Susan Pierce researches, and shares, her neighborhood’s history.
HERE’S AN EARLY mist-enveloped glimpse looking west into Ballard from the West Woodland corner of Fourth Avenue Northwest and Northwest 60th Street. Turn around, and the landscape rises sharply to the east, climbing Phinney Ridge to its Woodland Park summit. The homes of sawyers and other breadwinners have not yet filled the blocks this far east from Ballard’s many lumber mills, although this West Woodland neighborhood has been nearly clear-cut and is waiting for buyers.
The modest and yet surely comfortable home, posing with its residents at the center, dates from the 1890s. It was probably built by carpenter-contractor Rasmus “Robert” Jensen, the man standing on the front porch with his wife, Marie, and, most likely, their daughter, Anna. The lawn is fitted with a small orchard. In a later photo, the fruit trees have multiplied and taken charge of the acres surrounding the home. These learned observations come by way of Susan Pierce, who is posing with her son, Andy, for Jean Sherrard’s “now” photo. Nine years ago, Susan and her husband, Blake, moved into the home that stands directly east across Fourth Avenue from the pioneer Jensen abode.
From their kitchen window, the couple look out upon the Jensen homestead. It is a prospect not far removed from that taken by (if we can believe the pencil note on the back of the original print) Broback Photo. The original print, number 6446, is kept in the Museum of History & Industry’s “original photo file.” It is from these files that many grapevines of heritage study sprout — including mine. (I began my study of Seattle’s pictorial history with visits to the MOHAI library 45 years ago.)
More about the West Woodland neighborhood
With Andy’s birth three years ago, Susan was awakened not only to nurturing her boy but also the western slope of Phinney Ridge. These nourishing urges came together while taking Andy and her camera for perambulations around the neighborhood, and her research continued at home during Andy’s naps.
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By now the baby is a boy who can distinguish between a gable and a bay window. Susan launched a Facebook page and a blog on the subject of her neighborhood’s history. The results are admirable, and flourishing too, with more than 600 fans. With the help of her neighbors, this genial grapevine keeps on growing. You might wish to review the fruits of these labors, either on the website or on Facebook.