The Kent area was first permanently settled by European Americans in the early 1860s along the banks of (what was then) the White River, and originally called Titusville. (There is still a 'Titusville Station' sign on Gowe Street near First Avenue.)
During the 1880s the town discovered hops production as the major source of income. Due to an aphid invasion which affected hops crops in Europe, hops from the Puget Sound area were commanding high prices. Hops were shipped from Titusville either by the river or via rail. In 1889 the town was renamed for the County of Kent, the major hops producing region in England. Hops production in the White River valley came to an end soon after its own invasion of aphids in 1891.
Kent was officially incorporated on May 28, 1890 with a population of 793, the second city incorporated in King County. Seattle was the first.
After the turn of the 20th century the area turned to dairy farming, and was home to a Carnation Condensed Milk plant. Flooding from both the Green and the White Rivers was a constant problem. In 1906, flooding changed the course of the White River, which reduced the flood hazard by half. The Green River continued to present problems until the creation of the Howard A. Hanson Dam at Eagle Gorge in 1962.
During and after the Great Depression, Kent was known as the "Lettuce Capital of the World." After WWII, Kent began to grow more rapidly. From 1953 to 1960 the city's size grew twelve-fold. In 1965 Boeing began building in Kent, followed a few years later by other aerospace and high-tech companies.
In 1992, the Greater Kent Historical Society was formed to promote the discovery, preservation and dissemination of knowledge about the history of the greater Kent area. In 1996, the City of Kent purchased the historic Bereiter house, the home of one of Kent's early mayors, for use as the Kent Historical Museum. The museum is operated by the Greater Kent Historical Society.
In 2009, Kent got its first sports team when WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds moved into the ShoWare Center.
Kent is divided into three major regions: East Hill, the Valley, and West Hill. Downtown Kent is located on the east side of the valley; the rest of the valley is almost entirely covered by warehouses. There is a good view of Mt. Rainier to the southeast.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 29.19 square miles (75.60 km2), of which, 28.63 square miles (74.15 km2) is land and 0.56 square miles (1.45 km2) is water. Major waterways include the Green River, which flows north through Kent on its way to Puget Sound. The largest lake is Lake Meridian on the city's East Hill.
Nearby cities include Renton and Tukwila to the north, Covington and Maple Valley to the east, Auburn to the south, and Federal Way, Des Moines and SeaTac to the west.
There are several major freeway and highway in or near Kent, including Interstate 5, State Route 167, and State Route 516, and, as a result, a much greater traffic density during rush hour. Kent is also central to King County Metro transit, with the Kent Station providing service to many destinations, including downtown Seattle by multiple commuter buses, the Sounder Commuter Rail, and local bus service. Heavy rail service includes two major north-south lines through the Kent Valley, with freight traffic operations by the BNSF and Union Pacific railroads.
Kent's park system includes 73 parks, miniparks, playfields, skateparks, greenbelts, and other related facilities. These parks range in size from as little as 4,300 square feet (400 m2) to over 310 acres (1.3 km2).
Kent has designated the following landmarks:
The city is governed by a mayor-council government, with a directly elected mayor and a seven-member city council. Each is elected at-large (that is, by the entire voting population, not by districts) to four-year terms. The current Mayor is Suzette Cooke and the current city council members are: Council President Bill Boyce, Councilmember Jim Berrios, Councilmember Tina Budell, Councilmember Brenda Fincher, Councilmember Dennis Higgins, Councilmember Dana Ralph, and Councilmember Les Thomas.
The city maintains its own municipal police department.
Public primary and secondary education in Kent and a number of neighboring cities and unincorporated areas is governed by the Kent School District. The district includes four high schools, seven middle schools, twenty-eight elementary schools and two academies. Federal Way Public Schools also has several schools within the city limits. Residents of far east Kent are zoned in the Tahoma School district. A branch of Green River Community College opened in Kent Station in 2007. The Kent School District also has an individualized graduation and degree program named iGrad. The program is aimed at dropouts ages 16–21 who are willing to get back to school.
In keeping with the King County Annexation Initiative, which seeks to annex large urban unincorporated areas into city limits or incorporate new cities out of those areas, the Panther Lake area (known officially as the Kent Northeast Potential Annexation Area) was proposed for annexation to the city of Kent. The annexation was voted on by residents of the potential annexation area on November 3, 2009; the area was officially annexed July 1, 2010. The city grew in area by approximately 5 square miles (13 km2) and 24,000 residents.
In addition to REI, Oberto Sausage Company, and Seattle Bicycle Supply (owner of Redline Bicycles) all being headquartered in Kent, both Amazon and Boeing operate facilities in the city. Kent also hosts many warehouses in its once fertile farmland, due in part to its proximity to key transportation routes. It is also home to the two largest waterjet companies in the United States: Flow International Corporation and Omax Corporation, as well as aerospace manufacturer Blue Origin. The warehouse district has started to sprawl as far as nearby Sumner, Washington. Whirlpool Corporation and General Electric Appliances are two companies with regional distribution centers in Kent.
Kent is home to the fourth largest manufacturing and distribution area in the United States.
