The tragic death of George Floyd was not an isolated incident. In order to understand this injustice, we must take the time to educate ourselves about the history of racist violence by White people against African Americans – and the intergenerational trauma it has caused. Furthermore, as preservationists, we must work harder to acknowledge and celebrate Black history. To that end, the following resources are a good place to start.
The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, a National Trust for Historic Preservation campaign “to draw attention to the remarkable stories that evoke centuries of African American activism and achievement, and to tell our nation’s full history.”
The Mildred Colodny Diversity Scholarship, a National Trust program that “provides financial assistance and experiential learning opportunities to individuals preparing for careers in historic preservation. The purpose of the Colodny Scholarship is to increase the diversity of people pursuing degrees and careers in historic preservation in the United States.”
The Space/Race Reading List, a crowdsourced reading list “on how race and racism are constructed with spatial means, and on how in turn space can be shaped by racism.”
Beyond Integrity, a 4Culture initiative to elevate equity in preservation standards and practices.
The Northwest African American Museum, an institution which “envisions a Pacific Northwest region where the important histories, arts, and cultures of people of African descent are embraced as an essential part of our shared heritage and future.”
Wa Na Wari, a “space for Black ownership, possibility, and belonging through art, historic preservation, and connection…in Seattle’s historically redlined Central District neighborhood.”
Pictured: A stained glass window at Mount Zion Baptist Church, manufactured by Mr. Douglas Phillips of Cleveland, OH. At the time of the construction of this church, Mr. Phillips was the only Black owner of a stained glass studio in the United States. The windows represent some of the Black church leaders and heroes who have made significant contributions to American civilization and were designed exclusively for the Mount Zion Baptist Church of Seattle.
Left: Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 – 1968). Preacher, prophet, peaceful warrior. Civil rights leader. Right: Nathaniel “Nat” Turner (1800 – 1831). Enslaved Black man who launched one of the most historic and largest revolts to end enslavement in Southampton County, Virginia. It lasted 48 hours before armed, White men suppressed the revolt. (Source: Zinn Education Project)
Last September, we presented Friends of Little Saigon (FLS) with the Community Advocacy Award at our annual Preservation Celebration Benefit, recognizing their work preserving and enhancing Little Saigon’s cultural, economic, and historic vitality. For the first time ever, this award included a $3,000 prize which FLS intended to use to help advance their mission by building out and opening the Little Saigon Cultural Gathering Space. Like so many others these days, FLS’s plans have shifted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, their work to support, strengthen, and preserve culture and community is as robust as ever. We checked in with Valerie Tran, a member of Friends of Little Saigon’s leadership team, for her take on how the pandemic is impacting the Chinatown-International District (CID) community and what FLS is doing in response to those challenges.
One such response has been establishing the CID Restaurants and Other Small Businesses Relief Fund. In late March, a $100,000 seed gift from Vulcan enabled FLS, the Seattle Chinatown-International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda), and the Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area (CIDBIA) to come together to provide much-needed financial relief to neighborhood restaurants and small businesses.
“By March, the neighborhood had already suffered effects of the pandemic for a long time,” explained Valerie. “As early as late January/early February, the spread of misinformation and racism had caused many people to feel afraid to visit Asian and Chinese restaurants and businesses.” To date, the emergency relief fund has raised over $300,000 in donations, and over 87 neighborhood restaurants have received critical funding through the program’s first wave of distributions. Currently, 130 non-restaurant businesses are being evaluated for the next wave of distributions, which is expected to take place in May.
There are many unique challenges in responding to the crisis and managing the relief fund. “Many of our community’s small businesses don’t have a history of engaging with us through mediums like email, websites, and social media,” Valerie said. Interactions in the community more often occur face-to-face, which proves difficult when people are in isolation and businesses are shuttered. “There is also a lot of skepticism because of scams that are targeting small business owners,” she added.
