Family photo sparks information quest

LaMont Family Photo in front of Woodland Park Totem PoleI was looking through some old photographs recently and came across this one, taken in 1950, of my father with his mother and sisters standing in front of a Totem Pole. Dad tells me the family had driven over from Chewelah to visit his grandparents, and while they were in Seattle, they stopped at the Zoo (along with Alki Beach and Ye Old Curiousity Shop). I don’t remember ever seeing a Totem Pole on the grounds of the Zoo.  What was it’s story? Is it still there?

The library’s Northwest Index, which indexes local newspapers, magazines, and books, is a great tool for finding information about local history, so I headed up to the Seattle Room to see what I could find. Sure enough, there were a few entries of interest – two under the heading “Seattle. Totem Poles. Woodland” and another under “Seattle. Parks. Woodland.”

The Totem pole entries referred me to the “Seattle Historical Markers Collection,” which I’ll explain later, but also gave the following basic information:

“Plaque on Totem Pole at Woodland Park. Given by the Mary Morris Chapter D.A.R. in 1939. It commemorates the state’s golden jubilee and honors Elisha P. Ferry, the state’s first governor.”

The Woodland Park entries in the Northwest Index didn’t mention the totem pole, but they did point me to Don Sherwood’s “Data on History of Seattle Park System,” where I found the following details along with a map showing the location of the Totem pole:
 Map of Totem Pole location at Woodland Park from Sherwood's Parks History manuscript

“Totem Pole: Carved by Chief Shelton of the Salish (Puyallup) tribe; presented by the D.A.R. in commoration [sic] of the State’s Golden Jubilee 1889-1939 and the first Governor, Elisha P. Ferry. Dedicated during “Potlatch Week.” Design incl.: Wash. State Seal, State Flower (Rhododendron), State Bird (Mallard Duck), silver salmon, harbor seal, Washington Cougar and Seattle City Seal.”

Lenggenhager photograph of Woodland Park totem poleThe Seattle Historical Markers Collection is part of a larger set of photographs by Werner Lenggenhager, who was a photographer, artist and Boeing employee who photographed Seattle buildings and momunents during the 1930-1980 era. The Seattle Room’s Lenggenhager collection contains over 23,000 images arranged by general subjects. In Box 46, Folder 6, under the heading “Seattle Totem Poles,” I found a wonderful 8 x 10 black and white photograph of the totem pole.

So that was story of the pole, but was it still there, somewhere, on the grounds of the Zoo? The Woodland Park Zoo Web site indicates the pole was removed in 1977 and was never replaced. They also have a lovely color photo of the pole from 1966.

Of course, I also checked the Northwest Index under “Seattle. Festivals. Potlatch,” “Chief William Shelton,” and “Elisha Ferry” to find out more, but that’s another story. And for those of you wondering where the totem pole ended up, well that’s a topic for further research.

One thought on “Family photo sparks information quest”

  1. I think it’s great that the Seattle room is open longer hours now, so there will be more options for people who work normal business hours to come in and do this kind of research.

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