1909 DuPont, Washington
DuPont, Wash., located on the Puget Sound 15 miles south of Tacoma, was an important explosives plant and a premier company town. Construction of the plant took three years, with the first dynamite produced in the fall of 1909.
The town, laid out in a forest clearing by a landscape designer, was complete by 1912. DuPont, seeking to attract a “better class of labor” to the area, offered wooden frame homes complete with electricity, gas stoves and furnaces, and indoor plumbing. The company provided a physician and free medication for residents and maintained the town’s parks and gardens. DuPont, Wash., helped meet the demands of World War I with a black powder facility that opened in 1913 and a nitrostarch factory that began production in 1916. The site’s location on the Puget Sound gave it easy access to large shipments of Chilean soda supplies. It served a market ranging up and down the Pacific Coast and east to the Rockies, and two DuPont-owned ships even supplied mining camps in Alaska. Although the Depression hit the area hard, DuPont, Wash., boomed during World War II, manufacturing millions of pounds of explosives for the Pacific military theater.
In 1951 the company sold the town’s property to the residents and DuPont, Wash., was officially incorporated the next year. By the time of the plant’s 50th anniversary eight years later it had survived storms, explosions, and even an earthquake to produce more than a billion pounds of explosives. It supplied some of the largest construction projects in history including the Grand Coulee Dam, the Alaska railroad and the Panama Canal. With the exception of the war booms, DuPont, Washington’s population changed little over the years. Its population of 384 in 1970 was only slightly larger than it had been in 1909, and over the years the residents, many of whom spent their entire working lives with DuPont, had become deeply attached to the town and the company. But diminishing demand for explosives during the 1970s brought an end to the company’s involvement. In 1976 the plant was closed after 67 years in operation.