“Language has also been a challenge. In the beginning there was a flurry of information coming from the city, state, and federal governments. Information was coming quickly, but many in the neighborhood were getting the information 4-7 days later because of the time it takes to simplify, translate, and redistribute information. In some cases, we’ve brought information out to the community in hard copy. We’ve been doing a lot of advocacy to the state and city, urging them to provide translated information at the same time that it’s delivered in English,” Valerie noted. “It’s so important to provide consistent information about legitimate sources of assistance in a timely manner.”
About the role community has in responding to the crisis, Valerie said, “COVID-19 has had some positive effects in the way the community has come together to respond. Throughout history, Asian American and Pacific Islander groups have been pitted against each other. This leads to finger pointing and debate over which ethnic group is more oppressed. Now people are coming together, people are stepping up, and community groups are partnering like never before to provide financial relief, wellness checks, groceries, and meals to people in need. We’ve got to be in this together.”
In addition to her role as Operations Director at FLS, Valerie Tran previously served on the boards of FLS and the International Special Review District. She also currently serves on Historic Seattle’s Council and understands the value of preservation. “This COVID-19 response work is important for cultural preservation. If these businesses and cultural institutions can’t reopen, this will be a huge loss to the cultural fabric of the city and the communities that rely on them,” she said. “This is why this work is critical. We can sometimes take our cultural businesses and places for granted, but the crisis brings to light the importance of community preservation, and that our work must go beyond physical and architectural preservation.”
Valerie Tran (second from the left) with members of Friends of Little Saigon
While the opening of the Little Saigon Cultural Gathering Space is delayed as a result of the recent construction moratorium, space has been leased and will include a small business resource center, office space, a Vietnamese café, a library, and an art exhibit space. Earlier this year, FLS launched a call to artists and selections were made for what will be the art space’s inaugural exhibit. “Owning It” will feature several visual and 3D artworks by Vietnamese American artists.
It has been just three years since Friends of Little Saigon brought on its first paid staff member, executive director Quynh Pham. Prior to her arrival, FLS had been an all-volunteer group since its founding in 2011. “The progress that has been made toward our mission is a testament to Quynh’s ability to implement the volunteer board’s vision,” said Valerie. Historic Seattle joins Valerie in commending her colleague and the ongoing achievements of FLS.
“The ‘vanishing’ part of ‘Vanishing Seattle’ is just one part of the story,” said Cynthia Brothers. “There are also many stories of resistance, resilience, and creation.”
Cynthia Brothers is the founder of Vanishing Seattle, a social media account that is “documenting disappearing/displaced businesses, homes, communities, and cultures of Seattle.”
Clad in one of her signature miniskirt and Vanishing Seattle t-shirt ensembles, Cynthia is stood in the living room of a packed house as she introduced the new Vanishing Seattle documentary film series. The series premiere was at and about Wa Na Wari, a project housed in a 5th-generation Black-owned craftsman in the historically Black Central District neighborhood. According to a sign in the entryway of this legacy home, Wa Na Wari (which means “our home” in the Kalabari language) “creates space for Black ownership, possibility, and belonging through art, historic preservation, and connection.”
Cynthia has teamed up with Martin Tran, a filmmaker and former co-director of the Seattle Asian American Film Festival, for this seven-part film series. The films will expand upon a lot of the same themes and questions that Vanishing Seattle raises with its Instagram chronicles. Cynthia explained, “Vanishing Seattle and this film series involve conversations dealing with change. But not a dichotomy of old: good, new: bad. Instead it asks, ‘What does change mean? What does progress really look like, and what are the ways that change can serve and benefit communities? What’s possible with creative, forward-thinking ideas? What do different solutions to displacement and gentrification look like?’ In the case of places that are vanishing we ask, ‘Why is this happening? What caused this to vanish, and what can be done to prevent this from happening?’”
“The advantage of this project is that film is a lot more dynamic as a medium,” said Cynthia. “Most of the Instagram posts have been of buildings and physical places, and it’s hard to get to the people behind those places with just pictures and captions. The films humanize these places and allow people to share stories in their own words.” While all the films in the series are co-produced by Cynthia and Martin, they engage different filmmakers to tell various stories about different communities. “One of the principles of this film series is that the filmmakers have a personal connection to the community and the place that they want to make a film about,” Cynthia pointed out.
