What Are People Doing?

Every week the Town Crier blog will look back at Seattle’s near forgotten Town Crier magazine to see what was happening then and talk about what’s happening now. One of the largest sections of the original Town Crier was “What People Are Doing,” highlighting things like, “If conditions are favorable the Renton Hill Guild of the Orthopedics Association will give a card party next Tuesday , and, “the Monday Practice Club met Monday afternoon. In this new series we’re revisiting the old column and tying it to our community’s current happenings, asking: “what are people doing?”

Today’s entry…

The February 8, 1919 editors of the Town Crier sang the praises of Seattle’s libraries in an article entitled “The Use of Books.” It reads, in part, “To thousands the Library is simply a place where one volume of fiction may be replaced by another. They have not yet learned how to use this great public utility. To other thousands it is a mine of knowledge from which they may draw that which they need at pleasure.” Other than the police station, the library is “the only public institution that is open to all in the evening: the only place where men, women and children alike are always welcome without money and without price.” The Crier took note that libraries were becoming community and neighborhood centers. “They are fulfilling their highest mission – public service.

Seattle’s first public library opened in April 1869. Sarah Yesler (1822-1887) was its first librarian. Yesler was a reader, an advocate of women’s suffrage, and a very active community-member. With $60 in funds, books were purchased. Some of them included Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Essays and Percy Shelley’s Collected Poems.

By 1890, the Seattle Public Library had been adopted as a branch of Seattle city government. During the early decades, it operated in various places downtown, always needing more space. With some Andrew Carnegie funding, a new home for the library opened in 1906. Designed by architect P.J. Weber of Chicago, it was bounded by Fourth and Fifth avenues and Madison and Spring streets. When it opened it contained 81,035 books, had 22,444 borrowers, and 47 employees.

But by the 1930s, it too needed more space. It took some time to build a new structure. Dedicated on March 26, 1960, the new 206,000-square-foot Central Library took 21 months to build at a cost of $4.5 million. The five-story library featured escalators, air conditioning and a film department with 1,000 16-millimeter films. The new facility had 1 million books and 260,425 borrowers.

The 1990s brought about another round of library improvements. It included demolishing the existing Central Library and building a new one on-site. The new Central Library opened May 23, 2004. Designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, it is now prolifically sited as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.

Town Crier’s writers would be pleased at how far the library has come in fulfilling its highest mission.

Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater

The sorrowful mother was standing. This is the rough translation of “Stabat Mater dolorosa,” the first line of a 13th-century Christian hymn to Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. The hymn portrays her suffering during Jesus’s crucifixion, and it is sung as the liturgy on the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. Many composers have set the hymn to music, including Antonio Vivaldi (1712), Joseph Haydn (1767), Antonin Dvorak (1876-77), Giuseppe Verdi (1896-97), and Arvo Part (1985). Seattle Baroque Orchestra and the dance company Whim W’him come together to bring Giovanni Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater to life on February 23 and 24. More information about the concerts can be found here.

Alex Weimann, Music Director of Seattle Baroque Orchestra, says “Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater has always been a challenging, disturbing piece for me. The noble sadness of the poetry is so powerful.” Olivier Wevers, Artistic Director of Whim W’him states, “I want to pay deep respect to the origins of the music and the story it is based on, but I also want to challenge it and find a way to bring its spirituality out without being literal. It is a fantastic and inspiring challenge.”

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736) was an Italian composer, violinist, and organist. His most important works were the opera La serva padrona and the aforementioned Stabat Mater. He died of tuberculosis at the age of 26.

The hymn’s author may have been a Franciscan friar named Jacopone da Todi (1230-1306), but its origins are cloudy. The earliest notated copy belonged to the Dominican nuns of Bologna in the late 13th century. Well-known by the 14th century, it was used in Provence during the nine days’ processions.

The text, translated here by Edward Caswell, begins:

Stabat mater dolorosa
juxta Crucem lacrimosa
Dum pendebat Filius.

(At the Cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful mother weeping,
Close to her Son to the last.)

The concerts take place at Shorecrest Performing Arts Center in Shoreline. Click here for tickets.

Snow Day

It’s a snow day in Seattle

Let’s hearken back, then, to January 1, 1937. The Town Crier published this poem:

Softly the Snow
by Marietta Conway Kennard

Softly the snow…gently the snow…
Feathery white like the breast of a bird,
Covers our cottage and folds us within,
Veils all the trees with not a leaf stirred…
Silently falling…a whisper just heard…
Drifting like white moths now…to and fro…
Now thick and silent…now sharp and thin…
Softly the snow…gently the snow…
Covers our cottage and folds us within…
Feathery…slow…
Falls the snow.

