The state of the House

The subject of History House overwhelms me. How do I detail a museum abounding in interesting information on the diverse history of Seattle's neighborhoods with less than an epic novel word count?

I don't.

Instead I'll give you a brief oversight, a status snippet on the House.

If you haven't made a trip to our museum tucked quietly in the southeast corner of Fremont, under the Aurora Bridge, I urge you to get it in gear! Set a date, perhaps slip in for a cool refuge from a summer stroll of the Sunday Market as executive director Paul Nordstrand wisely recommends.

Through July, the museum focuses on the history of Southwest Seattle - everything from White Center to West Seattle and all the fascinating neighborhoods rambling thereabouts. The displays range in size and topic (from schools to service groups to businesses), and the stories come direct from their sources.

As Ron Richardson, a board member, explains, "We don't decide how to tell the story - you tell it!"

The History House board members wander areas looking for subjects, and they start with the Neighborhood Service Center coordinator. There, they get a list of people and groups that know the history, and then they ask everyone, "Can you think of anyone else?"

That process is in full swing, and in November, the Northeast Seattle displays stand in the spotlight. In between, visitors will have an opportunity to see past exhibits on the Central Area, North Central Seattle and some underexposed treasures from the storeroom vaults.

The numerous stories contained within the small museum exist for naught if people don't walk in and experience them.

Lately, in addition to gathering history, the board of directors has worked on outreach. Ron talked first of their efforts to put displays on computer disks accessible by schools and senior centers.

Also, they've had growing interest from tour groups that either drop in or schedule ahead for guided explorations.

This summer they've begun a new program of special event days. June's first Senior Day garnered a great deal of praise. Ron admits that History House "really appeals to senior citizens who are often pleased that someone cares."

On July 24, from 2 to 4 p.m., History House welcomes your kids. They invite families to spill into the museum and explore. They've scheduled games and activities, with prizes on hand for all children who participate.

Entertainment rarely comes so cheap. The History House works hard to keep history available and accessible to everyone, asking only a small donation (usually $1) from visitors. It continually strives for creative ways to fund the museum.

Board member Wendy Forsyth (daughter of founding executive director Jim Neidigh) came up with a humdinger. Paul calls it their "wonderful book sale." Ron calls it a "painless way to raise revenue." People buy in bulk the used books for sale in the gift shop.

Even better, I watched the other day as someone hauled yet another donation of more good books for the sale.

Finally, I asked Paul, who began at History House when its doors opened 10 years ago, about its "status."

"The outreach programs have really made a difference. They've made it exciting again!"


"It was exciting in the beginning because it was new," he explains.

Ron, along with others from the board, recently watched interviews done with the founding members, a couple of whom have since passed on. Ron heard in the dreams of their predecessors descriptions of the work they accomplish daily.

"We feel we are following the original idea, and we are finding success with it."

Success that smells so sweet that History House can be called "Home sweet home."

Kirby Lindsay volunteers as archivist to the Fremont Chamber of Commerce and admits her historical interests remain close to home. She welcomes your comments at

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