Settled in the 1849 at Fort Steilacoom and incorporated as the first city in Washington during 1854. The town was the largest settlement on Puget Sound and was also the seat of Pierce County at the time. When the railroad picked Tacoma as their western hub in 1873 the city lost much of its prominence.
The city holds many of Washington's "firsts" such as the first Catholic church in Washington and first jail, and first sawmill. Over 30 buildings and sites are on the National Historic Register.
Western State Mental Hospital is located on what was Fort Steilacoom which had the movie actress Francis Farmer as a resident in the 1950s.