With a booming economy spurring new businesses, restaurants, office towers, and apartments to be built, and 1,100 new people moving to Seattle every week, nostalgia is as constant here as the change that inspires it. Countless conversations revolve around the old shops, restaurants, places, and communities that have been lost to Seattle’s rising costs. These conversations often revolve around hopes and wishes that the places and communities that still exist do not suffer the same fate.
But the desire to protect the past can also throw a wrench into the present. Seattle was built as a suburb – its core is urban, but nearly half of the city is devoted to detached single-family homes. By holding this up as the city’s ideal and fighting to keep it that way, nostalgic Seattleers are both adding to the rising cost of living and ignoring the history of explicit segregation on which the city was built.
Nostalgia – with all of its contradicting good and bad – is the foundation of Ghosts of Seattle Past: An Anthology of Lost Places in Seattle. Published in April, it is a collection of essays, interviews, photos, and comics about places in Seattle that have been lost through time, cost, and change. Far more than a catalog of former pubs and hip music venues – though there are many of them in the collection – Ghosts traces Seattle’s long history of change and loss when the Duwamish were forcibly removed from the country by the earliest white settlers for themselves beautify and shift in the historically black Central District by the loss of art spaces and weird spaces in Pioneer Square, then in Belltown, then on Capitol Hill.
Ghosts do not follow a historical chronology of change – the chapters are divided by district. However, the book begins with an interview with Ken Workman, the great-great-great-great-grandson of Chief Seattle, the Duwam leader after whom the city is named.
“Gentrification is a new word for an old problem,” says Jaimee Garbacik, editor of Ghost.
“Duwamish had to leave their country. We had the Chinese law of exclusion, black redlining, Japanese internment. We were hoping to show the layers of the cities. Maybe you ate your photo in a place that was once a jazz speakeasy that was once a duwamish field. “
The book was born from an art project for the 2015 Short Run Comix & Arts Festival. Garbacik was inspired by a makeshift memorial she saw outside on the 15th video on Capitol Hill after its closure in 2014. “People had left candles, photos and mementos. The pictures of it really impressed me. I thought there weren’t enough outlets to deal with changes in the city, ”she explains.
Their plan was to put together a map of lost places for Short Run. She called for proposals. The only rule was that it had to be a public space that no longer existed. Hundreds of replies came in, and Garbacik realized that she had what it takes to be an anthology.
Ghosts paints a complex picture of the cultures and subcultures that Seattle has cultivated over the years. There’s an interview with Dave Holden, son of Seattle’s “jazz patriarch” Oscar Holden, which shows how the Central District’s jazz clubs and players drew some of the country’s greatest artists to Seattle. Eric Carnell writes about the original Lower Queen Anne Funhouse, a punk rock venue that promoted all kinds of experimental bands when it was young. Alice Wheeler’s photo essay “Capitol Hill was a gay neighborhood” is reminiscent of a queer room from the 1990s and early 2000s that “was an inclusive place for people who were excluded from the establishment”.
Yva and Tricia in front of Moe’s Mo’Rockin ‘Café. 10th Ave, Pride 1998 Alice Wheeler
In early May, Chin Music Press, editor of Ghosts of Seattle Past, gave a reading with contributors at Kobo in Higo, in the international district. While listening to Tamiko Nimura read her essay on a previous Pioneer Square bookstore called David Ishii, Bookseller, the message from Ghosts clicked for me. Nimura came to Seattle to study literature at the University of Washington. Upon arriving in town, she discovered that canonical white male writers dominated both her major and the bookstores she frequented in her neighborhood, and wondered if there really was a place for an aspiring Japanese-American author like her . Then she found David Ishii, a bookstore of Asian-American authors decorated with her photos. She writes, “I was beginning to realize that I could live in Seattle, a city with a place that highlights Asian American literature.” It was a room where Nimura felt welcome, a place that reflected her and her voice.
The locations in Ghosts promoted cultural diversity in Seattle. Not only did they give blacks and Asians and queer kids and hip-hop heads and punks and nerds and hippies a space where they could comfortably put down roots and become Seattleites; They were an incentive for marginalized groups to lay claim to the city and dictate their vision for it.
Not all of these places went away because the Seattle economy exploded. David Ishii, salesperson, closed when Ishii decided to do something else. Other parts of the book have been closed because their owners retired or moved. However, the high cost of running in town is a factor behind most of the ghosts in the collection. A cheaper city is better able to promote unusual spaces than an expensive one such as we have now.
Garbacik does not assume that you know how best to cope with the complexities of changing a city. She says, “We leave that to the interpreters of the book in many ways. I hope it will encourage people to talk more to their community members. So as not to live in her own little bubble in the city. “
There are some city policies that seek to deal with change, such as the Department of Neighborhoods Historic Landmarks and Historic District Programs. But a DIY music venue in a basement on Capitol Hill will never earn landmark status, and historic preservation couldn’t stop a cafe owner from retiring. City Councilor Lisa Herbold has proposed creating a small business preservation program to support the anchor businesses that the communities consider essential. But even that will never stop any change.
It shouldn’t either. Changes in cities are inevitable. Few of the writers in Ghosts are from Seattle. When they arrived, they changed the city for their former residents, much like newcomers in the 1990s or 2000s changed the city for them.
Stopping change is certainly not Garbacik’s goal. “It was never our intention to bring out an anthology against development and density. It was never about preserving the places, but rather about preserving the memories, ”she explains.
Garbacik hopes that preserving the memories of important common spaces will help Seattle become more just and just in the future.
“Losing our memories means losing the context that made the city what made it so attractive in the first place. … We never want to forget the different ways people have been erased. When we do that, it’s a lot easier to do it again. “
Garbacik argues in her intro to Ghosts: “Nostalgia is productive and convincing. It has staying power. It reminds us of what made us, what shaped us, what mattered. It informs about who we want to be. Without nostalgia we would – in the truest sense of the word – be lost. “