What’s New in the ‘Hood?–House History Style

This “education thing”–does it ever end?  After the fun time I had today, I hope not!

I signed up recently for a “Digging Deeper:Built Heritage Research” series sponsored by Historic Seattle. [1]  This is a once a month tour of 8 repositories in the Seattle, King County area.  Each tour is conducted by experts from the library or archive and includes a “back of the house” tour of the facility.

So you can all be envious, here is a list of the repositories we will be touring:

  • Patsy MacKay Library, 1117 Minor Ave.
  • Special Collections, University of Washington
  • Sophie Frye Bass Library, MOHAI
  • National Archives (NARA) of Seattle
  • Seattle Municipal Archives, City of Seattle
  • Seattle Room, Seattle Public Library
  • Puget Sound Regional Archives, Bellevue Community College
  • King County Archives

2014 0208 HS MacKay libOur first visit was to the Patsy MacKay Library of Historic Seattle and is the newest of all the libraries we will visit.  Its collection, assembled in the past few years and only now open to the public, is not necessarily unique but it is a “one-stop shop” for journals and books related to historic preservation, neighborhood development and architecture, both residential and commercial.  In the photo to the left is Steve Walsh and me looking for his home on Lake Washington in the 1908 Baist’s Map of Seattle (a competitor of Sanborn).  Because of MacKay Library’s singularity of purpose it is a very browseable collection in a lovely setting. The house itself was built in 1907 for Henry H. Dearborn (1844-1909) and now serves as the headquarters for Historic Seattle (http://www.historicseattle.org). [2]

Having done a locality guide for the ProGen course on conducting House Histories in Seattle I had low expectations of any new information from the presentation, but I didn’t want to miss this library.

Well, as usual….I was wrong.

Eugenia Woo and Luci Baker Johnson of the staff of Historic Seattle presented the online resources available for document retrieval and social history related to doing “house histories.”  Luci was quick to note that the efforts of Historic Seattle and this presentation was to improve the research skills of everyone whether they focused on residential or other aspects of our built environment.  I particularly appreciated the balanced presentation between the document retrieval and social history, the latter usually receiving short shrift.  Lawrence “Larry” Kreisman and others intimately familiar with preservation of our built environment provided additional comments.  The importance of citing your work was also stressed…always a good reminder.

If you are doing commercial or residential histories in Seattle, you should attend this series.  If you do house histories outside of the Northwest, you will find some of these websites have information of interest to you for your research.  You also might have a similar website in your area.  Some of the sites that were new to me included:

  • Seattle Department of Neighborhood Historic Properties database
    If your building or the neighborhood has been researched before, even if it is not on the register, you might find it here.
  • Pacific Coast Architecture Database
    A professor at the UW College of Built Environment has collected the biographies of North West architects and other built environment professionals and their work in this database.
  • Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation
    This online GIS map tool identifies and locates historical sites for the state and the nation. It also has biographies of regional architects.
  • HistoryLInk
    HistoryLink is a peer-reviewed online series of short articles on the people and places of Seattle and Washington.  This site is my “go to” site for regional historical information of all kinds–a sophisticated “Wikipedia”.
  • Docomomo WEWA (love the name!)
    If the modernist movement is your thing, this is the site for you.
  • UW Special Collections architectural records
    I did not know that my own library had such a comprehensive collection of architectural plans and papers for architecture of the North West.

It was great fun meeting new people and even more fun to know that there is always something new to learn.

Thanks Eugenia, Luci and the entire Historic Seattle staff for developing such a great series and launching the series so successfully.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last post: recouped from SLIG; signed up for SVAR, the Swedish document site (unfortunately I have yet to get the plug in to work so I can read the documents but my hubby said he is working on it…hmmm, looks like he is watching the Olympics to me!); worked on my ProGen assignment; attended a Women’s Business Center orientation for business start-ups; worked on my business plan and marketing plan (have enlisted MBA daughter to review both); did the brochure for the Spring Seminar (can’t wait for Jeanne Bloom to visit); and am ready to go “on the clock” when SVAR is up and running.  Whew!  Busy month.

[1] Historic Seattle, “Digging Deeper: Built Heritage Research,” syllabus (Seattle: 8 February 2014).
[2] Historic Seattle, “Dearborn House,” brochure (Seattle: undated, but received 8 February 2014).


3 comments on “What’s New in the ‘Hood?–House History Style

  1. […] This is the second in a series of tours of repositories in the Seattle area sponsored by Historic Seattle.  I have signed up for the series and am blogging about each.  You can see the first blog posting here: What’s New in the ‘Hood–House History Style. […]

  2. […] Jill Morelli, one of the participants, blogged about her participation in the series on February 8, March 8, June 19, and September […]

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