Posts Tagged ‘Duwamish River’

Seattle’s Cool Hood

August 5, 2017

Can’t believe that after living in Seattle for 26 years, I finally got around to visiting Georgetown, Seattle’s oldest neighborhood.  I went there one afternoon and evening in July to enjoy and explore this part of the city with a group of friends/yoginis.  Miriam, a long time resident of the neighborhood and lover of history and neighborhood lore, showed us around.  She did a great job of bringing the past to life, of showing us how resilient a neighborhood can be, and showing us how vibrant the neighborhood is today.

Our walking tour with Miriam coincided with the annual Georgetown Garden Walk, which is always held the second Sunday in July.  Mark your calendars now for next year’s garden walk.  Or better, yet, perhaps Miriam will begin taking groups on private tours, like she did for us.  She is remarkable.  Our trip was extraordinarily precious because afterwards we went over to Annette’s house for a great potluck dinner in her back garden. The hydrangea blooms were at their peak and we enjoyed a wonderful evening together.

Annette's hydrangeas in full bloom.

Annette’s hydrangeas in full bloom.

We walked the neighborhood and saw so many gardens, so creative and artistic in nature.  Many of the original houses used to have (and some still do) an extra lot used for gardening.  The land was rich and attracted farmers long ago.  The streets were formed by following the original flow of the Duwamish River, whose course used to curve throughout the neighborhood. You can still trace the curved streets of Georgetown in S Front Street, S Fidalgo Street, and S River Street.

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I mentioned above that you can trace the old course of the Duwamish River by following the curvy roads.  In 1913, work began on straightening the river! The idea was that a straighter, deeper river would make it easier for ships to navigate the area.  The city planners envisioned more industry on the reclaimed area and they wanted to control the flooding often experienced by the meandering and curved Duwamish. You can read more about the straightening of the Duwamish on this link.

Today the Duwamish is a straight river.  Perhaps that is what makes Oxbow Park so special.  Oxbow Park sits in the heart of Georgetown.  “Oxbow” refers to a U-shaped bend in the course of a river.  Right where the park sits was an oxbow of the Duwamish.  The park is also known for its Hat ‘n’ Boots.  The two photos below were taken by MJ.  The boots and hat were originally part of a 1953 Western-themed gas station, located in Georgetown.  The light blue boot was a ladies’ restroom and the darker blue was a men’s restroom. The hat was the office, where you’d go in and pay for your gas.  The gas station was wildly popular and became the busiest gas station in the state of Washington.  When Interstate-5 was built in the 60s, it cut right across Georgetown and diverted traffic away from the gas station.  The gas station could not sustain itself and went out of business.  The hat and boots were eventually moved to Oxbow Park.

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I found this information about Oxbow Park.  I love the bit about Elvis visiting the original gas station in 1962:

Oxbow Park is located in the heart of historic Georgetown. In 1953, Seattle artist Lewis Nasmyth was hired to “rustle up” a design for a western-style gas station in Georgetown. Featuring a 44-ft. wide cowboy hat and 22-ft. high boots, the Hat n’ Boots opened the next year to a stampede of customers. In fact, for a time it was the biggest selling station in the state. Legend has it even Elvis dropped by when he was in town during the World’s Fair in ’62. But in the early 60’s, a brand new interstate, I-5, cut a swath through the neighborhood and started diverting traffic away from the station. By the late 80’s it pretty much looked like trail’s end for the Hat n’ Boots. That’s when some Georgetown residents saddled up to rescue the soul of their community. “The Hat n’ Boots is as important to Georgetown as the Golden Gate Bridge is to San Francisco,” says Allan Phillips, former director of the Georgetown Community Council. “If the Hat n’ Boots were ever to be gone from Georgetown, it would be like losing our soul.”

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Georgetown is replete with murals (see above), saloons, bars, breweries (the original Rainier Brewery, built in 1882 and once the sixth largest brewery in the world), coffee houses, bakeries, restaurants, Fran’s Chocolates (retail, production, and viewing tours all right in Georgetown) and a haunted castle!

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Well, the Georgetown “castle” is actually a Victorian-style house, deemed a castle when it was built in 1903.  Eventually, the house fell into disrepair and was recently completely renovated.  It is beautiful!  Miriam told us some juicy stories about the original residents of the castle.  I have included some information I found on line about the “castle”.  It is said to be haunted and is part of the Georgetown Haunted House Tour.  The tour might be a fun one to do around Halloween.

The Georgetown “Castle” is located in an old industrial, red light district of Seattle, WA. A large 3 story, turn of the century, Victorian style home, was reportedly built in 1903 by Peter Gessner, who was a gambler and blackjack dealer at the famous Central Tavern in Seattle’s Pioneer Square District. More…Having trouble with the local authorities for running “questionable” gambling and prostitution activities, he decided to move his operations farther out of town, to avoid too much unwanted attention, turning the home into an infamous brothel and gambling parlor. He died a gruesome death one year later, committing suicide in the house by drinking carbolic acid.

The home was then purchased around 1912 by Dr. Willis H. Corson who was a former superintendent and head coroner of the King County Hospital, located close by. This hospital and it’s grounds, which at the time surrounded the house, served as the county poor house and tent city for tuberculosis patients, as well as a crematorium that was used to burn the bodies.