Be cozy in your cottages, friends. 

Rah, Rah, Rah, Sis Boom Bah

The big game is this Sunday. The New England Patriots will be battling the Los Angeles Rams for the trophy. Some people will be watching the game. Some people will be watching the ads.

Seattle’s Town Crier writers watched a football game or two in their day. The Town Crier was a weekly magazine focusing on Seattle’s news, arts and culture published between 1910 and 1938. Articles featured local artists, musicians, photographers and actors and reviewed local performances. That said, football wasn’t particularly their bag, art was.

Take, for instance, this brief story in the December 1, 1928 issue.

A football game at Bremerton last week-end, but the line of scrimmage didn’t mean much to us because at the end of the field there was a bank covered with somber dark green of fir trees lit here and there by bright autumn foliage, with right in the foreground a slender straight bush, its leaves of gold, just like the Walter Phillips woodcut at the Fine Arts Galleries, and in the sky a silly, misplaced scythe of a moon that didn’t know enough to go home when it got light.

The story did not mention the final score of that Bremerton game.

If football isn’t your bag, either, fear not. There are plenty of art galleries in the area that will be open on Sunday.

The Seattle Art Museum opens at 10.

The Frye Art Museum opens at 11.

The Henry Art Gallery opens at 11.

Further afield:

The Tacoma Art Museum opens at 10.

The Cascadia Art Museum in Edmonds opens at 11.

Go! Go! Go!

What Are People Doing?

Every week the Town Crier blog will look back at Seattle’s near forgotten Town Crier magazine to see what was happening then and talk about what’s happening now. One of the largest sections of the original Town Crier was “What People Are Doing,” highlighting things like, “Miss Brenda Francklyn will speak at the Sunset Club on the ‘Fatherless Children of France’ and “a ‘Salmagundi’ party was given last evening. In this new series we’re revisiting the old column and tying it to our community’s current happenings, asking: “what are people doing?”

Today’s entry…

There was quite a program that took place on February 1, 1919 at the Women’s University Club. This, according to the February 1, 1919 edition of the Town Crier. Dr. Alexander Konanowksi was speaking. With a Russian menu served, Konanowksi told of “the prevailing conditions in Russia today.” Secretary of the Russian consulate in Seattle, the doctor asked for “promptness of members and guests as a courtesy.”

Russians began arriving in earnest in Seattle following World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution. By 1925 there were approximately 5,000 Russians living in Seattle. Refugees, and most well-educated professionals, they formed a tight-knit community around the Greek-Russian Orthodox Church on Lakeview Boulevard.

Today, many of Seattle’s Russians are involved with the Russian Community Center on Capitol Hill. With a second influx of Russians immigrating to Seattle after World War II, the Russian Community Center was founded in 1952 and it has served the Russian community ever since. Balalaika orchestras, theatrical groups, chess clubs, art galleries, puppet theaters, craft bazaars, talent shows, and more have been showcased there.

You can learn more about the center and coming events here.

Enjoying a Cup of Coffee

Howard Schultz is considering a run for the White House. The former chairman and chief executive officer of Starbucks Coffee Company also has a new book.  With From the Ground Up, Schultz writes two interwoven narratives of a conflicted boyhood in Brooklyn and a behind-the-scenes look at his unconventional efforts to challenge old notions about the role of business in society. Town Hall and Seattle Theater Group is presenting him at the Moore Theatre on January 31 at 7:30.

The event is FREE. You can learn more and register for the event here.

Coffee has been a large part of Schultz’s history and coffee has been a part of Seattle’s culture for much longer. Take, for instance, an August 30, 1919 story in the Town Crier. In a story entitled “Ideal Breakfasts” the writer tells us, in no uncertain terms, the proper way to enjoy a cup of joe…

Coffee, of course, is the proper accompaniment for this morning feast, as it is for any well-ordered breakfast. There should be a small pot of it, just enough for two cupfuls. A Hoover portion of sugar is enough, and it always has been enough, in peace times as in war. Only a perverted, or a juvenile, taste can stand a dose of syrup first thing in the morning, and one must be a lumberman or a deep-sea sailor to enjoy coffee sweetened with brown sugar or molasses. The nicely judged allowance of sugar should first go into the cup, the hot coffee being poured over it until the cup is about four-fifths filled. Then you add the cream, cold, until the blend is a delicate amber brown. ‘Two-thirds hot milk,’ Indeed! Such pap not for grown persons. If the coffee itself is as hot as it should be, hot milk is not necessary, and anyway it is an abomination.

Drink your coffee – APPROPRIATELY – and we’ll see you soon at the Howard Schultz event.

What Are People Doing?

Every week the Town Crier blog will look back at Seattle’s near forgotten Town Crier magazine to see what was happening then and talk about what’s happening now. One of the largest sections of the original Town Crier was “What People Are Doing,” highlighting things like, “Cebert Baillargeron of this city is now in Paris on duty with the Naval personnel of the Peace Conference, and, “the second of a series of Victory dances was given at the New Masonic Temple. In this new series we’re revisiting the old column and tying it to our community’s current happenings, asking: “what are people doing?”

Today’s entry…

There was a discussion of the citizenship of the Japanese in the January 25, 1919 edition of the Town Crier. “Really, The Town Crier, ever sincere in its admiration for consistency, is not at all able to convince itself that there is any justice in racial discrimination in regard to citizenship.” They suggested that the criterion for eligibility should be something else than ethnological classification. The tests for citizenship should be education, physical and moral fitness, and “wealth to a degree sufficient to insure against becoming a public charge.” Those criteria—not the matter of birthplace. “We of Seattle have among us Japanese gentlemen of culture, refinement and sterling character, whom it is a pleasure to know and to associate with.” The story continues, “They pay their taxes, and their creditors, lend active support to every public enterprise and do their best to build up the city and their own businesses…So far as one can judge by their speech or conduct, no one of us has Seattle’s best interests more at heart.”

In the heart of Seattle’s International District is the Wing Luke Museum. As a National Park Service Affiliated Area and the first Smithsonian affiliate in the Pacific Northwest, the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience offers an authentic and unique perspective on the American story. The museum is nationally recognized for their work in creating dynamic, community-driven exhibitions and programs with their community at the heart of each exhibition they create.

From the struggles of early Asian pioneers, like those sterling Japanese mentioned in the Town Crier, to accomplished works by national Asian Pacific American artists, the Wing Luke Museum showcases their uniquely American story.

Current exhibits include “Worlds Beyond Here,” exploring the connection between Asian Pacific Americans and the infinite possibilities of science fiction; and “Wham! Bam! Pow!,” an exhibit featuring the works of Vishavjit Singh, AKA Sikh Captain America, who spoke at Town Hall this past October.

Learn more about the Wing Luke here.

Elevator Pitch

Town Hall’s historic renovation is in its homestretch. We’ll reopen in the coming months but there’s still work to do!  Help us raise $200,000 in new gifts by the end of February and an anonymous donor will match your gifts, dollar-for-dollar. Learn more here.

While we’re eager to open our doors again, we’re starting a new series entitled “If These Halls Could Talk,” highlighting specific upgrades and enhancements to our building. One renovation we’re particularly happy with is our elevator. We’ve installed a gleaming, bright, state-of-the-art thyssenkrupp elevator. It recently had a talk with our old elevator, Otis.

thyssenkrupp: Otis, you did good work.

Otis: Thanks! I was moving people up and down at Town Hall for years!

thyssenkrupp: You’ve got quite a storied history.

Otis: Do I ever! Otis is the world’s largest manufacturer of vertical transportation systems! Otis invented the “safety elevator” in 1852. Sweet Elisha Otis was our founder. After he demonstrated his newfangled elevator at the 1854 World’s Fair in New York City, the elevator industry established credibility! His 1857 steam plow invention didn’t gain steam though. Ha!

thyssenkrupp: You’re telling me that without Otis, I wouldn’t be here!

Otis: You’re too kind! But, yes. Not to brag, but our elevators have been in some of the world’s most famous structures.

thyssenkrupp: Do tell!

Otis: The Eiffel Tower. Have you heard of it?! Oh, I have stories. The Empire State Building. That’s pretty famous. The original World Trade Center. CN Tower. Oh. And yes, of course, Town Hall Seattle.

thyssenkrupp: I’m honored to follow in your illustrious footsteps and add something new.

Otis: How so?

thyssenkrupp: Modernization. Innovation. Efficiency.

Otis: Indeed. Your engineering prowess is first rate.

thyssenkrupp: In 40 short years we’ve become one of the world’s leading elevator companies with unique engineering capabilities. Saving energy and time is what I’m known for. When done well, urban mobility drives down congestion, pollution, stress, and energy consumption.

Otis: Archimedes, what would he think of you now?!

thyssenkrupp: Good ol’ Archimedes! He reportedly built the world’s first elevator, probably in 236 BC.

Otis: And here you are, carrying on his legacy.

thyssenkrupp: I plan to! I’m an endura 35 II A with a 3,500 pound capacity. A smooth, quiet, and efficient workhorse, I am quite suited for Town Hall’s demands. I’m a part of thyssenkrupp AG that has over 155,000 employees in nearly 80 countries! One of the world’s largest steel producers, our products range from frigates to submarines, trains to a Town Hall elevator.

Otis: I’m floored.

thyssenkrupp: Ha! Don’t forget that you can help raise me, and Town Hall, up with a financial contribution. Do it today!  

Drink Up for Town Hall

“There is no question in the mind of any intelligent person,” noted the August 12, 1916 edition of the Town Crier, “that intemperance is probably the worst curse that humanity labors under.”

Temperance. The social movement stands against the consumption of alcoholic beverages, emphasizing the negative effects of booze on health, personality, and family life. The movement led to Prohibition in the United States from 1920 to 1933. Washington State actually started their own Prohibition on January 1, 1916—making the production, distribution, and possession of liquor illegal. Prohibition was repealed in 1933, but during that entire time Seattle didn’t really stop producing, distributing, or possessing liquor. No, not at all. At one point, Seattle had about 4,000 illegal speakeasies in its city limits.

“Certainly the present boot-legging atmosphere is unendurable and destructive to the moral fibre of our manhood – an intolerable condition in which to bring up our youth,” the Crier stressed. But, then again, it noted, “In every other respect there is practically nothing the matter with Seattle and it is the finest and best city in the world.”

Indeed—Seattle is arguably the finest and best city in the world these days for beer. In fact, the whole state is great. Want to learn more? The Washington Beer Commission is a good place to start.

Better yet – want to drink and support Town Hall at the same time? You can! There are a series of “Drink Up for Town Hall” events in the coming weeks! Don’t miss this chance to stay warm, have a drink, and discuss your favorite Town Hall events with old friends and new.

Join us at:

Optimism Brewing Company on January 31. Town Hall will get $1 for every draft you buy!

Capitol Cider on February 6. Town Hall will get $1 for every draft you buy!

Vito’s on February 13. Town Hall will get 10% of all drink sales that night!

Lagunitas Brewing Company on February 19. Town Hall will get all beer sale proceeds!

Cheers, friends!

What Are People Doing?

Every week the Town Crier blog will look back at Seattle’s near forgotten Town Crier magazine to see what was happening then and talk about what’s happening now. One of the largest sections of the original Town Crier was “What People Are Doing,” highlighting things like, “If there is anything in this straw-blowing matter, it would seem Seattle is hungry for music, and, “it was interesting to learn of the election of Mrs. Agnes H. Anderson to the board of directors of the National Bank of Commerce of this city. In this new series we’re revisiting the old column and tying it to our community’s current happenings, asking: “what are people doing?”

Today’s entry…

There is an ad on page 11 of the January 18, 1919 edition of the Town Crier highlighting superb productions, coming soon, by the San Carlo Grand Opera Company. “America’s greatest touring organization,” the ad exclaimed, “one hundred people, distinguished American and European stars, symphony orchestra, brilliant chorus, superb stage settings.” On Thursday they were to perform Aida. Friday – Madama Butterfly. On Saturday, Romeo and Juliet and Il Trovatore. Juliet was to played by Queena Mario opposite the appropriately named Romeo Boscacci. The Il Trovatore cast was to consist of, amongst others, Angelo Antola, Estelle Wentworth, and Natale Cervi.

What show is coming soon to ACT Theatre? Romeo and Juliet.

What production is currently being staged at the Seattle Opera? Il Trovatore.

The classic story of two young star-crossed lovers who are kept apart by feuding families is directed for the contemporary stage like never before. ACT is partnering with leaders in the Deaf community to create a production that honors the glorious language of Shakespeare’s timeless play and makes it accessible for Deaf and hearing audiences alike. It will star Joshua Castille as Romeo and Gabriella O’Fallon as Juliet. You can learn more about the production, coming in March, here.

Packed with more hit songs than any opera but Carmen, Giuseppe Verdi’s hot-blooded melodrama thrills with swift action, intense pathos, and multiple moments where singers shine. The cast, depending on performance, includes Angela Meade, Issachah Savage, Elana Gabouri, and Lester Lynch. It is currently on stage at McCaw Hall. Learn more here.

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