“Some of the things we struggle with in using film pertain to timing,” described Cynthia. “Everything is happening so fast, in some cases, places are gone before we can find a filmmaker to tell its story. It is also hard to be selective. There are countless stories to tell, so many places to talk about. Often, there are multiple stories attached to a single place and the shorter the film is (the films are just 7-10 minutes long), the harder the choices are that you must make. We’re always asking ourselves, ‘Are we doing this justice?’”
“The goal of the series is to raise general awareness of these places and communities, through their stories,” explained Cynthia. “It’s about capturing and sharing places that are built into the structure that make Seattle unique. We all lose out when we lose these places. They should be important to us as a city. With many of these films, there is an active opportunity to support small businesses and places that provide space for art and culture to thrive.”
In the living room of Wa Na Wari, Inye Wakoma, one of the founders of the project and the grandson of the owner of the home where Wa Na Wari is based, warmly emceed the evening’s program. People sat cross-legged on the floor or in chairs, stood in the dining room and hallways, and trailed up the stairs. Food and drinks were generously offered, and the upstairs rooms were activated with exhibits by Black artists. A Shelf-Life Community Stories neighborhood cultural mapping project was on display, and a vintage rotary phone that you can pick up and hear oral histories through sat on a little table beside a wooden chair in the hallway.
The Shelf Life Community Story Project space in Wa Na Wari
Performances by storyteller-rappers and poets (namely Yirim Seck and Ebo Barton) preceded the screening of the film, which was directed by devon de Leña and CHIMAERA. The film rolled and Wakoma was then on screen talking about the gentrification and displacement currently happening in the Central District: “The biggest thing that folks are trying to pinpoint is ‘How do we actually survive this? And then, how do we come out on the other side of this, in some way that actually feels whole?’ We need imaginative responses, ways of imagining ourselves in the future that have everything to do with us getting there on our own, in ways that make sense to us.”
An interview with Shannon Welles and Earnie Ashwood, Showbox employees and founding members of Friends of The Showbox.
What is Friends of The Showbox (FOTS) and how
were you inspired to organize this group?
describe Friends of The Showbox as a grassroots community coalition of people
dedicated to saving The Showbox. For me, establishing the group came from
wanting to get the employees of The Showbox connected to a greater community of
people working to save the venue. It also came from wanting to unite individuals
and connect them with groups like Friends of the Market and Historic Seattle to
get all parties working together.
Also, I was in grad school
when the news about the threat to The Showbox broke. I was taking a public
policy class, and I felt like I could help organize people who had energy but
didn’t know where to put it. Like the employees, many people wanted to help but
didn’t know how.
is a coalition of people who love The Showbox and have gathered for the sole
interest of preserving both the use and the cultural heritage of the building.
Tell us about yourself, your connection to
Seattle, and how you came to be a part of The Showbox.
has been the driving force in my life since I was a kid. I started working at a
music store when I was 16, and I moved to Seattle because of the music scene. Seattle
was my music mecca. I would not have come here were it not for the music.
moved to Seattle to pursue music as a full-time career. I started working at The
Showbox, and it quickly became a second home for me. My relationship with The
Showbox has dramatically evolved because of the culture of community that
What is your earliest memory of The Showbox?
went to my first concert at The Showbox (Gillian Welch)
about two weeks after I moved here in 2001. Not long after that, I started
working there. I’ve now worked at The Showbox for 17 years and I can’t imagine
my life, or Seattle, without it.
EA: One of
my earliest memories was meeting the security manager of The Showbox for a job
interview at Pike Place Market. It was very simple, he asked me, “Are you
compassionate? Do you have the ability to listen? And can you make this more
than being about yourself, and flexing power?”
He proceeded to explain that
the culture of The Showbox is about more than standard security. It’s about
providing a safe space for people to connect and enjoy music. The interview
introduced me to the spirit of service to the people that IS The Showbox.
the heart of the community’s love for The Showbox is our relationship to music,
to memory, and to each other through music. These relationships should not be
dismissed as nostalgia. It’s so much deeper than that.”
