New Ways to Research Neighborhood History

View up Washington St. into Tenderloin District from Jackson St. Wharf, ca. 1892, Seattle Historical Photograph Collection

Curious to learn more about your neighborhood’s past? This month, we’ve added a great new resource to our Neighborhood History Project – The Northwest Subject Index Collection. This collection contains selected cards from the Seattle Room Northwest Subject Index and Post-Intelligencer Index. These cards contain citations which point to books, newspaper articles and archival collections available for research on particular neighborhoods. Often you will find little descriptions of a neighborhood’s history or an accompanying article. If you look at the cards in order, you can establish a good timeline of each neighborhood’s story.

Tenderloin district as shown on 1905 Baist Map, Seattle Maps and Atlases Collection

Browsing the cards, you can also see many neighborhood names that you might not recognize. For example, you’ve heard about Pioneer Square but did you also know the area was at certain times in history referred to as Blackchapel, Whitechapel, the Tenderloin District and Skid Row? In his 1916 History of Seattle, Clarence Bagley provides the following description of the area:

“While Mayor Harry White and the first city council, under the new charter, nearly all of whom had been elected on a republican ticket, held office, extravagance ran riot, debauchery and crime were almost unchecked. ‘Whitechapel’ and ‘Blackchapel,’ slum districts south of Yesler Way, were notorious all over the Pacific Coast. Gambling of every known variety flourished openly as did harlotry and drunkenness, under the fostering eyes of the police.”

Glancing at the cards for these neighborhoods, you can catch a glimpse at the history of this notorious neighborhoods with headlines like “In a state of seige: the city’s mart of sin surrounded by police: the inmates of Whitechapel cut off from the the rest of the city…” (Seattle Telegraph, Oct. 9, 1890) and “Must soon move; disorderly elements south of Yesler to go.” (Post-Intelligencer, April 10, 1902). Articles such as these are available on microfilm at the Central Library.

Whitechapel Index Card, NW Subject Index Collection
Blackchapel Index Card, NW Subject Index Collection

There are also several papers available online which you can browse from the comfort of home. Early editions of papers such as the Seattle Star (1899-1922), Seattle Republican (1900-1913) and Post-Intelligencer (1882-1900) are available online through the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America site. Seattle Public Library cardholders also have online access to the Seattle Times Newspaper Database (1896-Present). Using these resources you can find even more articles than listed through the index such as this illustrated article “The Removal of the Tenderloin” which appeared on May 11, 1902 in the Seattle Times and features photographs of the area.

To learn more about how to use the citations to track down the full newspaper articles, books or other resources, take a look at our guide. To find more digitized materials related to the Pioneer Square neighborhood (and others!) take a look at our Neighborhood History Project.

~posted by Jade D.

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