Sunday, February 22, 2009

Alki By and By

Last week we went to Alki Beach to see the place where the first white settlers landed in Seattle, intending to establish their community. It was 1851, November, in the middle of a torrential downpour when the party came ashore, only to find one building with 4 walls and no roof for the two dozen men, women and children. Mary Ann Denny sat down on a log with her two young daughers and infant son and cried.
"Alki" is a Chinook trading jargon word meaning "by and by" or "eventually". The settlers called this place "New York Alki", capturing their dreams in the name of their new community.

You can see from this photo that the central core of Seattle is not at Alki Beach. If you look closely, you will see the Space Needle peeking out from behind Duwamish Head, the land that is curving out on the right side of the photo. It turns out that the original party spent only 4 months living at Alki Beach before they decided to move across the bay to the area we now know as Pioneer Square in downtown Seattle.
Driving down the road a couple of miles to Duwamish Head, you get these sorts of views (see the Space Needle on the far left of the first photo):

We had a beautiful day for our visit, dramatically different from what the original Seattle pioneers experienced. Warm and cosy in the Alki Bakery, eating raspberry coconut muffins and drinking tea, gazing out on sunny Alki Beach, we read first hand accounts of the original settlement, and reflected on the spirit of Seattle's founders and just how much the city has grown and changed since then.

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