The Ghosts of Seattle Past

ghostsThe Ghosts of Seattle Past is an anthology and art installation designed to preserve memories of place – gathering spots, restaurants, shops, art venues, and community institutions lost to rapid development in Seattle.

The project started with editor/curator Jaimee Garbacik, mapmaker Josh Powell, and designer Jon Horn conducting interviews with community members, inviting the public to share places they miss.  The team also created a digital map where anyone could pin and note their memories of a lost space, you can find the map HERE.

The team will be using the map as a reference as they create hand-drawn maps featuring everywhere Seattleites miss. The art installation includes an atlas of essays, photography, and art from those who wish to commemorate a lost space.

The Ghosts of Seattle Past team is collaborating with Chin Music Press to compile and publish an anthology of the most striking and representative pieces of the art installation. The book will come out in or before 2017, but in the meantime this labor of love is ongoing.

They are hoping the public continues to share stories and art to be included in this project. Their goal is to make sure that as many different voices are represented as possible from all of Seattle’s communities.

Would you like to participate?

They’re looking for essays, people to interview, or any artwork or photography they can print to help preserve the city’s collective memories. If there is someone who you think would be a good fit for our project, they would also like for you to share their contact information.

Many of the places we love are disappearing, please help in creating something that lasts.

Contact Information:

Cali Kopczick
Editor, Chin Music Press
(360) 531-3337

New York Library Makes Thousands of Photos Available Online

This week the New York Public Library released thousands of its public-domain items — including maps, posters, manuscripts, sheet music, drawings, photographs, letters, ancient texts — as high-resolution downloads, available to the public without restriction.

The general public, including those of us who live in Seattle, can now access thousands of amazing high-resolution photos for free. Previously users would have to make a request and pay a processing fee.

I did a quick “public domain only” search, using Seattle as my search term, and 32 results appeared, including this amazing lithograph of early Seattle by Henry Wellge, dated 1884.

seattle 1884

This is a great resource for researchers, or a great way for the rest of us to kill an hour or two.  To access materials click HERE.

Little Jimmy & the Gilman Shelter House Chimney

One of my favorite West Woodland Neighborhood stories took place in January 1953 at a snow covered Gilman Playground.  The boy’s name was Jimmy Wright and his adventure made the front page of the Seattle Times.

Little Jimmy was enjoying a day at the park, playing in the snow with his school chums, when he decided to climb to the top of the Gilman Playground shelter house.  Side note, the Gilman Playground shelter house is listed by the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods on their Historical Site Database.  For more Gilman Playground history click HERE.  

Once on top, Jimmy showed his friends that he could indeed fit in the chimney opening…. and swoosh!  Just like Santa Claus, Jimmy slid down the chimney into the room below.   Unfortunately for Jimmy, the shelter house was locked from the outside and the only person with a key was park superintendent Ben Evans.

After finally being released, he ran to his step-father, soot faced tears streaming down his cheeks, and proclaimed, “Never again!”  One trip down the chimney was enough for Jimmy.

Article below courtesy the Seattle Times Archive.

jimmy wright.jpg

Then & Now: Grading the 900 block of NW 57th Street

The black & white photo was taken in between 1900 – 1909 and is courtesy The Seattle Public Library.

Looking west, the photo provides a unique panoramic view of the old West Woodland neighborhood, which once stretched the west side today’s Phinney Ridge.

The hillside had not yet been clear cut, and roads were not much more than dirt trails. This photo really illustrates how difficult it was to travel through the area. The automobile first arrived in Seattle in 1900, but most residents relied on their own two-feet or horse and wagon when available.

The description provided states, “Grading in 900 Block on W. 57th. Ballard”. I walked this stretch of roadway, and with the help of King County Parcel Viewer, was able to create this approximate view.

There is one house documented as having been built in 1900, 901 NW 57th Street, and it is included on the right side of the “Now” photo. This may be the same house in the background of the “Then” photo. The facade looks the same, but more research is needed to confirm. Enjoy!

Photo courtesy The Seattle Public Library


Then & Now - 9th and 57th

Your Home’s History

Like most Seattlites, you’re probably not the original owner of the home you live in, so it is only natural to wonder what your home may have looked like when it was first built.

Today, I am going to walk you though how to pull your homes records from the King County Records website. In a later article, I will detail information available at the Puget Sound Regional Archives in Bellevue.

The King County Assessor regularly takes and files photographs of residences as part of its work. These photographs are part of the public record and most are available online. You may be able to see your homes floor plan and some previous sale history. Permit history is available on the City of Seattle website at:

Locating your homes records online:

1. Go to the King County Assessor’s eRealProperty site at:…/eRealProperty/default.aspx

2. Enter your address or parcel number from your tax bill (addresses change, but parcel numbers do not)

3. Click the “Search” button.

You should now be looking at the Assessor’s report for your home.
On the top of the page click the button labeled “Property Detail”
Scroll down until you see the picture of your home, then click on the camera icon. Floor plans may also be available, click the camera icon above the floor plan.

You should now be seeing the photographs. Enjoy!

If you have an interesting “Then & Now” photo set of your home, please share with us by emailing I would love to find out what you have learned about your home.