Posts Tagged ‘historical tours’

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!

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