Boeing Kent Space Center was opened during a public dedication ceremony on Oct. 24, 1964. Keynote speakers at the event were William "Bill" Allen, Chairman and CEO of The Boeing Company, Dan Evans, Governor of the State of Washington, and Alex Thorton, Mayor of the City of Kent.
The event featured public tours of the labs and facilities that were used to build the lunar rovers used for the Apollo program.
Kent is home to a large steel industry dating back to the early 20th century. Steel and metal manufacturers include:Salmon Bay Steel Company: Operated in Kent for 50 years before closing down. Birmingham Steel purchased Salmon bay in 1991. Salmon bay went on to buy Bethlehem Steel (Seattle Steel) in West Seattle. Years after the purchase, complaints were made of pollution in the Green River valley about pollution from the Salmon Bay melting facility and the facility was shut down.
Puget Sound Steel: Puget Sound Steel is an independently owned and operated-unique specialty fabricator of reinforcing steel and a supplier of related reinforcement products, since 1961. Puget Sound Steel has been the Northwest's select supplier of fabricated rebar, and steel reinforcement to commercial, highway, industrial and residential building contractors. Works include large scale projects including bridges skyscrapers.
Pacific Metal Company: In 1947, started in Seattle and opened a 19,000 square foot plant. The business and facilities continued to grow for 30 years to meet local needs as well as the emerging markets of Alaska. The "expanded" 40,000 square foot warehouse and sales office was bursting its seams.. In 1979, an 80,000 square foot facility was built south of the city of Seattle in the Kent Valley at Tukwila. In September 2010 PMC moved to a new location just 3 miles SE in the city of Kent, Washington. Pacific Metal Company is a stocking distributor of non-ferrous metals specializing in stainless steel, copper, aluminum, and brass products as well as ferrous products specializing in Cold Rolled, Coated (Zinc and Aluminum) and pre-painted coils and sheets.
TMX Aerospace: TMX Aerospace, a division of ThyssenKrupp Steel North America; provides materials including steel, brass, and copper as well as exclusive supply chain management support for the Boeing Commercial Airplanes group.
According to the City's 2012 Economic Development Report, the largest employers in the city are:
As of the census of 2010, there were 92,411 people, 34,044 households, and 21,816 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,227.8 inhabitants per square mile (1,246.3/km2). There were 36,424 housing units at an average density of 1,272.2 per square mile (491.2/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 55.5% White (49.7% Non-Hispanic White), 11.3% African American, 1.0% Native American, 15.2% Asian, 1.9% Pacific Islander, 8.5% from other races, and 6.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 16.6% of the population.
There were 34,044 households of which 37.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.6% were married couples living together, 14.3% had a female householder with no husband present, 6.1% had a male householder with no wife present, and 35.9% were non-families. 28.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.67 and the average family size was 3.31.
The median age in the city was 33 years. 26.2% of residents were under the age of 18; 10.1% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 30.6% were from 25 to 44; 24.3% were from 45 to 64; and 8.8% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 49.9% male and 50.1% female.
As of the census of 2000, there were 79,524 people, 31,113 households, and 19,601 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,836.7 people per square mile (1,095.4/km2). There were 32,488 housing units at an average density of 1,158.9 per square mile (447.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 70.81% White, 8.23% African American, 0.98% Native American, 9.42% Asian, 0.76% Pacific Islander, 4.7% from other races, and 5.37% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 8.13% of the population.
There were 32,998 households out of which 35.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.1% were married couples living together, 12.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.0% were non-families. 28.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.53 and the average family size was 3.15.
In the city the population was spread out with 27.7% under the age of 18, 10.3% from 18 to 24, 35.0% from 25 to 44, 19.6% from 45 to 64, and 7.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 98.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.2 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $50,053, and the median income for a family was $61,016. Males had a median income of $43,136 versus $36,995 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,390. About 8.7% of families and 11.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.7% of those under the age of 18 and 9.3% of those 65 and older.
In 2003, Kent was named Sports Illustrated's Sportstown of the year for Washington. In January 2006, an entertainment center, known as Kent Station, opened in downtown Kent adjacent to the transit station of the same name.
The 2012 Skate America figure skating competition was held in Kent from October 19 to 21, 2012, at ShoWare Center.
In July 2015, Kent hosted the inaugural Junior Roller Derby World Cup.Canterbury Faire, an arts festival in mid-August every year at Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks park, which stopped in 2006.
Kent Cornucopia Days in July.
Kent Farmers Market
Kent Saturday Market
Seattle Thunderbirds play ice hockey in the U.S. Division of the Western Hockey League at the ShoWare Center in Kent.
Tacoma Stars plays Indoor Soccer in the Major Arena Soccer League at the ShoWare Center in Kent.
The people of Kent are also often fans of the Seattle Seahawks an NFL team, the Seattle Sounders FC, a MLS team, and the Seattle Mariners, an MLB team. They could also be counted as fans of the former NBA team the Seattle SuperSonics in the nearby city of Seattle.
Kent has the following sister cities: Yangzhou, Jiangsu, China
Tamba, Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan