New Seattle History Guide

 Shove over, Sherlock. Seattle history detectives have a powerful new tool to help them deduce the details of Seattle’s past. You should have been so lucky!

Due to the efforts of nearby historians, Lorraine McConahy and Helen Divjak, the legendary voice of Paul Dorpat and friends and Greg Lange at the Puget Sound Regional Archives  among others, we’ve had powerful allies for delving into Seattle history. Now, Seattle history detectives are armed with a new arsenal, a comprehensive compilation of Seattle history resources created by our own Special Collections Department.  The new Seattle Building History Guide annotates a wealth of Seattle history research tools and places them in a broader context than ever before. We’ll be rolling it out on May 19th at the Third Place Books History Cafe. Afterwards, the guide will be available from our website.

If you’re the sort of person who, while riding Space Needle elevator or contemplating your idea for the site of the proposed Chihuly museum, wonders more about the land and neighborhood as it was before 1962, you’ ll love this guide. Using the Seattle Center as an example (it’s turning 50 next year!), let’s look at a few of the resources described in the guide.

Early settlers came to Seattle to stake their claims. Cadastral surveys captured those claims on maps. At left is the earliest cadastral survey of Seattle. David Denny staked his historic claim on the land that would become home to the Fun Forest. 

For those interested in topography of an area, there’s even an 1879 topographical chart!

 What about the neighborhood before 1962?  Were there homes and businesses already there? The Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps provide detailed maps of the neighborhood back to 1893!  

There are many maps, but what other resources has the guide compiled and described for you? Take a look at the King County Property viewer for the Space Needle. This site is often the most useful starting point for building research. 

But what about people, you say. Perhaps you want information about your family, not just buildings. You’ll find important information and search tips on tracking down obituaries, census records, marriage licenses, birth records and more.

There are dozens of agencies to sleuth out your history questions. The Seattle Building History Guide annotates the resources with vital information about how to best use them.

 Here are a few tidbits regarding the Seattle Center’s earliest residents:  Seattle Parks Department , and HistoryLink.org. This 1959 photograph from the Seattle Municipal Archives Photograph Collection  illustrates the neighborhood demolition to prepare for  the Seattle Center. 

We suggest you download the guide as a PDF file to maintain the hyperlinks, but you can print it out as well.  The guide recommends many print materials to help with your research.  Here are a couple of them:  

Native Seattle: histories from the Crossing Over Place by Coll Thrush

 House Histories: A Guide to the Genealogy of Your Home by Sally Light

3 thoughts on “New Seattle History Guide”

  1. I have lived in Seattle all of my life and have explored very little of its history. This blog inspires me to dig deeper into our history and I look forward to the Building History Guide roll out.

  2. As a history buff planning to visit Seattle for the first time soon, it’s very nice to have a place to check out all the history before I actually get there. Helps to put together a great itinerary!

  3. Super! I only recently learned that the Seattle Times 1920-1970 is in Genealogybank. It will be really nice to have this guide to go to.

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