When I first heard about the light rail plan in 2006, I lived right across the street from the proposed station — as I do now. 2016 seemed so far away that I didn’t think I would even be living in Seattle by then. And when I moved to Eastlake a year later and focused most of my attention on finishing my history degree, I more or less forgot about light rail. But after graduating into the worst recession in decades and entering a quarter-life crisis, Capitol Hill Station unexpectedly became the center of my universe.
While passing through Capitol Hill on March 15, 2009, I saw a bulldozer tearing into the former location of Twice Sold Tales, on John, east of Broadway, like a wafer.
It was tragic and disturbing yet somehow incredibly exhilarating to watch. And it wasn’t just for the pleasure of idly absorbing the carnage unfolding before me, it was more meaningful than that. It was an external manifestation of my quarter-life crisis, an effort to deconstruct and outright demolish parts of my past, even ones that were near and dear to me in order to get to a better place. It also offered me a sense of purpose, which I desperately needed. I had lost my Eastlake apartment, was couchsurfing, and only working 8 hours per week leaving me with a lot of free time. So starting exactly 7 years ago this week, I spent 26 out of the following 42 days photographing the demolition as much as possible. At the time, I never saw the demolition as anything more than the mechanics of tearing down buildings and my effort to capture that as only an exciting way to keep myself occupied.
Fast forward to the present and I’ve come to view its importance more broadly.
Like me, Capitol Hill had to part with a significant portion of its history before it could reach this point. 16 buildings, some over 100 years old that served as the homes, small businesses, and work places of roughly 200 people, were demolished in the spring of 2009 to make way for the light rail.
These people and places have stories. So last month, I committed myself to telling as many of these stories as possible because I think knowing how unique and thus valuable these stories are helps demonstrate just how important this moment in Seattle history really is. I don’t think we can fully grasp how much we’ve gained unless we know what it cost us — the light rail didn’t emerge in a vacuum and realizing that, I think, will help us appreciate it all the more. Although I barely scratched the surface and will likely return to them, this is the final chapter to all those stories: demolition photographs and a few of the fading memories I have attached to them.
Twice Sold Tales – 905 E John
By the time I caught wind of the demolition, most of the insides of Jamie Lutton’s pride and joy since July of 1990 had already been pulverized and were pouring out the back side. The air was saturated with the smell of twisted wood and crumbling concrete. Continue reading