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!