A lesson in history

Alki beach had been a feast to sore eyes. Having spent the entire morning taking in the ocean, I wondered what other unique local sights Alki offered. Though I only asked for directions, a wonderful woman—Kate—sympathised with me as I lamented missing the Alki Point Lighthouse tour. To satiate my cravings for luscious history, she suggested I visit the Log House Museum. She gave me directions and landmarks and I, unsure what I’d find, walked a few blocks down the beach to the Log House Museum of Alki.

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It was more like a cottage. From afar it was quaint, nestled within a garden of fresh flowers and lots of greenery. A sign hung from the roof, of the two-storey building, almost hiding in plain sight. A flight of wooden steps led to an old fashioned door. As I approached the door, a sign explained how Alki is the birthplace of Seattle. Reading it, I understood that Alki—like most of America—was home to natives for hundreds of years before an unidentified landing party transformed their lives. The Denny Party landed in 1851. For a few years they tried transforming Alki into a profitable and habitable place for them—much like the city of New York on the other side of the country. Soon realising the futility of this venture, they built downtown Seattle, instead. And so began another era, the era of an unassuming port becoming Seattle.

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I’d been in the museum for less than five minutes—I hadn’t event gone inside yet—but then and there I knew I’d come to the right place. Thanking Kate for her excellent guidance, I walked in through the door to meet an excited volunteer. He explained to me how one of the early settlers of Alki, the Bernards, had built their home. In 1902 they’d fused the styles of a modern summer cottage with comfort and luxury. The result was the Fir Lodge. Over the course of 90+ years, the log structure had been home to hundreds of people. It is now a restaurant. Made from Douglas fir logs, a portion of the Fir Lodge is the carriage house, which is the current museum. The Southwest Seattle Historical Society renovated it in 1995, and opened it to the public in ’97 on the 146th anniversary of the landing party.

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Taking in all these scraps of history, a sense of self-importance and awe spread within me. All I’d done was listen to a man talk about incidents of yore, and that’d given me goosebumps already. To make the experience even more worthwhile, he welcomed me to look around at the exhibits: original photographs from the various families that had lived in the exact space I stood at. Aside from photos were also snippets from letters that passed between members of the families—letters of love, letters of pain, and even some letters that lamented loss of their homes.

For the second time that day, I felt glad to have found accommodation in Southwest Seattle instead of downtown. I wouldn’t have otherwise visited Alki, and would’ve missed out on all that I shouldn’t have. Standing over the past lives of so many people, observing what was once theirs, leaning on the walls they once leaned on, and tracing their footsteps, I’d walked into a well-preserved monument that initiated the boom that’s Seattle. As exciting as downtown Seattle was, the modest museum at Alki was a treasure cove of the humble beginnings of a city that’s now a world icon. Not only was it fascinating to encounter such a culture-rich monument, but it was also so moving to realise that even though we evolve into something much larger and different from our roots, it’s those roots that bind us to the world.

I left the museum a little overwhelmed, but as I walked around the log house onto the street, I knew I’d made value of my time in Seattle. I didn’t splurge, I didn’t shop around aisle after aisle, I didn’t bring back material things for anyone, but I brought back memories and stories worth a lifetime. That’s priceless.


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