Bellevue was founded in 1869 by William Meydenbauer and was officially incorporated on March 21, 1953. Prior to the opening of the Lake Washington Floating Bridge in 1940, Bellevue was a rural area with little development. Although it was small, developers were pushing to change that; in the 1920s James Ditty predicted that it would become a city with a population of 200,000. He envisioned plans that included the bridging of Lake Washington and an area filled with golf courses and airports. His map with these visions was published in 1928. Once the Murrow Memorial Bridge opened, access from Seattle improved, and the area gradually grew. Following the 1963 opening of a second bridge across the lake, the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, the city began to grow more rapidly. It has since become one of the largest cities in the state.
The city's name is derived from a French term for "beautiful view". Under favorable weather conditions, scenic vistas of the Olympic Mountains and Cascade Mountains can be viewed from hilltops and strategically positioned high-rise buildings.
Bellevue is the site of the popular annual Bellevue Arts and Crafts Fair (originally Pacific Northwest Arts and Crafts Fair), held since 1947 at the end of July. The biennial Bellevue Sculpture Exhibition draws thousands of visitors to the Downtown Park to view up to 46 three-dimensional artworks from artists around the country. In celebration of its strawberry farming history, Bellevue holds an annual Strawberry Festival. The Bellevue 24-Hour Relay has also been hosted every July in Bellevue Downtown Park.