Glendale started out as a small settlement called Stumptown, because of an economy based on logging. After the arrival of the railroad in 1881, the town was named Julia in honor of the wife of Sol Abraham, a prominent local citizen and platter of the town site. After a dispute between Abraham and a railroad agent, the town was renamed Glendale in August 1883.

A major fire in the early-mid 1900s destroyed much of the town, which was rebuilt. There are very few buildings still standing that are more than a century old. The business district was destroyed again by a fire on July 11, 1928. The Presbytarian church on Main Street is one of the few buildings left from before the fire.

The median age in the city was 35.8 years. 29.4% of residents were under the age of 18; 8% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 24.5% were from 25 to 44; 23.9% were from 45 to 64; and 14.3% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 50.8% male and 49.2% female.