Having heard stories about the infamous Georgetown Castle, yet never actually seeing it, I was surprise to find that it was nothing close to a castle. Just a large 3 story Victorian that sat just off the street in a somewhat run down residential neighborhood of south Seattle The view of the house was skewed by trees and unkempt vegetation. The only thing you could see from the street was the large dark tower looming from out of the trees. In a poor state of disrepair, the house was covered with nearly a century’s worth of peeling and cracked pink paint and loose siding. Beyond a short, rusty, chain link fence, the front porch leaned slightly to one side. Our first gut impressions were that this place is totally haunted.

full article on Ghost Hunt

And the grand finale was the potluck dinner at Annette’s house. It was a pretty magical evening. The day had been hot and the evening was comfortably cool, the food absolutely delicious, the company and conversation lively, the setting so comfortable and beautiful.

Carol's dessert....

Carol’s dessert….

devoured!

devoured!

Industrial Yoga

November 19, 2016

A crazy idea, an industrial yoga photo-shoot. Why do it? Seems easier to ask why not? The idea came to me on a rainy day in Seattle, during the rainiest month of the year, November, my birthday month, in this rain-forested part of the world, the Pacific Northwest. I wondered if this idea had ever been explored before?

Yoga and Industry?

Yoga and Gray Buildings?

Yoga in an Industrial Setting?

To find out, I went on line in search of “Industrial Yoga Photo Shoot” and nothing came up. I tried other wording and, still, nothing. What I did find were photos of yogis inside studios that looked like large lofts, lofts serving as yoga studios within former industrialized buildings, fully remodeled with a fresh post-modern look and the telltale interior brick wall to indicate the building’s humble beginnings as a warehouse or supply depot.

I dragged my friend/massage therapist/visual artist, MaryAnn Kuchera, into the rain, to the SoDo District, South of the Dome, the dome that no longer exists, the one that was blown up to bits in order to make way for a bigger-better sports arena. I dragged her to this industrial district that has become the home of Starbucks headquarters. Not sure how I convinced MaryAnn to join me in this endeavor. There wasn’t much in it for her (or me) except that we got to hang out together in the rain. She must love me because there was no glamour in this project. But I wanted no one but her engaged in on my off-the-wall creativity. I thought I’d have to do some heavy convincing, but she agreed right away to be my on-the-scene photographer.

MaryAnn has an eye for detail. She is an artist. And she’s busy. We had to work hard to find a time that fit into our busy schedules. I wanted a Northwest winter setting, read “rain”, complete with gray buildings and low clouds.

Talk about getting what you want!

The day we chose was bone chilling cold. It was pouring. We knew what to expect. After all, it was winter in Seattle. I was worried that, with the cold weather, my body wouldn’t be elastic enough for some of the asanas. MaryAnn took her place behind the camera. We did our work. I warmed up enough at times to take off my many layers. Then I’d get shivery and have to layer up again. One thing I can say, the experience felt real because it was real! It was a typical winter day in Seattle. There were many areas, like the shipyards, which were off limits to us, barred by high chain linked fences and barbwire. And I was in no mood to jump barbwire fences. As is, I climbed fire escapes and loading docks, risked standing on train tracks, and took in the hard stares from the drivers rumbling past. I did all in the name of capturing a part of Seattle that seems to be hidden from the everyday downtown worker, the backbone industrial area, an almost hidden essential artery of the city.

But why yoga in this setting? I am still trying to figure this one out. When I first saw the photos that came out of the shoot, I was not satisfied. They weren’t really what I had in mind. Or so I thought. I put the photos aside and didn’t look at them again for a while…until today. Almost one year later. Now I kind of see it.

It’s about me and all of us, adapting to our environment. It’s about yoga teaching us how to ground, how to navigate life, how to perceive with new eyes. It’s about yoga teaching us how to be playful and, at the same time, how to put your nose to the grinder. With the lines of my body, I explored and fit into the open lines of the city, the loading docks, the wires, the fences, the streets, the railroad tracks. This is something we cannot do within a studio setting.

I did yoga asanas in this setting in order to draw attention to the overlooked, to what may be viewed as the possibly polluted parts of the city, in order to promote the enhancement or rejuvenation of these areas. Starbucks headquarters has moved into the old Sears Building in the SoDo District. Others will do the same. Perhaps what we captured will soon be a ghost of the past, buildings that once existed, destroyed to make way for something bigger, better, racier.

We care about our bodies. Well, why not care about the industrial artery of the city? On a bigger scale, why not take care of mother earth the way we care about our bodies, with respect and tender care? There is definitely a relationship between yoga and the environment. Seattle’s Duwamish River is a silent witness to this photo shoot. As I did Warrior II, I was aware of the Duwamish’ rushing presence, the Duwamish showing signs of revival. Finally, she is starting to thrive through much effort to clean her up after some 70 years of chemical dumping and neglect.

At times the industrial area felt dark and somewhat frightening. Do they have a soul these vast buildings and machinery, concrete and steel, cold and hard surfaces? Perhaps this yoga shoot was about shining the light of yoga on the darker parts of the city.

Our world is changing so fast that these places might not exist for much longer. The gray building could go down overnight and be replaced by a high rise apartment complex. On a regular basis, this city takes structures, knocks them down, and within months, newer bigger buildings come into being. Maybe this photo shoot is the start of something big, something new?  A new awareness through yoga.


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