Welcome Back to Seattle
Walt Crowley, September 2004
Planning to attend the 119th annual meeting of the American Historical Association in Seattle in January 2005? On behalf of the Local Arrangements Committee, I extend a hearty welcome. Still debating about coming? My colleagues and I (and a host of other volunteers) hope to tempt you with articles in succeeding issues about the many attractions of Seattle. Even if you attended AHA's last gathering in the Emerald City back in 1998, you will discover that lots of things have changed in this perky, mutable city—beginning with the fact that local boosters don't call it the Emerald City anymore. Just plain "Seattle" will do fine, thanks.
Among other notable developments:
The Seattle Symphony and Seattle Opera moved into new downtown homes, respectively Benaroya Hall and Marian McCaw Hall. The Washington State Convention & Trade Center expanded and added a dramatic sky bridge over Pike Street.
Paul Allen's Experience Music Project opened a Frank Gehry-designed temple to rock ‘n' roll. This sinuous, modernist building also houses a museum for the history of science fiction (recently founded by Paul Allen and Jody Patton). Boeing's Museum of Flight also opened a new "Personal Courage" wing for more than 40 vintage fighter aircraft (even though, alas, Boeing itself took its corporate headquarters to Chicago).
Safeco Field opened with a retractable roof for Mariners games rain or shine on real grass, and the Kingdome was imploded and replaced by the Seahawks' new Qwest Stadium.
Also while you were away, anti-WTO protests in 1999 made Seattle ground zero in the globalization debate, the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake left the city shaken but not stirred, Bill and Melinda Gates endowed the world's wealthiest philanthropic foundation, and the Space Needle—the beloved symbol of the future from the 1962 "Century 21" world's fair—became an official historic landmark.
Commemorative exhibits and events marking the 2004–06 bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the 2009 centennial of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition are now providing ongoing opportunities for Seattleites to study and understand the past. They have had good practice, having recently commemorated the sesquicentennial of the arrival of the first Euro-American settlers back in 1851, and remembered along with other Washingtonians the 150th anniversary of the creation of Washington Territory in 1853. Anticipation of these milestones prompted the development in May 1998 of HistoryLink (www.historylink.org), the nation's first online encyclopedia of local and state history created expressly for the Internet.
Seattle citizens also look to the future. Voters approved $200 million to revamp the Seattle Public Library system, including completion of a spectacular new Central (downtown) Library, designed by Rem Koolhaas. Planning for a new 14-mile Monorail (the 1962 system was recently disabled by an engine fire) began, as did construction for a regional Sound Transit light rail system; sadly, neither will be ready for your visit next January.
AHA's Seattle Local Arrangements Committee is now getting organized with Maureen Murphy Nutting as chair and myself as co-chair. Future issues of Perspectives and links from the AHA web site will offer more information on Seattle and its history and detailed tips on what to see, do, eat, and drink in and near Seattle (caffeine-, wine-, or beer-averse members be warned!) during your visit. And HistoryLink, which is actively collaborating with the Local Arrangements Committee, will also be posting special content for AHA members over the coming months. If you haven't been to Seattle before, some great discoveries lie ahead of you, and even veterans of 1998 will find plenty new to enjoy in a city and a region that keep on making history.
So, plan to attend the AHA meeting in Seattle, January 6–9, 2005. Better yet, think about coming to the Pacific Northwest for a minivacation before the meeting. Consider skiing and ski-boarding from Crystal Mountain north to Whistler; hiking lower Cascade trails; touring Washington and British Columbia wineries; sighting eagles along the Skagit River; touring nearby Vancouver, Victoria, and Tacoma; tide-pooling or whale watching on a Pacific Ocean beach; enjoying a good book and pampering at a San Juan Island retreat; or just staying in town and savoring Seattle.
— Walt Crowley is author of more than a dozen books on local and regional history and is executive director of HistoryLink.org.