HARTFORD is a city on the north bank of the Columbia River in the U.S. state of Washington and the county seat of Clark County. The population was at the 2000 census; in 2006, the United States Census Bureau estimated that the city's population was 158,148. It is part of the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area.
The larger city of Vancouver, British Columbia is located 305 miles (491 km) north of Vancouver, Washington. Both cities were named for sea captain George Vancouver, but the Canadian city was not incorporated until 1886, nearly thirty years after Vancouver, Washington, and more than sixty years after the name Fort Vancouver was first used. City officials have periodically suggested changing the city's name to Fort Vancouver, Vancouver USA, or even Old Vancouver to reduce confusion with Vancouver, British Columbia. Washington residents distinguish between the two cities by referring to the Canadian Vancouver as "Vancouver, B.C." Current mayor Royce Pollard is an advocate of the unofficial moniker "America's Vancouver".
The Vancouver area was inhabited by a variety of Native American tribes, most recently the Chinook and Klickitat nations, with permanent settlements of timber longhouses. The Chinookan and Klickitat names for the area were reportedly Skit-so-to-ho and Ala-si-kas, respectively, meaning "land of the mud-turtles". First European contact was in 1775, with approximately half of the indigenous population dead from small pox before the Lewis and Clark expedition camped in the area in 1806. Within another fifty years, other actions and diseases such as measles, malaria and influenza had reduced the Chinookan population from an estimated 80,000 to "to a few dozen refugees, landless, slaveless and swindled out of a treaty."
Meriwether Lewis wrote that the Vancouver area was "the only desired situation for settlement west of the Rocky Mountains." The first permanent European settlement did not occur until 1824, when Fort Vancouver was established as a fur trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company. From that time on, the area was settled by both the US and Britain under a "joint occupation" agreement. Joint occupation ended on June 15, 1846, with the signing of the Oregon Treaty, which gave the United States full control of the area. The City of Vancouver was incorporated on January 23, 1857 and in 2007 marks its sesquicentennial.
Based on an act in the 1859-1860 legislature, Vancouver was briefly the capital of the Washington Territory, before being returned to Olympia, Washington by a 2-1 ruling of the territory's supreme court, in accordance with Isaac Stevens' preference and concern that proximity to Oregon might give its southern neighbor undue influence.
U.S. Army Captain (and future President) Ulysses S. Grant was quartermaster at what was then known as Columbia Barracks for 15 months beginning in September 1852. Soon after leaving Vancouver, he resigned from the army and did not serve again until the outbreak of the American Civil War. Other notable generals to have served in Vancouver include George B. McClellan, Philip Sheridan, Oliver O. Howard and 1953 Nobel Peace Prize recipient George Marshall.
City of Vancouver as shown in 1888 map from Clarke County Auditor, Washington Territory.Army presence in Vancouver was very strong, as the Department of the Columbia built and moved to Vancouver Barracks, the military reservation for which stretched from the river to what is currently Fourth Plain Boulevard and was the largest Army base in the region until surpassed by Fort Lewis, 120 miles (190 km) to the north. Built on the old company gardens and skirmish range, Pearson Army Field (later Pearson Field Airport) was a key facility, and at one point the US Army Signal Corps operated the largest spruce cut-up plant in the world to provide much-needed wood for airplanes. Vancouver became the end point for two ultra-long flights from Moscow, USSR over the North Pole. The first of these flights was performed by Valery Chkalov in 1937 . Chkalov was originally scheduled to land at an airstrip in nearby Portland, OR, but redirected at the last minute to Vancouver's Pearson Airfield. Today there is a street named for him in Vancouver.
Separated from Oregon until 1917, when the Interstate Bridge began to replace ferries, Vancouver had three shipyards just downstream which produced ships for World War I before World War II brought an enormous economic boom. An Alcoa aluminum plant opened on September 2, 1940, using inexpensive power from the nearby New Deal hydropower turbines at Bonneville Dam. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Henry Kaiser opened a shipyard next to the U.S. Army reserve, which by 1944 employed as many as 36,000 people in a twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week production of liberty ships, LST's, and "baby flat tops". This influx of shipyard workers boosted the population from 18,000 to over 80,000 in just a few months, leading to the creation of the Vancouver Housing Authority and six new residential developments: Fruit Valley, Fourth Plain Village, Bagley Downs, Ogden Meadows, Burton Homes and McLoughlin Heights. Each of these was later incorporated into the city, and are well-known neighborhoods, while the neighboring "shipyard city" of Vanport, Oregon, would be destroyed by the Memorial Day flood of 1948.
In 1956, Willie Nelson moved to Vancouver to begin his musical career, recording "Lumberjack". The single sold fairly well, but did not establish a career. Nelson continued to work as a radio announcer in Vancouver and sing in clubs. He sold a song called "Family Bible" for $50; the song was a hit for Claude Gray in 1960, has been covered widely and is often considered a gospel music classic.
Vancouver has recently experienced conflicts with other Clark County communities because of rapid growth in the area. As a result of urban growth and annexation, Vancouver is often thought of as split between two areas, East and West Vancouver, divided by NE Andresen Road. West Vancouver is home to downtown Vancouver and some of the more historical parts of the city, as well as recent high-density mixed-use development.
More than one-third of the Vancouver urban area's population has spilled into an unincorporated urban area north of its city limits, including the communities of Hazel Dell, Felida, Orchards and Salmon Creek. If county leaders had approved a major annexation plan in 2006, Vancouver would have passed Tacoma and Spokane to become the state's second-largest city.[