Celebrating the Lake Washington Ship Canal Centennial

Did you know the Ballard Locks turns 100 this year? In recognition of the anniversary, we’ve combed through our archives and digitized some of the most interesting maps, photos, postcards, correspondence, and more related to the history of the Lake Washington Ship Canal. You can find the collection at www.spl.org/shipcanal.

Although the official opening of the locks occurred 100 years ago, the idea for a canal dates back even further to 1854 when Seattle pioneer Thomas Mercer proposed the idea of Lake Union serving as a connection point between the Puget Sound and Lake Washington. From that point forward, the canal scheme encountered a series of stops and starts as different parties competed to create a viable passage between lake and sound. Here’s a brief rundown of some of the efforts:

  • 1861: Harvey Pike makes the first attempt at creating a canal, digging a small channel in the area now occupied by the Montlake Cut.
  • 1867-1871: Corps of Engineers employees survey the land, looking for a potential canal route but fail to secure federal funding for the project.
  • 1883-1885: The Lake Washington Improvement Company creates a small portage canal connecting Lake Washington and Lake Union (but without passage to the Sound or ability to handle large vessels).
  • 1891: The Corps of Engineers renews discussion of the canal. They examine several options and determine the present-day Shilshole Bay route would be the least expensive. Again, they cannot secure funding to more the project forward.
  • 1895: With the north canal plans stalled, Eugene Semple and the Seattle and Lake Washington Waterway Company propose the canal follow a southern route through the tidelands and Beacon Hill. In addition to the canal, the company promises to fill the swampy tidelands south of Pioneer Square and create usable land for the quickly expanding city.
  • 1904: Plans for a South Canal came to a halt when proponents of the North Canal route through Lake Union successfully lobby enough support to have the Waterway Company’s water supply shut off, making it impossible for them to continue sluicing dirt away from Beacon Hill to make way for the canal.
  • 1906: Seattle businessman James A. Moore secures funding to create a northern canal.
  • 1907: Hiram M. Chittenden, the new head of the Seattle District of the Army Corps, sidesteps Moore’s plans in favor of a canal plan that meets the government’s needs. The Corps begins surveying the land once again to determine the best route.
  • 1909: Local governments provide funding to enlarge the Montlake Cut.
  • 1910: Federal funding is approved for the creation of the ship canal and locks.
  • July 4, 1917: The locks are officially opened. (Finally!)

Interested in learning more about the history of the canal? Check out HistoryLink’s Lake Washington Ship Canal article for a great overview or take a look at our digitized copy of Dig the Ditch!: The History of the Lake Washington Ship Canal for a more detailed dive.

Want to see some of the digitized materials in person? On June 27, we are offering a Discover Special Collections event in the Seattle Room highlighting the history of the canal. Check out the event listing for details on how to register.

And don’t miss local historians David B. Williams and Jennifer Ott’s visit to the Central Library on July 23 to discuss their new book, Waterway: The Story of Seattle’s Locks and Ship Canal.

~posted by Jade D.

Posted in History and Biography, Library Events, local history, LOCAL INTEREST, Nature & Science, Nonfiction, Northwest Authors, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Seek the Story

Edward Hopper’s paintings were inspired as well as inspiring. Who could view his moody and spare piece, “Nighthawks,” and not look for a story therein? A recent short story collection, edited by Lawrence Block, called In Sunlight or in Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper, makes that point. In the foreword, Block writes:  “Hopper was neither an illustrator nor a narrative painter.  His paintings don’t tell stories. What they do is suggest—powerfully, irresistibly—that there are stories within them, waiting to be told. He shows us a moment in time, arrayed on a canvas:  there’s clearly a past and a future, but it’s our task to find it for ourselves.” The authors that Block has gathered in this anthology are not your average fly-by-night writers—these ones have big names: Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Michael Connelly, Jeffrey Deaver, Lee Child, Robert Olen Butler, to name a few. They all obviously have a ken for Edward Hopper as the depth of this collection demonstrates.

Likewise, a collection of poems entitled, The Poetry of Solitude: A Tribute to Edward Hopper, edited by Gail Levin, is a book filled with the art works and the poems they inspired. Professor Gail Levin lives and breathes Edward Hopper. She is the foremost authority of Hopper in the world and her regard shines through in another work, Hopper’s Places, in which she has placed a photograph of the exact site of a painting on the opposing page. It is as if you can see what Hopper has done so brilliantly by comparison—his paintings are not reproductions, they breathe with a life of their own.