The above quote is from Friends of The
Showbox’s website. Explain how love of The Showbox is about more than people’s nostalgia
for a bygone time in their lives.
those are my words so that’s a lot of it! But I also think music is often just dismissed
solely as entertainment, without consideration of any other role it has in
society. I’ve done some reading about music as a social force, so I see it differently.
It’s old, old function in human
relationships is in ceremony, and bringing people together. We build
relationships through music.
EA: To me,
The Showbox is a shining example of diversity, both in music and in
demographic. And as a musician in this city, when small shows pop up at The
Showbox you pay attention because that’s where Seattle music really gets to
shine. You see so much pride among the musicians performing and within the
people who work there. People take this in as a beautiful Seattle event, and a
sense of power of connection comes through that space.
Do you personally feel connected to The
Showbox’s history? If so, how?
SW:If you’re speaking about the legacy of bands that have played there, I got to be part of many of them, so I feel really connected to that space. Then 5 years ago, for The Showbox’s 75th anniversary, I worked with the GM at the time to put together a celebration of The Showbox. I helped by digging through archives to gather old photographs, I did research, and I read the HistoryLink article. As a result, I became very familiar with The Showbox’s history.
EA: I feel
connected to the history in two distinct ways, as a musician and as an
employee.As an employee, finding a new family through work makes
me feel like a part of its history as a place where people connect. As a
musician, it’s always been a dream to play at The Showbox and I got that opportunity
in January of 2017. The opportunity to share my music on that stage changed my
perspective about what was possible within myself. This venue represents
opportunity for musicians like me.
Assuming this is the first time you’ve been
involved in the landmarking process, what are some of the big takeaways you’ve
learned thus far?
read a lot to figure out what it is and how you explain it to someone else. One
disappointing thing that I’ve discovered is that landmarking doesn’t
necessarily save a place, that it doesn’t protect use. I also learned that the landmarking
criteria heavily focuses on the things that you can see and touch, and not
necessarily what it means to a community. When you’re trying to make the case
for cultural significance, it’s hard if many of the ideas that they have about
landmarks are about material space. I know that there have been articles
written about equity, and who gets to save what spaces, and what do we value in
terms of landmarks process. I think there’s room for improvement and change, to
strengthen the rules so that we can save spaces with cultural significance when
an owner might have an offer of millions of dollars that involves demolition.
EA: One of the biggest things I’ve come away with is that you can’t assume that other people have the same knowledge you have about a place you care about. And perhaps more importantly, the way you approach educating someone really determines how effectively you can accomplish the goals you’re trying to get across. For example, one of the landmark board members didn’t have a good understanding of the accessibility of The Showbox and the wide demographic that we serve. At first, I got almost angry, “How could they not know this!?” Then I realized I could share my knowledge and use that information as a positive point for why this place should be preserved. It’s not all about being prepared with what you have to say, but also to show up and listen, and address concerns to be effective for the movement.
What is one of the more significant ways you’ve
seen The Showbox foster community? How would you describe its role in the
context of Seattle as a whole?
SW: I see
it most among the employees because that’s how I am in the space. The employee
base is a unit. But I also see relationships forming there, people make friends
there, romances form. In the context of Seattle as a whole, it provides space
for people to gather. If you’re in a place where there are 1,000 other people
who love that band that you also love, and you’re all singing the songs
together and jumping up and down together on that floor, there’s a sense of
belonging. If you go someplace like a bar you may be talking together with your
friends, but you don’t feel like you’re having some sort of communal
EA: Live music
tends to break down barriers, it allows people from different backgrounds and
different beliefs to come together. It gives them a space to let that go and
just enjoy what’s in front of them, in the moment, with fellow human beings.
For example, one of my favorite bands came to play at The Showbox, about a year
ago. I was working security and noticed someone wearing a Trump t-shirt and another
in a Black Lives Matter shirt. In our political climate that can lead to some
very uncomfortable feelings. As security we must be mindful of situations like
that. The moment the band started to play, those two got next to each other in
the same area and it felt like some type of showdown could go down. Instead we saw
the two of them wrap their arms around each other and start belting out the
songs together. That is representative of the way this place allows for community
to set aside differences and come together.
How would Seattle’s music scene change if The
Showbox were to be torn down?
one of just two venues of that capacity here and in terms of how bands move
through the Pacific Northwest we’re an important small-to-midsized venue. There
are bands that are too big for the Crocodile but too small to fill places like
the Moore or the Paramount. You need the venues that are in between and without
them I think a lot of bands will just skip Seattle. It would be terrible for
Seattle because of what the place means for people in Seattle. Artists who are
young and coming up dream of playing there and want to see their name on the
marquee. There would be this hole where that used to be. The place is an icon. If
you destroy this icon, it’s going to crush the spirit of the musicians in
Seattle. The greater touring musicians in this country know The Showbox and
want to play there. It will destroy one of the best places to play in the
Pacific Northwest and will have effects that people aren’t thinking about now.
I think it will affect the greater ecosystem of music in the PNW.
Showbox is unique not only because of its culture of community but also in
terms of its capacity. The average bar here has a capacity from 100-150, then
you have places like the Crocodile around 300, and places like Nuemo’s with a
capacity of 600-700. This is where The Showbox is really special, it’s a very
approachable space that fits 1,100 to 1,200. From there it jumps up from 1,800
to 1,900 at places like Showbox SODO. If you were to lose The Showbox, you’re
looking at a jump from about 600 to 1,800. That gap leaves musicians in a very
tough spot and limits options for how you can present your music. The unique
size of The Showbox is one of the reasons it draws musicians from around the
world to Seattle.
I mention the Neptune is the
only other place of its size in Seattle.
EA: And I
love the Neptune, but it’s different. To me, The Showbox represents a
home-grown identity and a home-grown goal. It is unique because of its location
in the heart of Seattle, and because of its rich history with artists like Duke
Ellington, Soundgarden, and Lady Gaga having played there.
Please share some specifics on how The Showbox
impacts Pike Place Market and the local neighborhood.
connected. The bands that come through get off their buses and ask, “Where can
I go eat in the Market?” They go over and explore, The Showbox employees go
over there, people who work at the Market come to shows. Many of the businesses
in the Market already consider us part of the Market because they give us
discounts that employees at the Market get! We get a lot of people coming in
from the Market during the day asking, “What is this place?” or, “We want to see
the show, do you have tickets?”
a strong relationship between The Showbox and the Market, a natural, symbiotic,
heartwarming connection between both the people who visit the Market and The
Showbox, and the people who work in both places. The Pike Place Market itself
is about human connection. It’s about face to face interaction, and service to
the people. That same spirit is very much what The Showbox is about.
How has The Showbox influenced your other life
have a good understanding of what it’s like to live in Seattle and have no
money and to do something for years because you love it. From being part of
that community for so long, and having that be my lived experience, I can
advocate for people who have that experience also.
Whether you work as a tattoo
artist, or a photographer, or audio tech — you’re part of the creative
community. There has to be a place for the creative community. Seattle is not
going to be a great place to be if you don’t have any artists or musicians. And
we’re supposed to be “The City of Music,” it’s ridiculous that we’re being
driven out! I see my path forward
supporting the arts, we need all the support we can get and that’s where I’m
going to focus my energies next.
fight to save The Showbox has changed my perspective about what a community of
people coming together can do. I’m not just talking about the Showbox
community, or the people of Seattle, I’m talking about the countless people
around the world who have shown support for what this fight is really about,
which to me, is the concept of profit vs. culture.
The Showbox has provided me
with a lot of direction in life. Not only direction, but also the support
behind the direction to execute. It has broadened my perspective of what I’m
capable of and caused me to question what’s really important to me. These are
the reasons I’m fighting so hard to save this place.
The italicized text above is paraphrased, not directly
quoted. The meaning has been preserved.
As we roll into June and people across the globe engage in Pride celebrations, we wanted to focus in on Seattle and highlight the projects and research of Julian Barr. Julian is a University of Washington PhD candidate who is leading two sold out walking tours for Historic Seattle. His tours are based on a mapping and walking tour project he developed called Pioneer Square and the Making of Queer Seattle. With this piece, Historic Seattle aims to share a little insight into the person behind these important efforts to capture and share this part of Seattle’s history.
Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Julian received an undergraduate degree in history and masters in geography there before moving to Seattle in 2014 to pursue a PhD in historical geography. He is passionate about historical geography because he believes both where and when something happens are equally important.
Tell us about your connection to Seattle and how you came to pursue the projects and research you’re involved in?
Not long after arriving in Seattle, Julian read Gary Atkins’ book Gay Seattle which helped spawn his interest in Seattle’s LGBTQ history. He soon learned of The Northwest Lesbian and Gay History Museum Project (NWLGHMP) and Angie McCarrel, a local architect and lesbian interested in preserving history and buildings, who developed a Pioneer Square walking tour with NWLGHMP in the 1990s. Julian said, “Although the oral histories collected for The Northwest Lesbian and Gay History Museum Project are now in UW Special Collections, the project hadn’t really been active since the early 2000s.”
Julian explained, “Right around the same time a sociology conference was coming to town and my dissertation adviser Michael Brown asked me to look at McCarrel’s tour and update it to offer to conference attendees.”
Through that process, he became particularly interested in how Pioneer Square’s LGBTQ history is portrayed to the public. While exploring Pioneer Square, he questioned, “What’s being told? What’s not? What understanding is the public getting from this place by walking around?”
“Gay history wasn’t represented in Pioneer Square, it wasn’t represented in the Underground Tour, not included in Klondike Gold Rush Museum, etc. I was not seeing Seattle’s gay history represented and I wanted it shown more, and for there to be opportunities for people to engage with it.”
Thus, the idea for Pioneer Square and the Making of Queer Seattle was born. With critical support from the UW Simpson Center for the Humanities, Julian developed an interactive map and comprehensively updated the walking tour. Julian will conduct his tour twice this year for Historic Seattle and has been invited to offer it through numerous other outlets, such as MOHAI. “I saw this as a great and accessible way to engage the public in Pioneer Square’s LGBTQ history.”
“We are coming upon the 50-year anniversary of the start of the Stonewall Riots that inspired Pride as a celebration of queer life and sexuality, and a political and social demonstration. In general, so much of gay history focuses on what happened in a place after the 1970s. People forget that there were many vibrant and organized gay communities that existed before then. The Pioneer Square project offers the public a glimpse of what it was like living in Seattle as a LGBTQ person in those earlier times.”
What’s next for Julian?
“Well, I’m working on completing my PhD! My dissertation is
on Queer Pioneer Square and understanding the historical geographies of lesbian
and queer women in Seattle.”
What is your favorite place in Seattle?
“I have a strong affinity for Pioneer Square. Specifically,
the corner of 2nd and Washington which is where my tours start and
also where The
Double Header used to be. I was lucky enough to visit the Double Header
before it closed, and it was there that I really felt the connection to the queer
history of Pioneer Square.”
Although Julian’s upcoming tour with Historic Seattle is sold out, if you are interested in learning about protecting the places that anchor Seattle’s LGBTQ communities join us for There Goes the Gayborhood!, our free panel discussion happening June 8th. Learn more and register here.
Happy Pride from your friends at Historic Seattle!
Applications are now being accepted for the 2015 Vets Restore program, an intensive 12-week training, internship, and job networking program for post 9/11 veterans interested in building renovation. Vets Restore is the result of an innovative partnership between 4Culture, Historic Seattle, and the King County Veterans Program. The mission of Vets Restore is to connect veterans with the valuable work of revitalizing America’s historic buildings.
Once accepted into Vets Restore, veterans take a 4-week intensive class with hands-on training in basic carpentry skills. Training is followed by 8 weeks of paid employment under Lydig Construction. Both the training and internship take place at the historic Washington Hall in Seattle’s Central District, where an extensive renovation project is currently underway. The program is designed to provide ample networking and mentoring opportunities with preservation-focused construction firms.
Throughout the 12-week period, veterans also receive comprehensive support services, including case management, career counseling, and financial assistance to pay for tools, gear and transportation.
Interested veterans are eligible if they:
Reside in King County
Have served on active duty and received an honorable, medical, general, or under honorable conditions discharge
Have served in the National Guard or Reserves and met their initial service obligation
Priority will be given to post 9/11 veterans. Applicants should have a desire to work in the construction trades and an interest in working with old buildings.
August 14: Deadline to apply. Applications must be submitted by 5:00 pm
August 18-20: Applicant interviews
September 14 – October 9: 4-week training program in basic preservation practices at Washington Hall covering safety, tools skill-building, hands on carpentry projects, mentoring sessions and field trips
October 12: December 4: 8-week, full-time paid internship
December 9: Graduation
December – January: Job search guidance
Veterans can find out if they are qualified by contacting Candice Corey, King County Veterans’ Program, at (206) 477-6989.
Melrose Building at southeast corner of Pine and Melrose.
By Guest Blogger Dylan Glenn
This spring I had the pleasure of interning with Historic Seattle as I work toward a bachelor’s degree in history at Seattle University. It was a great way for me to observe how historians work in the field as I learned about research methods and resources, local history, and how historians and preservationists can work together to protect and improve historic communities. I really admire the kind of community preservation work that organizations like Historic Seattle do, and being able to work alongside them on the Melrose Building (home to Bauhaus Books + Coffee in the Pike/Pine neighborhood on Melrose and Pine) showed me firsthand what a vital resource preservationists can be for communities; far from obstructing legitimate and beneficial commercial progress in favor of preserving outdated, irrelevant structures, Historic Seattle was able to assist a movement that began and was supported at a grassroots level. I think the publicity and the success of the Melrose Building project opened a lot of minds to the validity and importance of organizations like Historic Seattle, and the project itself certainly kept me busy during the second half of my internship!
Working on the Melrose Building project, I learned a lot about the building’s architect, John Creutzer. Creutzer was also the architect on the Times Square Building and the Medical Dental Building downtown, and many of his large apartment buildings (most of them constructed during the early-to-mid-1920s) remain prominent elements of the built environment in the neighborhoods where they reside. Seattle has a very unique built environment, and its many distinct neighborhoods have a welcoming vitality that is missing in a lot of big cities; places like Capitol Hill and Columbia City have a sense of personality and community that is usually swallowed up in the anonymity of urban sprawl. As I learned more about Creutzer and his prolific output, I realized what an impact his work has had on many of Seattle’s neighborhoods. From local institutions like Bauhaus Books + Coffee to the distinctive-looking apartment buildings such as the Granada, spread across Capitol Hill, Creutzer’s work has made a valuable contribution to the way we live, work, and connect in this city. Our success in preserving his work means more than saving a building of historic value or pleasing aesthetics, it means hanging on to part of a way of life that makes Seattle unique.
Now that my internship has ended, I have a new appreciation for preservationists’ work. I also see a possibility to make a difference in my community as an historian, moving past the image people tend to have of us as stuffy academics who live mostly in classrooms. Preservation organizations like Historic Seattle not only record and preserve history, they help shape it by empowering communities with the tools and resources that they need to preserve their values and way of life in the face of damaging change and development. By focusing on the human impact of development and property maintenance, preservationists can make a community a better place for businesses and residents alike. This element of preservation is what makes the profession so unique and so appealing from the perspective of an historian, and I am very happy to have been a part of this process as an intern. Regardless of what career path I choose after I graduate, the values I saw in action at Historic Seattle will remain important to me, and I hope, in whatever position I end up serving, to make the same kind of impact that I was able to be a part of over these last few months.
Dylan Glenn (of Louisville, Kentucky) interned with Historic Seattle during the 2012 Spring Quarter through the Seattle University Public Histories Program. He is an undergraduate in the University Honors Program, and is working toward a B.A. in History. After graduation he is looking forward to graduate school and a career focused on archiving and research.