Friday, July 31, 2009

Old Seattle: Pioneer Square

Those early Seattle settlers I mentioned yesterday moved to the eastern shore of Elliott Bay when the West Seattle peninsula winters got too rough. Pioneer Square is where they settled. It's a trendy, thriving piece of the city now, but when urban activity moved north in the 1930s, (around the same time Pike Place Market opened), Pioneer Square was abandoned. Developers had an eye on this area in the 1960s: they wanted to make it into a parking garage. Its citizens were able to preserve it citing its precious architecture from the late 1890s. After a devastating fire, Pioneer Square was rebuilt with many of its new buildings designed by architect Elmer Fisher.

[This sounds a lot like my hometown, Cape May: the devastating late-1800s fire, city rebuilt in Victorian style, contemporary developers wanting to level our favorite landmarks for parking!]

This landmark, the J&M Cafe & Cardroom, was unfortunately closed whe I visited.
So was this building, although less permanently closed than the cardroom. However, I saw no evidence other than its name that it has anything to do with quilts.

This is a cool part of town, even in a heat wave (did I mention this week's record-breaking heat wave?). I could only afford to window-shop after I blew my travel budget in Elliott Bay Books, but what a cool bookstore. [Cape May needs something like this!] I researched book events here before my trip and found author talks there almost daily with even more events in collaboration with the public library and area cultural organizations. I could only feasibly fit in one event, so I chose an author talk by Rick Bass, author of The Wild Marsh and a number of others. I enjoyed a peach smoothie in the Elliott Bay Cafe before the talk. Rick Bass came out at 7:30ish and talked about his book describing the wild place where he lives in Montana. I enjoyed knowing that people outside the place he writes about read his writing. [I've been warned that people outside Cape May are not going to read anything creative I write about my place.] But Rick Bass writes so descriptively and lovingly about his life in Montana's Yaak Valley with his wife and daughters that his book is a joy to read. [I can do it!] He wrote good wishes to me and my writing in my book afterwards.

Pioneer Square has a nautical feel to it thanks to the nearby waterfront and sailors on leave walking around town. (I saw lots!) This store, CuttySark, was devoted to nautical antiques and collectibles, and luckily was closed when I discovered it or I'd have yet another box of shipped Seattle souvenirs arriving at my house next week (besides the books and quilt fabric).

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