In search of Medicine Creek Treaty Tree, Part 1

Back in June of 2016, a colleague of mine at the Washington State Archives – Benjamin Helle, Olympia branch archivist – published an article in that agency’s newsletter about a little-known and seldom-visited monument in the South Sound area dedicated to the Medicine Creek Treaty. What followed was an adventure in state history that nearly anyone can undertake.

Historic UW Nuclear Reactor Building in danger

The Nuclear Reactor Building is an exceptional example of Brutalist design from the Mid-century Modern era and the ideals that drove the Modern movement. Designed by renowned architects of the time, the building’s design promotes technology and rejects the conventional academic architecture surrounding it. It is a completely unique structure, and represents a specific time and way of thinking in the history of the University, and the overarching history of nuclear power. Even after standing empty for many years,

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Take a ride on the steamship Virginia V

In honor of the Seattle flagship’s 93rd birthday, the Steamship Virginia V Foundation is offering the public a limited number of tickets to join them for the birthday cruise on Sunday, June 7th. They’re celebrating 93 years of “Keeping The Steam Up!” around the Puget Sound with the annual celebratory cruise. Proud to continue the tradition of steaming in the northwest, the foundation says it’s looking forward to welcoming you aboard. The cruise is presented by Vulcan Real Estate and tickets can be purchased

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History lives on Orcas Island

There are very few places in Washington where you can hike through the woods, trip over a 200-year-old cannonball and land amongst an assortment of arrowheads and prehistoric bison fossils. In fact, there’s likely only one place where that amazing scenario could potentially play out, and that is on Orcas Island in the San Juans. As the largest island in San Juan County, Orcas is surprisingly not named after the famous killer whales that patrol the waters north of

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Sailors, Scavengers and Souvenirs

On the morning of Friday, March 13, 2015, the bones of Washington’s most well-known ferry were picked clean. Kalakala supporters who desperately searched for years for a way to save the prodigious icon could finally relegate their desire to restore the grand ship to the what-could-have-been. And history buffs longing to claim a piece of her for their own could finally do so, for as little as ten bucks. I couldn’t help wondering if we were saviors or scavengers.

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The last voyage of the Kalakala

This time-lapse video documents the final voyage of the Kalakala. The former Washington state ferry was moved Thursday from the Hylebos Waterway, where it’s languished for more than a decade, to the Blair Waterway, where it will be dismantled for scrap.

Port Ludlow: From industry to opportunity

When most folks want to unplug for a weekend, they are often disappointed to find that their secret hideaway has suddenly become everyone else’s destination hot-spot. Many of Washington’s smaller beach communities can end up crawling with tourists during the busy season…good for their local economy, sure, but the bane of travelers looking for peace and quiet. However, a few places still remain where individuals, couples and families can find a safe harbor away from both day-to-day responsibilities and

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Gravel to golf: The Chambers Bay story

In June, Chambers Bay Golf Course in Pierce County will join the ranks of such prestigious courses as Pebble Beach, Bethpage, Marian, and Pinehurst, among others. At these courses, some of the greatest players ever to walk the links made U.S. Open History. Chambers Bay is poised to become the next great field of champions. But unlike the other courses, whose golf history goes back generations, Chambers Bay is a newcomer to the sport…and there’s a lot more to

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Staying a night at the Sunset Beach Hotel

There have always been references to the famed Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet that I’ve run across while researching Washington State history. The entrepreneurial spirit that gave birth to the fleet in the 1850s is part of what makes Washington such a fascinating place. From the 1850s through the 1920s, it was said there were so many steam ships racing around the Sound that it looked like a swarm of mosquitos. And among the most popular stopovers in the 1890s was the

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Two new ferries need two new names

Today I saw a request for name suggestions for Washington State’s newest additions to the ferry fleet. I’ve got a dozen or so ideas that I’ll be submitting, and you can too by following the directions outlined in the news release below. Now before you start submitting things like S.S. Minnow, Ship of Fools or Taxpayer’s Folly, keep in mind that the Washington State Transportation Commission has certain requirements – such as names being consistant with the rest of the

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What’s in a name? As it turns out, a lot

As I tweeted last week, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources’ Committee on Geographic Names is meeting to consider changing the names of a number of Washington State locations, the most prominent being Soap Lake in Grant County. Someone had the bright idea of renaming it “Lake Smokiam” despite the local community having spent th0usands of dollars marketing the lake’s alleged medicinal properties. Needless to say, Soap Lake residents – along with yours truly – are opposed to the renaming

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Paving over history at old Fort Steilacoom

Earlier this week I became aware of a plan to pave over part of the parade grounds at old Fort Steilacoom in Lakewood. The property belongs to Western State Hospital – itself an icon of Washington State History – and the hospital is managed by the state Department of Social and Health Services. Through my work with 28th District State Senator Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, who represents the district in which the property is located, I discovered that DSHS had

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A parkful of Washington State history

Being cooped up in the house for days on end is enough to drive anyone mad, and throwing a four-year-old in the cage can sometimes seem just plain cruel. So needless to say, I had to get my poor wife and son out of the house before we all ended up in the newspaper the next day. Despite the intermittent weather on Saturday, we decided to visit Tumwater Historical Park at the mouth of the Deschutes River. I was eager

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Some insight into the life of Thomas Frost

Last week, I began planning the first full episode of the Washington, Our Home, video series and I decided the creation and exploration of the Willamette Meridian would be a good first start. To begin with, as I asked in a previous blog post, I had to learn why in the world someone in the mid-1800’s would decide that a straight line north and south from Portland, Oregon, was even necessary. As it turns out, there are a lot of

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Illahee State Park: Right in the backyard

Last weekend, we took a trip into Kitsap County to see my Uncle Verne, who lives at the Department of Veterans Affairs veterans home in Retsil, outside Port Orchard. The facility was built in 1910 on a 31- acre bluff overlooking Puget Sound. According to the website, “Today the Veterans Home is a state-of-the-art, non-institutional facility providing a ‘Resident Centered Care’ concept that focuses resources around the individual resident. All primary services for a resident are available within a forty-bed ‘neighborhood.’ The Home serves 240

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Olympia waterfront

Olympia has some beautiful scenery if you can rise above the fray and see it for it’s natural wonder. Perhaps by the time Parker is older, the wrinkles in this city will have been ironed out.

Tolmie State Park

It was such a nice day, that Kelly and I took Parker to Tolmie State Park just north of Hawk’s Prairie today. Just as the sun was beginning to set, we hit the beach at low tide. The Olympic Mountains were glorious and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The beach was pretty busy with clam-diggers, explorers and pets running around. We made our way through the bevy of families to the tidal zone and began to head

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