Lately archeologists working for WSDOT have been excavating West of First Ave. between S. Holgate and S. King streets. That part of the city has seen so many people, from the Duwamish peoples who have been there for thousands of years, to the hucksters and merchants and “seamstresses” who thrived on business from gold-rushers on their way to the Klondike, to the first responders of the 19th century who dragged debris from the Great Fire of 1889 out to the flats, and so many more who’ve come and gone here before us.
The area used to be tideflats, and some of Seattle’s earliest structures were built there on a small point of land called “Denny’s Island,” according to local historian and author Knute Berger. Later, a neighborhood took shape there, built on landfill from the clean-up after the Great Fire. The neighborhood was abandoned in 1905 and replaced with a rail yard.
Here are some photos of artifacts: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/sets/72157624300611300/. They’ll be stored and catalogued at the Burke Museum at the University of Washington.
There’s something very moving to me about seeing an old glass bottle with the word “Seattle” on it in raised glass. It makes me a little more aware that I too am just passing through this place. I wonder about the people who made the bottle and who used it, and what they would think if they could see the city today. (I’m also glad I don’t have to drink “Stomach Bitters,” whatever they were.)
It’s probably a universal impulse among people looking at archeological items to imagine what future archeologists will find from our time. Laminated building-access cards? Bottlecaps? Neon Pride Parade beads? Memory sticks? 12th Man buttons? Pennies? Will they wonder about what it was like to use metal money? Will they wonder what we would think of their city if we could see it?