Aberdeen, Washington

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This article is about Aberdeen, Washington. For other uses of Aberdeen, see Aberdeen (disambiguation).
Aberdeen, Washington
Aberdeen, WA - Downtown & Wishkah River from Rt 101.jpg
Location within Grays Harbor County and Washington
Location within Grays Harbor County and Washington
Coordinates: 46°58′33″N 123°49′7″W / 46.97583°N 123.81861°W / 46.97583; -123.81861Coordinates: 46°58′33″N 123°49′7″W / 46.97583°N 123.81861°W / 46.97583; -123.81861
Country United States
State Washington
County Grays Harbor
Incorporated March 20, 1888
 • Type Mayor–Council
 • Mayor Erik Larson
 • Total 12.36 sq mi (32.01 km2)
 • Land 10.65 sq mi (27.58 km2)
 • Water 1.71 sq mi (4.43 km2)
Elevation 23 ft (7 m)
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total 16,896
 • Estimate (2015)[3] 16,276
 • Density 1,400/sq mi (530/km2)
Demonym(s) Aberdonian
Time zone Pacific (PST) (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP code 98520
Area code 360
FIPS code 53-00100
GNIS ID 1511950 [4]
Website aberdeenwa.gov

Aberdeen /ˈæbərdn/ is a city in Grays Harbor County, Washington, United States. The population was 16,896 at the 2010 census. The city is the economic center of Grays Harbor County, bordering the cities of Hoquiam and Cosmopolis.

Aberdeen is called the "Gateway to the Olympic Peninsula" and is best known for being the birthplace and hometown of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain[5] and professional wrestler Bryan Danielson, better known by his ring name Daniel Bryan. Some Nirvana lyrics, in songs such as "Something in the Way" and parts of the Bleach album, referred to locations within the town.[6]


A tribute to Kurt Cobain was installed by the Kurt Cobain Memorial Committee. "Come as You Are" is a song by Nirvana.

Aberdeen was named for a local salmon cannery to reflect its Scottish fishing port namesake of Aberdeen and because it too is also situated at the mouth of two rivers just like its namesake in Scotland which is located between the rivers 'Don' at the north and the river 'Dee' to the south side of the Scottish city. Aberdeen was founded by Samuel Benn in 1884 then incorporated on May 12, 1890. Although it became the largest and best-known city in Grays Harbor, Aberdeen lagged behind neighbors Hoquiam and Cosmopolis in the early years. When A.J. West built the town's first sawmill in 1894, the other two municipalities had been in business for several years. Aberdeen and its neighbors vied to be the terminus for Northern Pacific Railroad, but instead of ending at one of the established mill towns, the railroad skimmed through Cosmopolis and headed west for Ocosta. Hoquiam and Aberdeen citizens banded together to build a spur; and in 1895, the line connected Northern Pacific tracks to Aberdeen.

By 1900, Aberdeen was considered one of the grittiest towns on the West Coast[citation needed], with many saloons, whorehouses, and gambling establishments populating the area. Aberdeen was nicknamed "The Hellhole of the Pacific", or "The Port of Missing Men", because of its high murder rate. One notable resident was Billy Gohl, known locally as Billy "Ghoul",[7] who was rumored to have killed at least 140 men. (Gohl was convicted of 2 murders[8][9])

During the Great Depression, Aberdeen was hit hard, reducing the number of major sawmills from 37 to 9. Mill owners hired Filipino and Jewish immigrants to keep wages low in order to stay in business.[who?] The timber industry continued to boom, but by the late 1970s most of the timber had been logged. Most of the mills were closing down by the 1970s and 1980s.

Aberdeen is also the home port of the tall ship Lady Washington, a reproduction of a smaller vessel used by the explorer Captain Robert Gray, featured in the Pirates of the Caribbean film The Curse of the Black Pearl.


