The objects that tell the story of Seattle’s past reveal clues for the present.
BESS LOVEJOY'S “HISTORY OF SEATTLE IN 25 OBJECTS,” a survey of iconic artifacts preserved in our local history museums that begins on page 75, tells the Seattle story through fossils and tools and relics that have survived the so-called ash heap of history. Together they show how Seattle’s booms and busts and protests and entrepreneurship and transportation issues are part of an indelible continuum for our western port city. From a fossilized mollusk that signals our deep connection to the sea to the logo of the world’s ubiquitous Internet shopping website, these remnants of our past are fixed in our DNA.
I was surprised to learn, for example, that for all the current objections over coal-laden trains destined for proposed terminals in Bellingham or Longview, there was a time when Seattle was determined to transport coal from deposits south and east of the city. Passed over by the Northern Pacific Railway in 1873 in favor of Tacoma, Seattle just went ahead and built its own railroads, paving the way for the city’s economic dominance. Take that, Tacoma!
A postal sign from the Depression-era shantytown of Seattle’s Hooverville resonates today with Nickelsville, the itinerant homeless community divided and relocated by the city over Labor Day weekend. The 1930s version finally came to an end when the city reclaimed the land in 1941. A page from a treaty resurrects the original Battle in Seattle, the one in 1855 between native tribes and Seattle’s early immigrants, while a graffitied window is a stark relic of a more recent Battle in Seattle, 1999’s WTO riots.
Yet, for all the darker moments in our history, there are just as many touchstones for pride: airplanes, music, technology—and spirits. A Prohibition-era copper still, now housed in the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum, would look at home in any of the artisan distilleries mushrooming all over town. There’s even one right downstairs from our office—Copperworks Distilling.
Which leads me to: holiday spirits and how to get them. Throughout this issue you’ll find everything you could possibly need to make the most of the season: local winter ales, stouts, and porters; the top holiday concerts and plays; cozy fireplace bars; the house with 340,000 lights; and plenty of champagne to kick-start 2014.
This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of Seattle Met.