Archive for the ‘News’ Category

David Buerge – Virginia Marie Folkins Award
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by Pat Filer, AKCHO Awards Selection Committee Chair

Unfortunately, author David Buerge was called away at the last moment due to an illness in the family so he was unable to attend the AKCHO Awards Program and receive the Virginia Marie Folkins Award in person. The award is presented every year to the author of an outstanding historical publication, and Buerge was selected for his new book, Chief Seattle and the Town That Took His Name.

This is the first thorough historical account of Chief Seattle and his times – the story of a half century of tremendous flux, turmoil, and violence during which a Native American war leader became an advocate for peace and strove to create a successful hybrid racial community. 

Historian David Buerge has been researching and writing this book about Chief Seattle for the past 20 years. Buerge has threaded together disparate accounts of the time from the 1780s to the 1860s – including native oral histories, Hudson Bay Company records, pioneer diaries, French Catholic church records, and historic newspaper reporting. Also included in this account are the treaty signings that would remove the natives from their historic lands, the roles of such figures as Governor Isaac Stevens, Chief Leschi and Patkanim, the Battle of Seattle that threatened the existence of the settlement, and the controversial Chief Seattle speech that haunts to the day the city that bears his name.

David S. Buerge has been a teacher, historian, and writer. he is an alum of the University of Washington and the Peace Corps. He has been researching the early history of the city of Seattle since the mid1970s. he has published 14 books of history and biography. 


Hal and Fran Seike – Willard Jue Memorial Award for Volunteers
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The Seike Garden, part of the Highline Botanical Garden in SeaTac

by Pat Filer, AKCHO Awards Selection Committee Chair

The Seikes were unable to attend the AKCHO 2018 Awards Ceremony, but their longtime contribution as volunteers was given a warm round of applause by audience members attending the event.

Each Thursday, 90-year-old veteran Hal Seike and his 87-year-old wife Fran, tend to the Seike Japanese Garden at the Highline Botanical Garden in SeaTac. It is a memorial, a haven, and – for Hal – a reason to keep going after a life of intense adversity. Hal is the last surviving of three brothers and the garden is dedicated to his brother Toll, a Nisei killed at age 21 in World War II. They make the drive from their home to the botanical garden and spend three or so hours pulling weeds and raking leaves. They have been married for 62 years. Each time they visit, they pass a large wooden sign on which is a black and white photo of a young Army solider. That is Toll Seike, the middle of the three brothers. The garden is a tribute to him. According to Hal “We go there rain or shine, drenched to the bone. I’ve been out there in the snow, I’m really kind of sentimental about it. That’s got my family name on it.”

Hal’s father, Shinichi Seike, immigrated to the United States and ran an import/export business in Seattle. In 1929, he purchased 13 aces near Des Moines Memorial Drive and moved his family into a farmhouse. Along with more than 100,000 other Japanese-Americans, the Seike family was interned during World War II. In 1942, the family had six weeks to get ready for the forced relocation. “It was Sunday, Mother’s Day, when I remember the big Army trucks came and picked us up. It was a sad day,” remembers Hal.

Toll and Ben Seike, the oldest of the brothers were studying at Washington State University in Pullman which was considered too isolated and so was not included in the “exclusion zone” for Japanese Americans. Toll volunteered for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated military unit in US History. Hal remembers a letter that Toll sent from the battlefield, “He was really scared and frightened, wet and cold. The German artillery was shooting over his company and the trees would just shatter and crash.” He was killed in action in France. A photo in the Wing Luke Museum shows Shinichi Seike receiving the US flag at Toll’s military service at the Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery by Evergreen Washelli.

Many Highline area Japanese American families lost their property during the internment. Ironically, the Sikes were fortunate in that a German-American family had managed their property during their absence. Upon their return in 1947, Shinichi Seike started a nursery. In 1953, the nursery store was opened after sons Hal and Ben earned horticultural degrees from Washington State University. In 1961, the family began construction of a Japanese Garden as a memorial to their son and brother Toll. They hired Shitaro Okada, a garden designer from Hiroshima to assist with planning and construction.

Construction was complete by June 1961 and a gala opening was held on June 25th to promote the garden. A 25cent admission fee was collected to benefit Children’s Hospital and anyone wearing a kimono was admitted free. Many of the plants are from Shinichi Seike’s personal collection including a gnarled laceleaf Japanese maple now more than 100 years old.

This beautiful garden was previously located at the former site of the Des Moines Way Nursery in the city of Sea Tac. In danger of being sold due to the expansion of the airport, the garden was saved by four different governments and the Highline Botanical Garden Foundation. The project to save the garden is believed to be the largest relocation of a Japanese Garden ever attempted in the United States. The $350,000 relocation effort led by the City of SeaTac focused on recreating the stone work, pond, and built elements such as bridges and lantern. Upkeep of the entire botanical garden, owned by a nonprofit foundation, is done by volunteers. It was closed for several years due to theft and vandalism but re-opened again in 1983 where it has remained one of Highline’s “best-kept secrets” for over three decades.

While he was still alive, Shinishi Seike was very emotional about losing Toll and spent many hours in the garden remembering his son. So Hal and Fran Seike make their pilgrimage every Thursday – it is a matter of family honor and pride – the garden exists because the blood of his brother was spilled in that horrific battle 74 years ago.




Creating exhibits that tell stories
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White River Valley Museum director Patricia Cosgrove

Is displaying a bunch of similar things an exhibit? According to Patricia Cosgrove, no.

The White River Valley Museum director, a recipient of several awards for inspired exhibits, discussed her underlying philosophy for exhibit design at the March AKCHO membership meeting – that the basis for all exhibit design should be to tell a story.

“Take the idea of things and look at them as story-making tools,” Cosgrove encouraged the audience. “Our collections are a bunch of ‘things’ waiting for their chance to tell a story.”

To illustrate, she led the audience through a series of slides that showed past exhibits at the White River Valley Museum. A few years ago, the loan to the Museum of some landscape paintings by well-regarded Tacoma artist Abby Williams Hill, for instance, was not just a chance to display some pretty pictures. The artwork also provided a way to talk about how railroad history, women’s history, and advertising history intersected at the beginning of the 20th century.

Between 1903 and 1906, Hill received several commissions from railroad companies to render scenes of some of the magnificent destinations travelers could expect to see along the Western routes. Hill was a working mom – she often took her four children along as she worked on her assignments, spending weeks in the wilderness.

For the exhibit at the White River Valley Museum, Cosgrove supplemented Hill’s paintings with a physical campsite set-up – helping visitors to imagine what it must have been like for a woman to conduct one’s art and work in the wild, while still keeping tabs on four youngsters.

Some of the questions from audience members reflected a frustration that many historical societies just don’t have the kind of staff and resources that are available to the White River Valley Museum.

Cosgrove, who was the first paid staff member of what once had been an all-volunteer operation, pushed back: even with limited resources, the idea of focusing on compelling stories is a scalable approach. Furthermore, volunteers at local historical societies shouldn’t hesitate to seek out assistance – from the general public as well as local electeds.

“‘Don’t be afraid to ask’ is one of the tenets of my career,” Cosgrove told the crowd.

She also talked about how spotlighting different stories over time can engage different kinds of visitors – at the White River Valley Museum, Cosgrove has done exhibits on veterans’ tattoos, quiltmaking, Japanese-American members of the World War II Military Intelligence Service, and – currently – women’s underwear.

HSFW president Jerry Knutzen speaks to AKCHO members

This AKCHO membership meeting was hosted by the Historical Society of Federal Way. HSFW President Jerry Knutzen shared some stories about the first small settlements in the area, and told how Federal Way got its name when four tiny school districts were combined into one larger district, and the locals decided to name it “Federal Way” after the new federally-funded Highway 99 that was being built through the midst of their community. The name eventually was adopted by the entire community.

“As far as we know, we’re the only city in the country that’s named after a federal highway,” Knutzen said.


History is more than human
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Author Frederick Brown and AKCHO member Fran Clifton

Dr. Frederick Brown spoke to AKCHO members at AKCHO’s February 2018 membership meeting. The author of last year’s AKCHO Award-winning book, The City Is More Than Human, Brown makes the argument that Seattle wouldn’t exist without animals.

“Materially and culturally, animals have shaped the area’s transformation,” he wrote in the introduction to his book, and at the AKCHO meeting, he detailed the many ways that animals have participated in the development of this place – as food, as labor, and as companions.

Yet he pointed out that our current tendency to neglect the historical import of animals differs significantly from the worldview of the Salish people, who were here millennia before the white settlers, and who viewed animals as powerful allies in understanding the cosmos.

Brown discussed how different animal species – cows, horses, pigs, chicken, salmon, and others – have had varying influences on the layout and development of Seattle, on the definition of different neighborhoods, and on human attitudes.

The Q&A following Brown’s presentation was one of the liveliest sessions ever -attendees had plenty of opinions and stories to share about relationships with animals and their “footprint” in different neighborhoods.

Brown is working on two more book projects at the moment. One is a project for the National Park Service that focuses on the Redwoods National and State Park Systems. The other has the working title of Sparrows and Starlings: The Avian Immigrants That Conquered a Continent.


Beyond the Frame launch addresses good and bad of Curtis’s legacy
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No one’s saying that famed photographer Edward S. Curtis’s photographs of North American Indians aren’t powerful. In the early part of the 20th century, fearing that Native Americans were doomed to go extinct due to the harsh government policies at that time that prevented them from adhering to their customary ways, the Seattle-based photographer dedicated himself to documenting tribes across America. He used all the tools at his disposal: film, audiotapes, written narratives and photographs, spending three decades in compiling a massive, 20-volume set titled The North American Indian.

But perhaps foreshadowing “fake news” by a century, Curtis fudged some of the facts. He had his subjects dress up in a manner that might have been more reflective of pre-colonial contact. He retouched photos to remove modern elements and to heighten the picturesque myth of the “noble savage.”

So a few years ago, when the Seattle Public Library realized that the sesquicentennial of Curtis’s birth would take place in 2018, the staff there began to talk about how they might best share their substantial Curtis holdings with the public. They formed a steering committee and held open meetings that attracted collectors from across the country, historians from around the region, and tribal representatives from around the Pacific Northwest.

It was obvious to all that Curtis’s assumptions about the fate of Native Americans had been in error. But what also became apparent over a succession of meetings was that the current generation of stakeholders, prompted by the presence of multiple Native American perspectives and at least one funder (4Culture) that increasingly is emphasizing the importance of assuring that projects are considered through the lens of equity and diversity, viewed the idea of a Curtis sesquicentennial not only as a chance to redress the misinformation that Curtis had promoted, but also to look “beyond the frame” and bring current Native American voices and visibility to the forefront.

The refocused initiative is being called Beyond the Frame – To Be Native. It launched at Chihuly Garden and Glass on February 17, Curtis’s birthday, with a benediction and welcome from Ken Workman, Duwamish Tribal Council member and great-great-great-great grandson of Chief Seattle, followed by remarks by city and tribal dignitaries, and multi-generational performances of Native American music and dance. 

As over 20 local institutions participate in the initiative over the next year, the Curtis works will serve as the backdrop for conversations that focus on Native identity, race and resilience, and the role of arts and culture in addressing these issues.

“Bringing the Native voice into the center of this community conversation has been vital to the Library and, we think, needed by the general public,” Seattle Public Library Chief Librarian Marcellus Turner told the crowd assembled for the launch of the project.

“The Library supports engagement and the building of community by providing access and support for all types of information, learning, and civic discourse. Beyond the Frame gives our regional community the platform from which to explore complex histories, read personal narratives, re-evaluate the history, and listen to our Native colleagues.”

For more information on upcoming programs and exhibits related to Beyond the Frame, visit





Heritage Advisor is published by the Association of King County Historical Organizations as a service to members and those who support its mission. We update our website continually throughout the month, and on the first of every month we e-mail a condensed version of Heritage Advisor to our mailing list – you can subscribe to this service by filling out the requested information in the right sidebar on this page.

AKCHO was established in 1977 to encourage cooperation among historical organizations; promote and encourage the study and preservation of the history and heritage of King County through member organizations, individual members, and the community they serve; and support such preservation efforts through public awareness and understanding of legislative issues.

The Heritage Advisor welcomes submissions of news items, calendar items, and opinion columns from AKCHO members, HA subscribers, and readers. Articles are limited to 300 words and they should have a strong relevance to historic preservation and heritage issues in King County, Washington. Submission of an article does not guarantee publication. AKCHO does not pay for published submissions. All articles are subject to review by AKCHO staff. Please send your article within the body of an email (no attachments, please) to

AKCHO welcomes new members year round. Individual memberships are $25, and we have a three-tiered system for organizational memberships, with dues dependent on budget size. For more information and an application form, visit

More than 150 individuals and organizations support heritage work and historic preservation in King County, thanks to their membership in AKCHO. Please join us!




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AKCHO was established to encourage cooperation among historical organizations and to promote and encourage the study and preservation of the history and heritage of King County through member organizations, individual members, and the community they serve, and to support such preservation efforts through public awareness and understanding of legislative issues.

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