Aberdeen is located at the eastern end of Grays Harbor, near the mouth of the Chehalis River and southwest of the Olympic Mountains. Grays Harbor is notable as the northernmost ria on the Pacific Coast of North America because it has remained free of glaciers throughout the Quaternary due to unfavorable topography and warm temperatures. It is thought that, during glacial periods of the Quaternary, the Chehalis River was a major refugium for aquatic species, as was the west coast from the Olympic Peninsula southward for plants that later formed the northern part of the Pacific temperate rainforest in formerly glaciated areas.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 12.36 square miles (32.01 km2), of which 10.65 square miles (27.58 km2) is land and 1.71 square miles (4.43 km2) is water.[1]


Aberdeen experiences a climate on the boundary between Mediterranean (Köppen Csb) and oceanic (Köppen Cfb). Although the rainfall is extremely high between October and March, July and August still have a distinct excess of evaporation over rainfall. Temperatures are generally very mild due to the proximity of the warm Pacific Ocean and the Kuroshio Current: snow is extremely rare although during December 1964 22.3 inches (57 cm) fell. Occasionally, southeasterly winds can cause very high temperatures. For example, in August 1981, the temperature in Aberdeen reached 105 °F (40.6 °C).

Climate data for Aberdeen
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 66
Average high °F (°C) 45.8
Average low °F (°C) 34.6
Record low °F (°C) 6
Average precipitation inches (mm) 12.78
Average snowfall inches (cm) 4.4
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 inch) 21 18 20 17 13 11 6 7 10 16 20 22 181
Source: [10]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1890 1,638
1900 3,747 128.8%
1910 13,660 264.6%
1920 15,337 12.3%
1930 21,723 41.6%
1940 18,846 −13.2%
1950 19,653 4.3%
1960 18,741 −4.6%
1970 18,489 −1.3%
1980 18,739 1.4%
1990 16,565 −11.6%
2000 16,461 −0.6%
2010 16,896 2.6%
Est. 2015 16,276 [11] −3.7%
U.S. Decennial Census[12]
2015 Estimate[3]

2010 census[edit]

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 16,896 people, 6,476 households, and 4,020 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,586.5 inhabitants per square mile (612.6/km2). There were 7,338 housing units at an average density of 689.0 per square mile (266.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 80.4% White, 0.8% African American, 3.7% Native American, 1.9% Asian, 0.3% Pacific Islander, 8.0% from other races, and 4.9% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 15.8% of the population.

There were 6,476 households of which 33.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.9% were married couples living together, 15.0% had a female householder with no husband present, 7.1% had a male householder with no wife present, and 37.9% were non-families. 29.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.56 and the average family size was 3.10.

The median age in the city was 35.6 years. 24.9% of residents were under the age of 18; 10.5% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 25.8% were from 25 to 44; 26% were from 45 to 64; and 13% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 49.8% male and 50.2% female.

2000 census[edit]

As of the census of 2000, there were 16,461 people, 6,517 households, and 4,112 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,548.8 people per square mile (597.9/km²). There were 7,536 housing units at an average density of 709.1 per square mile (273.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 84.87% White, 0.47% African American, 3.70% Native American, 2.10% Asian, 0.14% Pacific Islander, 5.15% from other races, and 3.57% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 9.22% of the population. 16.4% were of German, 9.3% English, 9.3% American, 8.7% Irish and 5.9% Norwegian ancestry according to Census 2000. 90.2% spoke only English, while 7.7% spoke Spanish at home.

There were 6,517 households out of which 31.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.9% were married couples living together, 13.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.9% were non-families. 29.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 3.05.

In the city the population was spread out with 26.8% under the age of 18, 10.3% from 18 to 24, 27.1% from 25 to 44, 21.9% from 45 to 64, and 14.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 98.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $30,683, and the median income for a family was $37,966. Males had a median income of $32,710 versus $20,446 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,092. About 16.1% of families and 22.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 29.7% of those under age 18 and 9.6% of those ages 65 or over.


Aberdeen and the rest of Grays Harbor remain dependent on the timber, fishing industries, tourism and as a regional service center for much of the Olympic Peninsula. Grays Harbor Community Hospital employees total more than 700. Historically the area is dependent on harvesting and exporting natural resources. The Port of Grays Harbor is the largest coastal shipping port north of California. It is still a center for the export of logs on the west coast of the U.S.and has become one of the largest centers for the shipment of autos and grains to China and Korea.