Though Hopper painted in New England and New York, because of his affinity for seascapes, we, on the west coast, are asenchanted by them. He perfectly captures the colors and moods of the ocean and the seaside towns for us. Children and adults can both enjoy:  Edward Hopper: Summer at the Seashore by Deborah Lyons or Come Look with Me: Exploring Landscape Art with Children by Gladys S. Blizzard or Edward Hopper: Painter of Light and Shadow by Susan Goldman Rubin.

When you’re out and about this summer, basking in the long days of sunlight and shadows, look around and see an old house or a lonely-looking man or a family through their window, and think about Edward Hopper. He’s the one that captured that feeling for you in one of his magnificent paintings.

~posted by Diane C.

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#BookBingoNW2017: Read a Book Recommended by a Librarian

This one should be easy: it is kind of why we’re here. People think we present our Summer Book Bingo each year as a way to encourage readers over the Summer, adding variety and sense of play to your reading list, and that’s certainly true. But we have an ulterior motive: we want to give you an excuse to come talk with us about books!

So please, drop on by your local library and let us help you complete this square of your bingo card. Don’t be surprised if instead of blurting right out with the latest book we’ve enjoyed, we ask you a few questions about what books you’ve enjoyed lately. Our goal is to suggest a title that will suit your taste and mood. Give it a try: we’d love to help!

Can’t make it in? Feeling Shy? You could try out our popular Your Next Five Books service. Just fill out our brief form, and in a few days a real, live, flesh-and-blood librarian will create a personalized reading list just for you, sent to your email and conveniently linked to our library catalog. But what if you’d rather not interact with another human being at all? In that case, we recommend a visit to LibraryReads.

Created in 2013 by a group of librarians, LibraryReads is a monthly list of the top picks voted on by public library workers from across the country. You can find many of these lists in the library catalog itself, or visit the LibraryReads website where you can sign up for a newsletter featuring each month’s picks. The list itself has a distinctly middlebrow feel, highlighting an interesting blend of genre and literary fiction with an emphasis on books that are a pure pleasure to read, each suggestion accompanied by a personal blurb from a librarian. Amongst the mysteries, literary fiction, fantasy, romance and historical fiction, you’re certain to see a librarian-approved title suited to your own taste and interests.

Join The Seattle Public Library and Seattle Arts & Lectures for our 3rd annual Summer Book Bingo for adults! Follow us throughout the summer for reading suggestions based on each category.

     – Posted by David W

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Pride Month: Queer Cinema by Queer Directors

“There have never been lesbians or gay men in Hollywood. Only homosexuals.” With this final despairing statement, gay film historian and activist Vito Russo ends The Celluloid Closet, his landmark study of representations of LGBTQ people in film.

When Russo first published The Celluloid Closet in 1981, he could not imagine that over a decade later LGBTQ directors would make movies that depicted the complex and varied experiences of LGBTQ people with respect and pride, and that Hollywood would begin to finance and distribute these films. Nor could he foresee that 35 years later, Barry Jenkins, a black gay director, would win the Best Picture Academy Award for Moonlight, a sensitive, nuanced, and beautifully filmed story of a young gay black man’s coming of age.

Sadly, Russo died of AIDS-related complications in 1990 and did not live long enough to see the blossoming queer cinema that began to emerge shortly thereafter. In 2013, GLAAD created the Vito Russo Test in his honor. Mainstream Hollywood filmmakers still have a way to go in terms of positive portrayals of LGBTQIA characters, but queer filmmakers around the world have been producing excellent films that pass the Vito Russo Test and then some for decades. Here are a few of my favorites:

Appropriate Behavior.  A funny and surprisingly affecting film about Shirin, a twenty-something bisexual Persian American woman who is neither fully understood by her family, who’s unaware of her orientation, nor her ex-girlfriend, who doesn’t get why she won’t just fully come out.

By Hook or By Crook. An endearing and utterly unique buddy film featuring two gender outlaws, Silas Howard and Harry Dodge, By Hook or By Crook is a landmark in trans and genderqueer cinema and one of the few films depicting trans and genderqueer characters that was written, produced and filmed by trans and genderqueer individuals.

Tongues Untied. Combining documentary, rap music, dance, street poetry and more, director Marlon Riggs presents a deeply felt, personal look at the lived reality of black gay men in the United States. This groundbreaking film remains just as fresh and relevant nearly 30 years after its initial release.

