Seattle, WA
October 2, 2023

Behind the Otto Bar

Otto Haas moved to Philadelphia in 1909 from Germany to expand his company, Rohm and Haas, which became wildly successful. In 1945 he used some of his wealth to start a foundation to address post-war social needs, and his children and grandchildren have continued his philanthropic legacy. His grandson thinks Otto would have felt very at home at Town Hall: “Otto cared so deeply about his local community, and he made sure no one was ever left behind. He would appreciate Town Hall’s commitment to making a place where everyone is welcome and can afford to take part.”

Otto’s commitment to his community was evidenced throughout his life, work, and approach to running his business. He believed it was his responsibility to ensure that his employees could live a good life. During the Depression, he worked hard to make sure no one ever lost their job. As Duncan noted “They might have to make do with a different role for a little while, but he did whatever it took to make sure their livelihoods were secure.”

Outside of public life, Otto was known for his mischievous sense of humor, love of the outdoors, and gathering with his family. Town Hall is grateful for the opportunity to honor his memory in our own gathering space, the Otto bar in the Wyncote Foundation NW Forum.

Portrait of Otto Haas by Kathryn Rathke.

What’s Your Curiosity Craving?

At Town Hall, we often invite folks to feed their curiosities, and for Homecoming Festival, we’re asking: what is your curiosity craving? In this series, Town Hall staffers will turn their own curiosity cravings into custom festival itineraries. Interested in sharing your own craving and the Homecoming lineup that satisfies it? Write us at for the chance to be featured here. If selected, we’ll give you free tickets to your custom itinerary!

Missy Miller, Town Hall’s Communications Director, shares her itinerary: 

My curiosity is craving an exploration of our changing understanding of a changing world. With this itinerary, we’ll gain new ways to think about topics from death, to digital existences, to our relationship with dogs. If you’re interested in diving into the origins of our mathematical understanding of nature, the “art of logic” in an illogical age, and want to hear first-hand experiences of how the self is impacted by factors outside of our control—these events are for you. Join prominent scientists like Gina Rippon and Alexandra Horowitz as well as some of today’s best science writers, including Caitlin Doughty and Jonathan Safran Foer. 

9/11 Math night double-header! The Art of Logic in an Illogical World and How the World Became Geometrical. 

Eugenia Chang balances the values and limitations of logical thinking alongside vital “alogic” approaches like emotion. Amir Alexander tracks the philosophical, political, and social uses of geometry throughout history.

9/16 Caitlin Doughty: Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? And Other Questions About Death

Mortician Caitlin Doughty answers questions about keepsake skulls, Viking funerals, mummified dogs, and what will happen (to our bodies) after we die.

9/18 The Body Lives its Undoing

Researchers, patients, and caregivers share unique artistic perspectives about the experiences of people living with autoimmune diseases.

9/20 Gina Ripon: The Myth of the Gendered Brain

Gina Rippon debunks the concept of the “gendered brain,” drawing on research at the intersection of science, society, and gender identity.

9/20 Brad Smith: Promise and Peril in the Digital Age

Microsoft President Brad Smith confronts cybercrime, privacy problems, and big tech’s relationship to inequity.

9/22 Clyde W. Ford: Think Black

Clyde W. Ford, son of IBM’s first black software engineer, presents a heartbreakingly honest story of the parallels between his father’s and his own experiences as black engineers at IBM.

9/25 Jonathan Safran Foer: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast

Author Jonathan Safran Foer offers us a new approach to saving the planet from climate change: breakfast.

9/26 Isabella Tree: A Farm’s Return to the Wild

Travel writer Isabella Tree recounts the unique and wild process of reviving her 3,500 acre farm by letting it return to nature.

9/28 Alexandra Horowitz: Our Dogs, Ourselves

Author Alexandra Horowitz explores our perplexing, contradictory, and delightful relationships with dogs.

Want to find more? Check out our full Homecoming Festival lineup!

We Did It!

Our General Manager, Mary Cutler, floated into the office this morning, arms swaying and voice sing-song: “Today is a normal day. Let’s all pretend it’s a normal day.” It is, decidedly, not a normal day. But we echoed her feigned calm and did our best to think about anything other than what was happening across the street. Our final inspection was underway. If given the thumbs up, the building—after nearly two full seasons of renovation—would officially be ours again.

That calm pretense was traded for cheers as Mary shared the good news: we passed. As of 11:46 am today, May 16, Town Hall Seattle is no longer a construction site.

The staff raced over and (without hard hats!) entered through the freshly painted 8th Ave doors, explored stairwells, and marveled at the Reading Room’s bare but beautiful form. We gathered on the Great Hall stage to pop a bottle of champagne, toast one another and the community that made this possible—and also to really feel what’s on the horizon. Wier’s toast hit home: “Twenty years of Town Hall. And now, right now, we get to start it all again.”

Whether you’ve been with us since 1999, met us during Inside/Out, or are stumbling across this post because a friend happened to share a link: we are so incredibly glad you’re here. The future and possibilities of Town Hall have never been quite so bright, and each of us are necessary to manifesting its potential.

We mean that in the grand sense, and also in the practical. This summer is our soft launch; there’s still a lot of fine tuning ahead of us and we need your help–your presence and participation–to get it right. Please lend us your patience (and opinions!) as we grow into the new building, and we hope you’ll enjoy new details coming into place every time you visit this spring and summer (from smaller items like wayfinding signage to big things like bar service and commissioned artwork). With your help, the building will be the best version of itself in time for our big Homecoming festival this September!

Our very first event in the Great Hall is just days away (Tuesday, May 21), and we can’t imagine a more fitting debut for the room. Joshua Roman, our longtime friend and Town Music Artistic Director, will lend us his virtuosic talents in a solo cello concert. There are still a few tickets remaining, and we hope you’ll join us to help mark the moment.

Even as we celebrate the end of our own renovation, we should note: more than just Town Hall has been under construction. Our full block is in the midst of being developed. While the plaza and Ovation towers are being built, the Forum is accessible via our new at-grade West Entrance, reachable from the loading zone on Seneca street.

An Open Forum

History has a funny way of repeating itself. In 1918, our building opened its doors to the public…sort of. You see, the church completed construction on the downstairs level several years before the iconic domed space (which would become our Great Hall) could be finished. The community didn’t let the partial building stop them from congregating, and they came together amidst the construction.

The Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist (now, Town Hall), 1923. (via the original Town Crier)

A century later, we find ourselves in a similar position—although thankfully our wait will only be a month as opposed to years. After 18 months of renovation, the Forum at Town Hall (formerly the Downstairs space) is opening a little ahead of schedule. We’ve received a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (or TCO) for the lower level. The room is still in its rawest form—the furniture isn’t all in and the bells and whistles like café and bar service will come later, but the space is there, and we can all feel it calling for conversations and community. Simply put: we’re not going to wait for the lobby level and Great Hall to finish before we start hosting programs in the new Forum.

In order to test the venue’s capabilities—and to help Town Hall feel like home again—we’re moving several of our April events back into our building. A few additional moved events will be announced over the coming week, but if you’re interested in getting a preview of this incredible space, or just returning to Town Hall, be sure to pick up a ticket to Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (4/12) or Cherríe Moraga (4/24) and keep an eye on our calendar for other events back in the space!

It should be emphasized: the rest of the building is still under construction. This means we’re waiting to install some final features of the Forum, and that there are plenty of areas of the building that will still be closed off to the public until our renovation is completed in late May. We hope you’ll share our enthusiasm as the building reopens a little at a time, and that our ability to be together again in Town Hall will supercede the temporary walls blocking off the almost (but not quite!) finished lobby level and Great Hall!

Of course, more than just Town Hall is under construction—our full block is in the midst of being developed. While the plaza and Ovation towers are being built, the Forum is accessible via our new at-grade West Entrance, reachable from the loading zone on Seneca street.

We hope to see you at one of these first events back in the Forum, and that you’ll join us again when the full building reopens in late May for our soft launch this summer!

Feeling Roguish?

Town Hall Seattle wants to hear about your merriest mishaps! Our Short Stories Live “Rogue’s Christmas” series is a favorite Town Hall tradition, with local actors performing unconventional holiday stores, a festive house band, and plenty of cheer. And this year, it’s getting just a little jollier. For the first time ever, we’re expanding the lineup of stories to include homegrown tales of holiday hazards.

We’re calling on you to submit your tales of holiday disasters, embarrassments, and other merry moments gone awry. Winners will receive free tickets to watch their tale be brought to life by this year’s Short Stories Live cast. To apply, email your story to by December 6.

Please note:

  • Stories must be able to be read aloud in 5 minutes or less.
  • Winners will receive two complimentary tickets to Rogues Christmas.
  • Stories will remain the intellectual property of the submitter.
  • By submitting, the entrant gives Town Hall Seattle permission to perform their story live, to record it, and to broadcast the performance.
  • Language and story content may be edited to suit a family-friendly audience.
  • Winners will be selected by the Rogue’s Christmas curator and acting cast.
  • Winners will have the opportunity to be featured on Town Hall’s blog and/or podcasts.

Town Hall Receives Additional $1M in 2018 Supplemental State Capital Budget

Gov. Jay Inslee signs the supplemental state operating budget on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)

Governor Inslee recently signed the 2018 Supplemental State Capital Budget, which includes $1 million for the renovation of our historic building. Town Hall is deeply grateful to the Washington state legislature for investing in this iconic building and the community it houses, and we extend particular gratitude to Representative Nicole Macri for her strong initiative and advocacy on our behalf, and to Senator Jamie Pedersen, Senator David Frockt, Representative Steve Tharinger, and Speaker of the House Frank Chopp for their support.

Town Hall Executive Director Wier Harman issued the following statement: “We consider ourselves profoundly fortunate to steward this beautiful century-old building on behalf of the community. Town Hall is far more than a place where stuff happens. It’s a collective resource, a practical piece of our region’s civic and cultural infrastructure. And critically, it’s a space where everyone is welcome—on the stage and in the audience.

The state, along with other donors, recognizes how close we are to the finish line—and when unanticipated expenses arose around seismic stabilization and hazardous materials remediation, we are so grateful to have received the support necessary to finish our project, for the benefit of the whole community.

This investment is a vote of confidence in Town Hall’s work and our ability to continue to grow alongside our region. We are proud to be a part of this community, and we look forward to welcoming our legislators—alongside the entire community—to our grand re-opening in early 2019.”

This new funding is in addition to the $1.52 million awarded to Town Hall through the state’s competitive 2017–19 Building for the Arts grant process. Construction began in August 2017 and is expected to end late 2018 for a grand re-opening early 2019.

Please consider taking a moment to thank our legislators for their advocacy and investment in Town Hall.

Rep. Nicole Macri (District 43)

Sen. Jamie Pederson (District 43)

Sen. David Frockt (District 46)

Rep. Steve Tharinger (District 24)

Rep. Frank Chopp (District 43)

Send this to a friend