The College trains them in aviation, Japanese language, signal corps, radio and gunnery.


WSC becomes Washington State University


Students protest the Vietnam War

They stage sit-ins in the Placement Bureau and French Administration Building.


Mount Saint Helens erupts

A half-inch layer of volcanic ash blankets the city and campus.


National Lentil Festival debuts


Plans for new downtown Cougar Plaza win approval


Bill Chipman Palouse Trail opens

The 8-mile recreational path, built on an abandoned railroad bed, connects Pullman and Moscow.


Historic Corner Drug Store building burns

Though firefighters fought the blaze for 5 hours, the 110-year-old building—the city’s oldest--was burned beyond repair.


New Pullman Town Centre opens

The WSU Foundation moves its offices from campus into the new building on the site of the former Corner Drug Store, alongside retail businesses.

Pullman in 1892:
A firsthand account

“Through the principal village street on almost any spring or fall day filed the prospector's train of pack horses or burros with their tinkling bells, or in a single file on parti-colored horses cayuses, a long line of Indian bucks followed by their squaws and papooses.  The cowboy with chaps and sombrero and clinking spurs clanked along the streets or lounged about the doors of the saloon.”

—Enoch Bryan, president, Washington State University, 1893–1915
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