By Jean Godden
Special to Northwest Asian Weekly
There is no need to take a plane to discover something new. Here’s what you can explore, without a suitcase or a high price tag.
First, there is the Seattle Room, that wonderful depository of history at Seattle’s Central Library. Among the finds in the Seattle Room are the photos of Edward Curtis, portraits of Seattle’s early people. There are also plats and maps of the city’s beginnings, if you are interested in all things schematic and historical details.
More of Seattle’s many hidden treasures:
The Klondike Gold Rush National Park. An unusual national park can be found, located in a colorful storefront at 117 South Main Street, in Seattle’s Pioneer Square. The park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, free to the public. The storefront is half of a park. The other half is in Skagway, Alaska. The Gold Rush came to Seattle thanks to the steamship Portland arriving in Seattle in July 1997, with its rumored “two tons of gold.” Seattle took advantage of its proximity to Alaska through the hucksterism of a Seattle-Post-Intelligencer editor named Erastus Brainerd. He convinced would-be prospectors that they had to come to Seattle for outfitting en route to the Klondike gold fields.
Pike Place Market’s “DownUnder.” The Pike Place Market, the nation’s oldest continually operated farmers market, has many hidden treasures. Among them are the hodge-podge of shops found beneath the main market arcade. Shoppers can find just about anything there, from antique photos and postcards to the tail lights of a 1965 Studebaker. “DownUnder” is said to be haunted by several ghosts, just ask the people in the Bead Shop. And don’t forget to check out the Magic Shop where they’ll perform tricks, but only once.
Kubota Gardens, Renton Avenue and 55th Avenue South. The fairy-tale gardens, a rare jewel in the Seattle Parks system, were founded by a Japanese immigrant. He started a 20-acre garden in 1929 in the midst of a swamp. It’s now a delight to the eye, not to mention the nose. The gardens were purchased by the City of Seattle in 1987, thanks to the urging of Seattle Councilmember Jeanette Williams. A creek trickles through the lush greenery, feeding five ponds. Among the rare plants are tanysho pines and weeping blue atlas cedars.
The Chinese Room is the handsome teak-ceilinged room that sits astride the Smith Tower, Seattle’s first skyscraper, located at Yesler and Second Avenue. The room was designed specifically for the wedding of the daughter of builder Lyman C. Smith, an armaments entrepreneur who later became known as a typewriter baron. Constructed in 1914, the Smith Tower was the city’s first steel structure. Weddings are still held in the room which commands a panorama of downtown.
Fishermen’s Terminal at Salmon Bay is home to one of the world’s largest fleets of salmon and halibut trollers. Here, you can spot signs of the fishing industry, including nets spread to dry on the pavements, boats of all types line the wharves, and marine hardware supplies. Visitors can take in the scene from the benches near the Seattle Fishermen’s Memorial Statue, engraved with the names of local fishermen lost at sea.
Lake View Cemetery at 154 15th Avenue East is the home of many of the city’s pioneers and some of its more recent citizens. Most popular is the hillside gravesites of Bruce Lee, the storied Asian icon and movie personality, and his son Brandon Lee. Some older gravesites belong to settlers who were reburied there (some as many as four times) when forced out of earlier graveyards by the city’s relentless expansion. Chief Seattle’s daughter “Princess Angeline” lies here along with David “Doc” Maynard and his second wife Catherine. Many Asian settlers rest here in photo-enhanced gravesites along the Eastern side of the cemetery.
Tilikum Place at Denny and Cedar features a dramatic full-figured statue of Chief Sealth, the city’s namesake. The statue was sculpted by James A. Wehn in 1912. The sculptor reportedly cast his bust of Sealth from an original mold, but then destroyed the model to protest the city’s plan to use an inferior foundry. Wehn later reconciled with the city and sculpted a new figure. The triangle and fountain were refurbished in 1975. In the early 1990s, cleaners scraped away decades of peeling paint to discover that the statue had originally been covered in gold leaf, now restored.
The Dome Room is a hidden treasure in the Arctic Hotel at Third and Cherry. The hotel, which dates from 1917, is recognizable for its fanciful Italianate terra-cotta façade and tusked walrus heads. Built to house the prestigious Artic Club, most of its early details were lost to remodeling for city offices at the turn of the 20th Century, prior to the building being sold to developers. One survivor is the Dome Room, a handsome banquet room topped by a rococo gilt and stained-glass skylight. It seems to exist in an earlier era.
Frye Art Museum at 704 Terry Avenue is open and free to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. The museum’s collection features mainly realistic art, enriched by the European salon paintings of donors Charles and Emma Frye. The museum occupies a distinguished international-style building and features works varying from Wyeth to native Alaskan artists. Traveling exhibits also are featured at the museum, which has a small but delightful cafeteria and a well-stocked gift shop.
Pottery Northwest, a handsome brick structure at 226 First Avenue North, is open Tuesday through Saturday, from noon to 5 p.m. While most of this building is dedicated to rental studio space for local artisans, there is a small gallery toward the front that allows you to see what the artists are creating. There are interesting bright pieces, most available at reasonable prices for one-of-a-kind treasures.
If you want to explore, don’t forget how much our city has to offer. (end)
Jean Godden is a former journalist for the Seattle Times and Seattle PI. She is currently a city council member.