'Seattle's Beacon Hill' a compelling tale of how we got where we are today

The history of Beacon Hill is of American diversity. The hill sweeps atop Rainier Valley and the Duwamish watershed, a northern peak widening as it descends in a gentle slope to the south. Water, wind and earthquake shaped this place, people reshaping it in their turn.

A new book celebrates that history. "Seattle's Beacon Hill" by local authors Frederica Merrell and Mira Latoszek shows us where we've been and who we are.

The writers and other volunteers combed historical records for stories and photographs documenting the creation of Seattle's most ethnically diverse neighborhood. Hundreds of images catch the essence of a community's past, but it's the interviews with our elders that capture its soul.

"Seattle's Beacon Hill" is part of the Images of America series, published by Arcadia Press, devoted to neighborhoods, towns and cities across our country. As you read the chapters and admire the pictures, you'll find how unique and typically American an integrated neighborhood can be.

This is a tale of building and moving houses, laying down streets, and raising businesses and families. Carl Sandburg, that poet of the American working class, would have felt at home here, rubbing shoulders with Filipino baseball players, Chinese tennis stars, Italian grocers and Japanese shopkeepers. You'll see people you know in these pages, African American and Latino leaders, kids at parks and school, duffers on the Jefferson Park golf course.

My favorite picture is of a little girl named Cheryl Chow. She became a person of significance for all of Seattle, Beacon Hill's last City Council member and one of the best. She's flanked by a couple of tall, beefy Seattle Police Department officers. She's holding their hands, guiding them on.

The writers establish an easy familiarity, in bygone years varied as much as those we overhear in our restaurants, shops, and the No. 36 bus today. With "Seattle's Beacon Hill," Frederica Merrell and Mira Latoszek let us explore how heritage happens. They offer an appreciative outlook on the past and perspective to the present. At the end of the book, don't be surprised if you end up looking at yourself.

I got my copy at Java Love. Lenny Rose carries it at his Beacon Hill Red Apple grocery store. You can order it from the publisher at sales@arcadiapublishing.com, and of course there's Amazon.com. For $20, you'll find a place you'll want to call home.

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