‘Preservation of the past connects us to the future’: Southwest Seattle Historical Society celebrates connections

May 5, 2023 11:56 pm
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 |   West Seattle history | West Seattle news

(WSB photos by Patrick Sand. Above, SWSHS’s Elizabeth Rudrud)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

In the waning moments of tonight’s Southwest Seattle Historical Society spring gala at Salty’s on Alki (WSB sponsor), generous bidders helped propel the organization toward its goal.

They dug into their pockets for only-in-West-Seattle items like a music tour with historian Peder Nelson and preservationist John Bennett, riding in a 1949 Cadillac past spots where you might not know history happened. (Nirvana did some recording on 35th, for one, Nelson said.) When a bidding war hit the $500 vicinity, organizers decided to sell two tours.

Auctioneers were longtime SWSHS supporters Clay Eals (below right – he also served as the organization’s first executive director) and Mike Shaughnessy.

Eals noted that investment in SWSHS also represented “hope for the future” as well as a promise not to abandon everything from its past. “There are tangible things we can point to in the community that would not be here if not for this organization” – such as the Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge, which itself factored into the auction, with bids taken on a gift card for the acclaimed Il Nido restaurant that now occupies the landmark log building.

The night began with recognition of history going back much further.

Ken Workman, a Duwamish Tribal Council member who is a descendant of Chief Seattle, gave a welcome in Lushootseed, translated as “come ashore, my friends, to this land of the Duwamish … welcome, you’re invited.” He called on attendees to recognize the history that lay even in the wooden beams of the building around them – not the building’s history, but the generations of people who had been buried in the earth that nourished the trees from which the wood was cut.

SWSHS board president Kathy Blackwell declared, “We are here to celebrate local history and the connections that drive the wellbeing of this community,” and the organization’s role as a “link between the past and future.” She mentioned some of what the money raised would be used for – bringing the Log House Museum (originally the carriage house for the nearby Homestead) into the future with an ADA-compliant ramp, and upcoming plans from remodeling to enlarging its gathering space to modernizing its audio/visual capabilities. She also offered words of thanks to the SWSHS volunteers such as board treasurer John Sweetland, who’s also its webmaster.

Among the other volunteers on hand was Keith Bacon, posing with the Original Bakery sign recently donated to SWSHS for posterity:

The “community connections” theme was exemplified by five guest speakers talking about what their organizations do:

Stacy Bass-Walden from Alki Beach Pride recounted how she and her wife launched ABP in their apartment and it’s continued growing each year. Bass-Walden revealed something new is planned for the ninth ABP on August 20th – a street party followed by an outdoor movie.

Joanna Florer from West Duwamish Greenbelt Trails spoke of community members joining forces after realizing the forest along east West Seattle’s spine is “an underutilized space.” Trails have helped people spend time in the forest and connect to nearby but previously out-of-reach locations such as the Duwamish Tribe Longhouse and the river.”The whole idea was to use the greenbelt to make connections,” and partnerships are building momentum now, leading soon to a pland vision, “what are our hopes and dreams?”

New DNDA executive Mesha Florentio briefly outlined her organization’s work – environmental, social justice, affordable housing – and said much of it involves youth and families. She noted that DNDA has its own fundraising celebration coming up, Destination Delridge.

Rosa Lopez from Reconnect South Park talked about her group’s hopes to remove the section of Highway 99 that literally split the South Park community. She says the group wants to reach out to neighboring communities as well, with meetings in West Seattle and White Center, for example to share ideas. Along with reconnecting the split neighborhoods, the hope is that removing the highway might lessen some of the pollution plaguing the area, too.

Fifth speaker was Chris Mackay, executive director of the West Seattle Junction Association, one of 12 “business improvement associations” in the city. She defined its role as creating “economic vibrancy, beautification, safety, fun.” She mentioned – as reported here last month – that WSJA now employs private security to patrol 9 pm-5 am seven nights a week. WSJA also has a cleaning crew that routinely picks up trash and paints over graffiti. Much fun is ahead this spring and summer, she assured the crowd, from the next Wine Walk on May 19th to West Seattle Summer Fest July 14-16. She urged attendees to support their local businesses “by shopping, eating, playing … (otherwise) our businesses are going to go away.”

SWSHS’s new director of programs and community outreach, Elizabeth Rudrud, then took the microphone. She has long loved working with history, calling it an “incredible privilege . not just because we like to look at old stuff, but because history connects us” and because “preservation of the past connects us to the future.” It’s vital, she stressed, “to be sure our stories are not lost to time.” Watch for ways to help SWSHS move further into the future – Rudrud talked about a forthcoming strategic-planning process that will include a community-wide survey.

All that costs money. And the speeches made way for bidding – for the “experiences” and for some high-value giftcards, plus the classic raise-the-paddle auction challenge for outright donations, which were made at levels all the way up to $5,000. The SWSHS also had an online auction going all week long; we’ll follow up to see how it all totals out. Meantime, though we didn’t see elected officials at this year’s event, we did note two City Council District 1 candidates – Phil Tavel:

And Jean Iannelli Craciun:

Leaders from local businesses and other nonprofits were there too – below are Bob Livingston from HomeStreet Bank (WSB sponsor) and Donna Sandstrom from The Whale Trail:

If you haven’t been to the SWSHS’s headquarters lately, the Log House Museum (61st/Stevens) will be open noon-4 pm Saturday as usual.

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