Going, Going, Gone

The April 18, 2006 marked the 100th anniversary of the great 1906 California earthquake which did so much damage in the San Francisco Bay area. The Prince William Sound (Alaska) earthquake of Good Friday, 1964, not only caused tsunamis, but actually lifted the entire seabed many feet higher. Earth constantly amazes me as to its ability to build, destroy, rebuild, and constantly change its appearance.I see a similar effect in the constant changes in our neighborhoods. Houses are placed on the market, sold, torn down, and two or more townhouses appear on the same site. The basic problem is: I can’t remember what the houses were like which stood on the site previously. This may be a result of our fast-paced modern society, for too many nice houses have vanished. Some are replaced by structures which have both architectural integrity, and a beauty which complements the houses around them. Others, glaringly out-of-place, stand cheek-by-jowl with houses beside which they look totally out of place.

So I have two problems. The first is not having a photo of the previously situated buildings, and the second is wishing that developers would look at the surrounding structures before putting up one which simply does not fit. One doesn’t have to place greed above beauty. The fact that we don’t have enough activists to go out and take pictures of all the buildings on their individual streets results in the continuing situation of losing buildings and having no historical photo file of them once they are gone.

Lawton Gowey did just that kind of a service from the 1950s into the 1980s. He left us with a rich heritage of photos of homes, businesses and streets from all over Queen Anne Hill. This heritage, however, needs to be updated regularly for it to continue to be of long-term (and short-term) use to the researcher. Buildings aren’t just victims of change—many have been lost in prior years to earthquake, fire and deliberate neglect.

Think about going out and taking photos of your block; photos of streets near yours; photos of your favorite businesses or walking routes. The Queen Anne Historical Society will always need good shots of homes and businesses, both exterior and interior shots. Take a few pictures inside your own homes and see what you find.