On December 19, 2005, Weyerhaeuser closed the Aberdeen large-log sawmill and the Cosmopolis pulp mill in early 2006. This resulted in the loss of at least 342 jobs. In January 2009, Weyerhaeuser closed two additional plants in Aberdeen, resulting in another 221 lost jobs. In both cases many employees were not told by Weyerhaeuser management, but learned about the closures from local radio stations who received a press release prior to a scheduled press conference.[13]

Major employers in Grays Harbor include Westport Shipyard, Sierra Pacific Industries, The Simpson Door Company, Hoquiam Plywood, Pasha Automotive, Willis Enterprises, Ocean Gold Companies, Vaughn Company, and the Stafford Creek Corrections Center, a state prison which opened in 2000.[14]

Other significant employers include the cranberry-growing cooperative Ocean Spray, worldwide retailer Wal-Mart, Sidhu & Sons Nursery USA, Inc. (AKA Briggs Nursery), and Washington Crab Producers.

In 2007, Imperium Renewables of Seattle invested $40 million in the construction of the biodiesel plant at the Port of Grays Harbor. It is estimated the plant will produce as much as 100 million US gallons (380,000 m3) of biodiesel fuel made from plants and vegetable material annually.[15]

In September 2010, the Weyerhaeuser Cosmopolis Pulp Mill was purchased by the Beverly Hills-based Gores Group and restarted as Cosmo Specialty Fibers, Inc. They started production of pulp on May 1, 2011.


The Weatherwax building of Aberdeen High School burned down in 2002

The city's school district has two high schools: J. M. Weatherwax High School, or Aberdeen High School as it is now called, and Harbor High School, an alternative high school with an enrollment exceeding 200 students. Aberdeen High has a long time school sports rivalry with nearby Hoquiam High School.[citation needed]

In 2002, the Weatherwax building of Aberdeen High School, built in 1909, burned to the ground. The new building was completed in 2007 and held its grand opening on August 25, 2007.[citation needed]

Aberdeen School District also consists of one junior high: Miller Junior High; 5 elementary schools: Central Park Elementary, McDermoth Elementary, Stevens Elementary, AJ West Elementary and Robert Gray Elementary; and 1 Roman Catholic parochial school: St. Mary's Catholic School.

Aberdeen is home to Grays Harbor College, located in south Aberdeen, and is represented by the Charlie Choker mascot. The college emphasizes student opportunities, and has resources to help students transfer to a four-year college to complete a degree.


Crime rates (2012)
Crime type Rate*
Homicide: 1
Robbery: 18
Aggravated assault: 27
Total violent crime: 59
Burglary: 221
Larceny-theft: 605
Motor vehicle theft: 81
Arson: 2
Total property crime: 907
* Number of reported crimes per 100,000 population.
2012 population: 17,000
Source: 2012 FBI UCR Data

According to Uniform Crime Report statistics compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2012, there were 59 violent crimes and 907 property crimes per 100,000 residents. Of these, the violent crimes consisted of 13 forcible rapes, 18 robberies and 27 aggravated assaults, while 221 burglaries, 605 larceny-thefts, 81 motor vehicle thefts and 2 arson defined the property offenses.[16]

Appearances in media[edit]

Recently, Lady Washington has appeared in various films, portraying the HMS Interceptor in the film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and the brig Enterprise, a namesake of the Starship Enterprise, on the holodeck in Star Trek Generations. She also provided the basis for the RLS Legacy in the Disney animated feature Treasure Planet.

In the novel Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins, Aberdeen is mentioned as the alleged location of the body of Christ that is the central plot point to the story. A Volkswagen dealership that was near the Hoquiam side of the border between Aberdeen and Hoquiam is also noted in the novel.

