When Victoria Watt the great-great granddaughter of "city father" Arthur Denny, cut the dedicatory ribbon on Feb. 15, 1952, the Spirit of Seattle Memorial Building looked much as

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When Victoria Watt, the great-great granddaughter of “city father” Arthur Denny, cut the dedicatory ribbon on Feb. 15, 1952, the Spirit of Seattle Memorial Building looked much as it does in this older scene with a Boeing B-1 that seems to be flying through the windows. Actually, the B-1 is hanging from the ceiling of the museum’s southwest wing, named for Boeing executive Phillip Johnson. And the building is better known as the Museum of History & Industry, or MOHAI for short.

The photo was probably made some time before Victoria did her snipping, because the long ramp, including the high wall behind the plane, are peculiarly free of the artifacts that the Seattle/King County Historical Society had been collecting for just such a home since it was organized in 1911.

When it opened in 1952, the entrance was reached over the bridge shown on the right. Neither Paul Thiry, the architect, nor Guen Plestcheeff, the society’s president, would have known in ’52 that in another 11 years the approach to the museum’s front door would be crossed by the westbound off-ramp of the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge as it cut through the Montlake neighborhood. The main entrance was moved to the north side of the building, and soon MOHAI added a wing with an auditorium and more storage.

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These few details are meant to introduce the delights of actually exploring history as taught by Lorraine McConaghy, the museum’s resident historian. Her next six-week “Nearby History” offering starts Jan. 22. She will teach you how to both research the past and write about it. Please believe me: She has a delightful history of her own in these innovative endeavors and is much appreciated by past students, including me. For information call MOHAI at 206-324-1126.


Paul Dorpat specializes in historical photography and has published several books on early Seattle.