Carol. Based on a lesser-known novel by Patricia Highsmith (who was lesbian and drew from her own life story to write it), Carol is a gorgeously shot, moving and refreshingly non-tragic story of a passionate love affair between Carol, a wealthy older married woman and Therese, a young sales clerk and set designer set in 1950s New York City.

Want more? Here’s a list of 25 other films to watch this month and throughout the year. Representation matters. Happy Pride!

     – posted by Abby B.

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#BookBingoNW2017: Read a book adapted into a movie

Not to be overly critical of a billion dollar industry or anything, but I think Hollywood has an originality problem. Books with any kind of following are immediately optioned for films – think Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, and The Martian. In other words, we’re not lacking for books that will satisfy the “Adapted into a Movie” book bingo square.

And if you’re like me, if you’ve loved the book, you’ve got some high expectations for the film. The titles I’ve suggested here are complex books made into films that didn’t disappoint.

Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone follows 17-year-old Ree Dolly through a poverty-stricken Ozarks landscape on a desperate quest to find her father. The highly acclaimed southern gothic film directed by Debra Granik featured Jennifer Lawrence in her breakout role.

Thomas Pynchon’s gonzo Inherent Vice was made into an equally gonzo film by director P. T. Anderson, who was not afraid to take the bizarre plot twists and a hazy narrative structure featuring the antics of bleary P.I. Doc Sportello and translate it almost verbatim to the screen.

The Paperboy by Pete Dexter is not for the faint of heart. Both the book and the film showcase in gory detail characters at their most emotionally and sexually desperate. Roger Ebert called director Lee Daniel’s film “great trash,” and quoted critic Pauline Kael, who said “Movies are so rarely great art that if we cannot appreciate the great trash, we have very little reason to be interested in them.”

The gender- and time-bending Orlando was Virginia Woolf’s novel of the twenties and Sally Potter’s film of the nineties. Tilda Swinton and Billy Zane, oh my . . . “And as all Orlando’s loves had been women . . . though she herself was a woman, it was still a woman she loved…”

For more ideas, check Mid-Continent Public Library’s “Based on the Book” database, check with your local librarian, OR submit a Your Next 5 request for a personalized list of book suggestions.

Join The Seattle Public Library and Seattle Arts & Lectures for our 3rd annual Summer Book Bingo for adults! Follow us throughout the summer for reading suggestions based on each category.

–posted by Alison D.

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#BookBingoNW2017: Maximize your Blackout strategy with comic books

Comic books are one of your greatest strategic resources in scoring a blackout on your Summer Book Bingo card. Don’t feel like you should limit comics to the Graphic novel square. There’s a comic for any square, many of which are quick reads (helpful for that Finish in a day square).

Here are comic book suggestions for a few Book Bingo squares. Many comics could apply to multiple squares, so I’ve included optional placements in parentheses.

Washington state author

Washington is a cartoonist-rich state. Check out The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song by Frank Young and David Lasky, Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me by Ellen Forney, How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden (also Set in another country), or Living in the Now by Tatiana Gill (alternative squares for all four: Biography or memoir or About art or an artist). Continue reading

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Page to Screen: My Cousin Rachel.

It was my idea, after all. Lately as we’ve seen readers and filmgoers gobbling up great twisty psychological suspense such as Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, I kept thinking they should make a fresh version Daphne Du Maurier’s classic tale of the devious anti-heroine known as My Cousin Rachel. Sixty-five years after its original publication, the book stands up extremely well, and makes a terrific suggestion for fans of gothic film and fiction including such modern descendants as Kate Morton, Sarah WatersLauren Forrey, Eleanor Wasserberg, Catronia Ward, John Harwood. I mean, it pretty much has it all – lush historical trappings, an irresistible villainess, passion, poison –  and it is desperately overdue for a fresh version. Check out the trailer for this 1952 potboiler starring Olivia deHavilland and “bright new star” Richard Burton (“Was she woman, or witch!? Madonna or murderess!? … She gives men the promise of ecstasy, and a life of torment!”)

Hugely fun on a rainy Saturday afternoon, but we’re definitely ready for something a bit more contemporary. I can’t wait to see the new film with Rachel Weisz and Sam Claflin, which looks gorgeous and treacherous, as it should:

. Continue reading

Posted in BOOKS, CULTURE, FILM & TV, Mystery and Crime, Romance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment