The Story of Seattle in 10 Objects

August 14, 2014

I recently read about Leonard Lopate’s “The Story of New York in 10 Objects.”  The listeners to Lopate’s radio show in NYC created a list of possibilities and then voted, with the following 10 objects garnering the most votes:

  • Greek coffee cup
  • Subway token
  • Food cart
  • Oyster
  • 18th century ship excavated from the World Trade Center site
  • Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems
  • The Brooklyn Bridge
  • Wall Street sign
  • Manhattan Schist
  • Subway map

That list started me musing about which 10 objects might tell the story of my city, Seattle. Here is my own personal take on the Story of Seattle in 10 Objects:

1.  The Starbucks to-go, disposable paper coffee cup.  New York City might have its Greek coffee cup, but Starbucks coffee cups are now ubiquitous the world over.  Its world domination began in 1987 according to this article in Bon Apetit.  I took this photo outside Starbucks’ first retail store in the Pike Place Market.

The Starbucks to-go, disposable coffee cup

The Starbucks to-go, disposable coffee cup

2.  The Washington State Ferries.  The state of Washington runs the biggest ferry operation in the United States, and it is the third biggest in the world, transporting 22.5 million riders in 2013.  Several routes go in and out of Seattle.  They are part of the Seattle landscape.

Ferry arriving at the Seattle Ferry Terminal

Ferry arriving at the Seattle Ferry Terminal

3.  Seattle Public Library Card.  Seattle always seems to make it on those lists of “most literary” cities.  We like to read!  The Seattle Public Library has 26 neighborhood branch libraries in addition to its Central Library downtown and mobile services.

My library card, held up outside the Central Library in downtown Seattle

My library card, held up outside the Central Library in downtown Seattle

4.  Salmon.  Local and fresh, I am so glad that this native food is healthy, too.

Fish vendor at the Pike Place Market

Fish vendor at the Pike Place Market

5.  Space Needle.  The Space Needle, built for the 1962 World’s Fair, has become a unique and recognizable silhouette on our Seattle skyline.  It’s been years since I’ve eaten at the revolving restaurant at the top, and I now consider it more of a tourist attraction than a destination for locals.  (It’s rather expensive even to take the elevator to the top.)

Seattle Space Needle

Seattle Space Needle

6.  Native culture and influence.  Seattle gets its name from Chief Sealth, a leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish native tribes. Several other tribes are native to the Seattle area:  the Muckleshoot, Snoqualmie, Tulalip, and Puyallup Nations.  We see their influence in place names, totem poles, powwows, heritage sites and museums.

Coastal tribes at the UW First Nations Powwow

Coastal tribes at the UW First Nations Powwow

7.  Microsoft applications.  We think of Microsoft as a Seattle company because its founders, Bill Gates and Paul Allen grew up here.  I can’t imagine going back to life before Microsoft Word (think typewriters and white-out).  I’m sure I use some aspect of Microsoft technology every day.

Computer addicted

Computer addicted

8.  REI hiking boots.  Seattle is home to thousands of outdoor enthusiasts.  The Cascade and Olympic Mountains with their miles of trails, campgrounds, and challenging peaks are just an hour or two away.  We are surrounded by water for boating and fishing enthusiasts.  The ocean is three hours away.  Last year I replaced my decades-old REI hiking boots with another pair which still don’t feel broken in.  I expect I will wear them for the rest of my life!

My old hiking boots from REI

My old hiking boots from REI

9.  Floating bridges.  Seattleites rely on two floating bridges to access the suburbs east of Lake Washington — Hwy 520 and I-90.  You can follow I-90 clear across the United States and milepost 1 is just on the west side of this bridge. It still amazes me that these major traffic arteries float on pontoons.

I-90 floating bridge

I-90 floating bridge

10.  I don’t have a clear object for # 10 on this list.  Should it be the Boeing 747?  A Douglas fir tree?  Chihuly glass?  Himalayan blackberries?  What do you suggest?

Or better yet, what 10 objects tell the story of your city?







15 Responses to “The Story of Seattle in 10 Objects”

  1. Janet Foss Says:

    Love it but I would have to add the Pike street market Sign and the big clock.

  2. I totally agree. I’m sure you had a hard time keeping the list to 10. Ballard Locks, the Arboretum, the Zoo.

  3. Kate Says:

    Love this! So fun to think about. Definitely think the last one should be some sort of flora–like a fern, tree, etc. symbolizing the abundant growth and green here.

  4. Anne Timlick Says:

    I was going to say rhododendrons! Then there’s the HC Locks,
    and all the bike-and-pedestrian-friendly beaches, i.e., Alki

  5. shoreacres Says:

    Really enjoyed both lists – each of which had some items on them so familiar that I might have picked them: e.g., subway tokens and Starbucks.

    Houston: I’m not sure I can get ten, but here’s what comes to mind, in no particular order.

    NASA/Johnson Space Center
    Livestock Show and Rodeo
    Texas Medical Center / MD Anderson Cancer Hospital
    oil & gas
    26 Branch Libraries in additional to the main branch and specialized collections, like the genealogy library ( I was curious, so I had to look that up and throw it in!)

  6. Bellezza Says:

    I don’t suppose origami would fit with Seattle, but it does fit for you and I. I thank you so much for the special box(es) which arrived within a box, not to mention the book to help me make my own. I’ve only ever folded the star box, and a plain square with a divider. Love the opportunity to make new creations thanks to you. So, thank you.

    As for your city, how wonderful to get a glimpse! I’ve never been, only vicariously through movies like Sleepless in Seattle and training videos highlighting the effectiveness of the fish store in Pike’s Place. But, I love the Starbucks cup, the floating bridges, the Space Needle. For Chicago (my city) I’d have to point out the John Hancock building, the once tallest Sears (now named Willis) Tower, Buckingham Fountain, Water Tower place. Well, I don’t want to bore you, but I guess you inspired me to share. 😉

    • Rosemary Says:

      So glad the origami materials arrived. I’m glad they have a new home. It’s been years since I visited Chicago — once for an amazing Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit at the art museum there. Wonderful.

  7. Diana Studer Says:

    Chihuly glass! How hard your library card has worked.

  8. […] The Story of Seattle in 10 Objects, August 14, 2014 […]

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