Aberdeen and Hoquiam figure prominently in Nevil Shute's post-Apocalyptic novel On the Beach. In it, a U.S. submarine tracking a signal coming from Seattle surfaces in Grays Harbor and finds everyone in the area dead from radiation poisoning. The men on the sub talk briefly about the possibility of wearing radiation-proof suits, going into Aberdeen where they can find a car, and driving up to Seattle. Instead, they take their chances with possible anti-submarine nets and hidden bombs that may be in the waters around Seattle and head northward. In the Gregory Peck/Fred Astaire movie version, Aberdeen-Hoquiam and Seattle were replaced by San Francisco.

The area and many citizens (especially then-students of Grays Harbor College) were highlighted in the 1961 movie "Ring of Fire" starring David Janssen (of "The Fugitive") and future "Riddler" (on the 1966-1968 "Batman" TV show) Frank Gorshin.

Parts of the 1974 John Wayne film "McQ" were filmed in and around Aberdeen, including a night club sequence shot in a building on Wishkah Street that had, at one time, been a bank.

Large parts of the 2009 romantic comedy Management, starring Steve Zahn and Jennifer Aniston were set in Aberdeen.

Macklemore, who grew up in Seattle, features a fictional Aberdeen, Washington character in a song titled "American." Aberdeen, Washington is used to symbolize the close mindedness of some Americans.

Notable people[edit]


Sister cities[edit]

Aberdeen has two sister cities.:


  1. ^ a b "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on July 14, 2012. Retrieved December 19, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 17, 2012. Retrieved December 19, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 18, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Aberdeen". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. 
  5. ^ "Town doesn't want to be Cobain nirvana". Baltimore Sun. November 5, 2006. Archived from the original on January 4, 2014. 
  6. ^ Green, Andy. "Top 10 Saddest Songs of All Time: 5. Nirvana - 'Something in the Way'". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on April 9, 2014. Retrieved January 31, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Billy Gohl". Serial Killer Central. [dead link]
  8. ^ "Billy Gohl of Grays Harbor". Tacoma Public Library. Archived from the original on October 24, 2008. Retrieved September 6, 2007. 
  9. ^ "Billy Gohl". Crime Life. com. Archived from the original on February 6, 2013. Retrieved September 6, 2007. 
  10. ^ "ABERDEEN, WASHINGTON (450008)". Western Regional Climate Centre. Retrieved October 31, 2008. 
  11. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016. 
  12. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". Census.gov. Archived from the original on May 11, 2015. Retrieved May 28, 2014. 
  13. ^ White, Callie (January 26, 2009). "Weyerhaeuser closes Aberdeen sawmill, Pacific Veneer". The Daily World. 
  14. ^ "Grays Harbor Workforce". Greater Grays Harbor Inc. 2015. Retrieved June 13, 2015. 
  15. ^ "Imperium Renewables Celebrates Opening of Nation's Largest Biodiesel Production Facility" (PDF). Imperium Renewables Inc. August 15, 2007. Retrieved June 13, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Washington - Offenses Known to Law Enforcement by City, 2012". Federal Bureau of Investigation. 2012. Retrieved May 28, 2014. 
  17. ^ a b "Sister City Relationships: Annex A: Sister Relations in Washington State (USA)". Australia-China Chamber of Commerce and Industry of New South Wales. 2001. Retrieved June 13, 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Ed Van Syckle, "The River Pioneers," Pacific Search Press, 1982.
  • Ed Van Syckle, "They Tried to Cut It All," Pacific Search Press, 1980.
  • Murray Morgan, "The Last Wilderness," Viking Press, 1955.
  • Anne Cotton, "The History of Aberdeen," Grays Harbor Regional Planning Commission, 1982.
  • John C. Hughes & Ryan Teague Beckwith, "On the Harbor: From Black Friday to Nirvana," Stephens Press, LLC. 2005.
  • Jeff Burlingame, "Kurt Cobain: 'Oh Well, Whatever, Nevermind'" Enslow Publishers, 2006.
  • Jeff Burlingame, "Moon Olympic Peninsula" Avalon Travel, 2012.
  • John Workman, "The Third Man" chapter in "Against the Grain: Mad Artist Wallace Wood" compiled by Bhob Stewart, TwoMorrows Publishing, 2003.
  • John Workman, "Betty Being Bad" Fantagraphics Books, 1990.

External links[edit]