What’s new in the ‘Hood: Seattle Municipal Archives

SMA LuciApproximately 25 people attended the tour of the Seattle Municipal Archives (SMA) on June 5th, the fifth in a series of eight tours of repositories in the Seattle area sponsored by Historic Seattle.  The tour is part of Historic Seattle’s “Digging Deeper – Built Heritage” series. I have signed up for the series but there are several of the series that I could not attend.

The SMA is located at 600 4th Ave. on the 3rd floor and contains the archives of the City of Seattle.  This includes City Council proceedings, past budgets, committees and their activities.  Their holdings on the parks of Seattle are particularly extensive. As Luci Baker Johnson, organizer for Historic Seattle (seen on the left), stated in her reminder to us, “Holdings include over 12,000 cubic feet of textual records; 3,000 maps and drawings, 3,000 audiotapes; hundreds of hours of motion picture film; and over 1.5 million photographic images of City projects and personnel.”

Holdings are cataloged by record groups.  House historians and genealogists may find the project photos of infrastructure improvements of interest.  Often these projects are located in the neighborhoods and our homes are captured in their project photos. You never know when a fire hydrant project photo might include your house!  Plans of these infrastructure improvements might also be in their holdings.

SMA internetThere were three parts to the tour.  Julie Kerssen gave an overview of the website.  Like many governmental agencies their site is a wealth of information and digitized documents.  The site is the portal to over 16,000 images and is little used by house historians and genealogists– and should be used much more.  It has some fascinating information about their collection and is available on line.

You can find them at http://www.seattle.gov/cityarchives/

SMA city charterWhen we were in the Frequently Requested Items vault, Steve Cline, City Archivist noted that Denny Park, Seattle’s first park used to be the cemetery.  The City recorded all the graves which were relocated to other locations by name and final resting place. This document is in SMA.  Also, at the archives is the original charter for the City.  (see photo left with Steve)  A thick red leather bound book  with beautiful calligraphy contains the governmental outline of we what we Seattleites wanted to become.

Before you visit, the staff has some recommendations:

  1. Search their website for what might be pertinent to your search.
  2. Call the office to discuss your research with a staff member who can offer deeper assistance
  3. Let them know when you are planning on visiting so they can pull the documents for you and save you some time.

If you wish to read about the others repositories I have attended:

Patsy McKay Library, Historic Seattle: What’s New in the ‘Hood–House History Style.

Special Collections Division, University of Washington:  What’s New in the ‘Hood–House History Style.

Next up (but sadly, not for me!): Thursday, June 26,
Seattle Room, Seattle Public Library, Downtown Seattle

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  Worked on my certification– I will have some comments about that in the near future.  I am reading Donald Lines Jacobus’s Genealogy: as Pastime and Profession.  A very well written genealogy classic written in 1930 and still fresh today (if a little Colonial NE centric!)

Donald Lines Jacobus, Genealogy: as Pastime and Profession (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, Co., 1986) First published in 1930.


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