How do I love the Seattle Public Library? Let me count the ways.

Today’s guest blogger is Diana E. James, author of the newly published Shared Walls: Seattle Apartment Buildings, 1900-1939 (and co-author of one of our library’s own talented teen librarians).

How do I love Seattle Public Library? Let me count the ways.

Shared Walls: Seattle apartment buildings, 1900- 1939, by Diana E. James in the Seattle Public Library catalogWhere else would a staff-person patiently sift through a drawer of maps until the perfect one appeared: my now much-tattered 1939 Kroll Map Company’s Greater Business District of Seattle, distributed by Seattle entrepreneur Henry Broderick. The names of churches, schools, hotels, government offices, hospitals, businesses of all ilk, and apartment buildings are written in tiny letters wherever they appear. The map is much more than a bird’s-eye view of Seattle in 1939, the precise ending date for my study; it is a revealing picture of the everyday life of our city.

Image from the Baist Real Estate Atlas, 1912 edition.Where else would I have the satisfaction of lowering a 4 x 4 (well, maybe not quite that large) 1905 Baist Real Estate Atlas onto a rolling table placed there just for the purpose? And then turn the large pages until I reach a particular block within a particular neighborhood–and discover something I didn’t even know I was looking for, but which adds another nugget of information to my research.

Where else could I sit and troll my way through the actual pages of Pacific Builder & Engineer (and its various incarnations) looking for announcements of permits, architects, property sales and purchases, and, again, coming across unsought but helpful bits of news. One can also get lost in other building-related periodicals and journals, such as Hotel News of the West and Washington State Architect, just waiting to be pulled off the shelf and perused!

All these and much more (Polk Seattle City Directories! microfilm of the P.I.! Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce!) made Shared Walls possible. But it was the friendly, encouraging, ever-helpful library staff that made my research a pleasure.

Why thank you, Diana – we’re grateful to local historians like yourself for adding such interesting books to our collection. Ms. James will be appearing at the Elliott Bay Book Company on January 28 to share research tips and lead a brief walking tour of the store’s historic environs. If you can’t make Diana’s presentation, remember you can always learn more about researching your house’s history and other local history research right here at the Library.

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