The community groups working together to bring a 108-year-old cultural asset forward into a new life serving the Central District gathered Thursday night to celebrate its grand re-opening.
Inside the mostly restored Washington Hall at 14th Ave and Fir, there were stories, songs, dance and a lot of looking forward to the building’s future as a community hall, performance space, and offices for nonprofits. But speaker Storme Webber also reminded the crowd there for the grand re-opening of the building’s past:
It is very important that we honor the roots of the Central District. Yes, there were other people who lived int he Central District. But there were legal reasons why the Central District was a black neighborhood. And those legal reasons had to do with the legal racial covenants that existed in Seattle. Black people could not buy in Windermere. Black people could not buy in Magnolia. My grandmother came up here from Texas in the 1940s. She bought at 24th and Spruce. It’s very important, the history of this hall. This hall is not extricable from the racial history of this city.
Historic Seattle, 206 Zulu, Hidmo, and Voices Rising sponsored the event. CHS reported last month on $300,000 more required to finish the building’s restoration to complete office space added to the renovated hall. Historic Seattle acquired the building in 2009 and have been slowly been restoring it since. Washington Hall, built in 1908 by the Danish Brotherhood, was a cornerstone of the Central Area community through much of the 20th Century. Past performers at the 14th and E Fir space have included Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, and a young Jimi Hendrix.
You can learn more at washingtonhall.org.