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Logging was Seattle's first major industry, but by the late 19th century, the city had become a commercial and shipbuilding center as a gateway to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush.
A shipbuilding boom in the early part of the 20th century became massive during World War I, making Seattle somewhat of a company town.(During this period the road now known as Yesler Way won the nickname "Skid Road", supposedly after the timber skidding down the hill to Henry Yesler's sawmill.The later dereliction of the area may be a possible origin for the term which later entered the wider American lexicon as Skid Row.) Authorities declared martial law and federal troops arrived to put down the disorder.However, Seattle faced massive unemployment, loss of lumber and construction industries as Los Angeles prevailed as the bigger West Coast city.Seattle had building contracts that rivaled New York City and Chicago, but lost to LA as well.