by Kirby Lindsay, posted 3 August 2012
Starting this week, John Nordstrand, Operations Manager at History House of Greater Seattle, has scheduled interviews with people connected to Fremont history – in any way, shape, form or function. If you’ve got a first-hand story to tell from Fremont’s somewhat, um, illustrious (or, some would say, infamous) history, please contact Nordstrand, at History House, and schedule an interview.
This is ‘Fremont: Timber To Troll’, a project meant to engage area youth in preserving Fremont for future generations. It is also provides an opportunity for History House (a museum that showcases the history of all Seattle neighborhoods) to gather some history on its home neighborhood – a Seattle neighborhood that started as its own township, and developed into possibly the most legendary but one of the least documented.
Inspired By Student Historians
While called ‘Timber To Troll,’ Nordstrand plans to capture history from before the timber men and mills came to Fremont up to and beyond when the Fremont Troll became frozen in concrete beneath the Aurora Bridge in 1990. “Basically,” he said, “this is the history of Fremont, soup to nuts.”
The inspiration came from Amanda Zahler, and students from Chief Sealth High School and St. Christopher Academy, who brought a history project (‘Becoming Us: Thru The Eyes Of Immigrants’) to History House earlier this year. Zahler introduced Nordstrand to Chief Sealth teacher Gary Thomsen.
History House had served as fiscal agent, at least once, on a history project done by Thomsen and his class called ‘Lake Union Diaries.’ Previously, though, Thomsen worked with Ron Richardson, a former History House Board Member. Yet, when Thomsen and Nordstrand met, the two native Seattleites did discover another connection – they may have played baseball against each other when they were kids.
Following this meeting, Thomsen encouraged Nordstrand to apply for a City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Small & Simple grant “History House hasn’t done a real history project in a while,” admitted Nordstrand, particularly since Richardson – a passionate history buff – passed away last year. With Thomsen, an experienced documentarian – and teacher – willing to help, Nordstrand felt capable of pulling off a ‘real history project,’ again.
Involving Area Youth
Thomsen has already started, with Nordstrand, to digitally collect interviews from Fremonsters to compile into a 20-minute DVD scheduled for a public screening on October 27th, as part of a presentation intended to satisfy the grant requirements. Thomsen, and his students, have produced award-winning documentaries – researched, written, and filmed by youth – on various aspects of Seattle history.
For ‘Timber To Troll,’ the DVD will be important but a larger part of the project will be to get area youth involved and interested in this community. Youth at area schools – from Kindergarten to High School – will be invited to participate in contests that communicate the facets or features of Fremont they find most fascinating. History House will conduct a photo contest, an essay contest and an art contest, open to area students, on why they like Fremont. The October 27th reception will display all entries, and announce the winners.
Nordstrand also hopes to have area students create a timeline for Fremont history, decade by decade, from 1880 to today, to highlight four or five major events each decade. “It is the skeleton,” he explained, and by October 15th, Nordstrand hopes to have it completed to show the development of the Center of the Universe.
So far, Nordstrand has cooperation from teachers at B.F. Day Elementary School, Pacific Crest School, Roosevelt High School and Ballard High School – and he still expects to involve Hamilton International Middle School. Incorporation of youth into the project satisfies criteria of the City grant, but it also fulfills a long-standing effort in Fremont to encourage youth participation. “For a neighborhood that prides itself on its fun and frolicsome reputation,” Nordstrand observed, “we don’t see a lot of kids down here.”
It is an observation of this community, but also about visitors to History House. “We see a lot of families,” Nordstrand acknowledged, “we really do, but most of them are not from Fremont. 40% [of visitors] are non-Seattle people that come through…” Of the remaining 60% of visitors, Nordstrand expanded, about 15% are from Fremont. “People know the fence,” he said, of the art fence by Christopher Pauley that surrounds the History House courtyard, “but they fail to notice the museum tucked behind it.”
Interviews Will Tell (Hopefully) A Comprehensive (And Contentious?) History
Interviewees, for the Fremont history, will have to step beyond the courtyard. “Gary [Thomsen] will do the interviews at History House,” Nordstrand said. Living history from local folk – and those who influenced Fremont but might no longer be local – “might get us back to 1960,” allowed Nordstrand. As for pre-1960 history, “I’m going to go study it,” he said.
To be able to collect a history for all, about all, and a reflection of the experiences of all – rather than ‘The History Of Fremont According To (fill-in-the-blank)’ – Nordstrand wants to hear everyone’s stories.
As for Fremont’s more colorful, um, characters? “If you get people that are whacko,” Nordstrand acknowledged, “that’s great!” They liven up the documentary and make for vivid video, he explained, “then you have others that can correct or expound,” on the ‘facts.’
“I’m no Fremont historian,” he said, but he has experience working on large research projects. “To a certain degree we’re reliant on the people that talk to us,” he acknowledged, especially on those parts of Fremont history prone to grey areas and he said/she said variations. “I think the contradiction is fine,” Nordstrand observed, “to leave it in. That’s history.”
So, please, if you have a Fremont story to tell – share it with History House, soon. Or, if you know someone that should participate (anyone talked to Armen Stepanian lately?) encourage them to contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 206/675-8875 – or visit History House on Facebook.
While this is unlikely to be the last, ever, history collected on Fremont, there really is no time like the present to contribute and make this the most comprehensive.
Even if you have no story to share, mark October 27th on your calendar, and plan to step beyond the fence and visit History House, to enjoy the fruits of the labor of ‘Fremont: Timber To Troll’.
- Teens Capture History (‘Lake Union Diaries’)
- by Kirby Lindsay, November 30 2005 in the North Seattle Herald-Outlook
- An Historic Overview, In Brief
- by Kirby Lindsay and W. James Daly, June 2006 for Fremont.com
- Festival Expert (And Local Legend) Al Parisi
- by Kirby Lindsay, June 4, 2010
- All I Know (so far) About The Fremont Troll
- by Kirby Lindsay, April 2007 for Fremont.com
- Long Live The Mayor Of Fremont
- by Kirby Lindsay, July 16, 2010
- Living His Legacy (Jack Harvey)
- by Kirby Lindsay, April 18, 2008 in the North Seattle Herald-Outlook
- 70 Years Of Beers At The Buck
- by Kirby Lindsay, April 5, 2008 in the North Seattle Herald-Outlook
- Another Look At The ‘People Waiting,’ And Rich Beyer
- by Kirby Lindsay, September 7, 2011
- Dave McKay, ‘Spiritual Father’ of the Fremont Arts Council
- by Kirby Lindsay, June 13, 2011
- The Famous Fremont Gold Dust Trial
- by Kirby Lindsay, September 22, 1999 in The Seattle Press
- The Street You Live On: An Abridged History Of Fremont Street Names
- by Kirby Lindsay, December 29, 1999 in The Seattle Press
- ‘Declared, Decreed, And Determined To Be An Independent ImagiNation’
- by Kirby Lindsay, July 4, 2011
- Meet The McKenzie Building
- by Kirby Lindsay, July 7, 2010
- Meet The Oddfellows Hall, a.k.a. The I.O.O.F. Building
- by Kirby Lindsay, October 7, 2011
©2012 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.