Beginning with the 1899 installation of a stolen Tlingit totem pole at Pioneer Square and stretching to artist Lou Cella’s Ken Griffey Jr. sculpture erected at Safeco Field in 2017, Seattle offers an impressive abundance of public monuments, statues, busts, and plaques. Whether they evoke curiosity and deeper interaction or elicit only a fleeting glance, the stories behind them are worth preserving.
Private donors and civic groups commissioned prominent national sculptors, as well as local artists like James A. Wehn, who sculpted multiple renderings of Chief Seattle, and Alonzo Victor Lewis, who produced a number of bas-reliefs and statues, including one of the city’s most controversial—a World War I soldier known as “The Doughboy.” The resulting creations represent diverse perspectives and celebrate a wide array of cultural heroes, dozens of firsts, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, aviation, and military and maritime service.
Author Robert Spalding provides the history surrounding these works. Beyond the words chiseled into granite or emblazoned in bronze, he considers the deeper meaning of the heritage markers, exploring how and why people chose to commemorate the past, the selection of their sites and artists, and the context of their creation. He also discusses how changing societal values affect public memorials, noting works that are missing or relocated, and how they have been maintained or neglected. An appendix lists the type, year, location, and artist for sixty monuments and statues, and whether each still exists. Another useful appendix offers maritime plaque inscriptions.
Robert Spalding is a former Seattle resident and history enthusiast.
Illustrations / maps / notes / bibliography / index / 220 pages (2018)
“I highly recommend the book. I learned a lot about our city and our local history by reading this book. Mr. Spalding really did his homework on this one.”— Kirby Wilbur, KVI 570 radio talk show host
“I don’t care how well you think you know Seattle, you will learn a ton from Robert Spalding’s book on Seattle’s statues, monuments and markers. From Chief Seattle and early Denny Party founders to Jimi Hendrix and Ken Griffey, Jr., from sea disasters to pioneer battles, from empire builders to totem pole stealers, it is a marvelous, readable and well-researched compendium of how the city has marked its heritage and the surprising stories those markers often tell.”—Knute Berger, Crosscut columnist, Seattle Magazine editor-at-large, author of Pugetopolis.
“Both timely and instructive in understanding the role public monuments play in molding the public’s view and consumption of historic people, places, and events…The appendices and maps make Monumental Seattle an excellent guide book for tourists in addition to being a fine addition to the study of monuments and memorials as part of material culture…an important and currently relevant work on monuments and memorials for both the general reader and academic specialist.”—Francis Rexford Cooley, Journal of American Culture
“More than a guide or an audit of cultural assets, it is a well-researched and systematic account of the history of one city’s monumental landscape…his thorough review provides a number of well substantiated observations that will be useful for urban heritage scholars…the particular value of this book is that Spalding has packaged the histories of a complete sample of monuments within a city so that these observations are clear, accessible, and empirical to scholars of any field that is attentive to material culture.”—Rebecca Clendenen, International Journal of Heritage Studies
“No other book of its kind exists. Spalding has done his homework and dug out many long lost stories. Anyone who picks it up will find delightful facts and figures about Seattle.”—David B. Williams, author of Seattle Walk: Discovering History and Nature in the City and Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography
“This is a thorough-going compendium of Seattle history through the hardware of markers, memorials, and statues. Walking tour guides and anyone interested in the history of the city would benefit from this finely researched book.”—Brian Charles Clark, Washington State Magazine, Spring 2019