MOHAI – History on the Move

This year on Museum Day, September 25, I decided to check out the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI).  Amazingly enough, I had not been to MOHAI before, even though it’s current location is a short distance from me, just across the Montlake Bridge from Husky Stadium in the U District. The Smithsonian’s Museum Day provides a printable ticket for free admission to the museum of your choice (for up to two people), so it seemed like the perfect time to check it out.

Carroll’s Clock

Greeting you at the entrance of MOHAI is the old Carroll’s jewelry store clock, which seems out of place in MOHAI’s park like setting.  It is not out of time, however, at least not literally. There was a clock repairman performing maintenance when I got there.

Great Seattle Fire

The Great Seattle Fire on June 6, 1889 burned down 32 city blocks according to the MOHAI sign. One of those epic events that changed the city. All because a glue pot boiled over in a carpenter’s shop.

This glue pot:

Glue Pot

Wow! This is it? This little pot filled with glue boiling over and much of the city was gone.

One exhibit I couldn’t photograph (because there was a sign asking me not to) was the visiting Women’s Votes, Women’s Voices exhibit from the Washington State Historical Society. I was really impressed how progressive Washington State has always been on women voting and other equal rights measures. In addition to being the 5th state to give women the right to vote in 1910; twice – in 1883 and 1887 – the Washington Territorial Legislature gave women the vote, only to have the Territorial Supreme Court stike it down. An equal pay law in 1943!

Details on the Washington State Historical Society’s timeline:

History is on the move into the museum. . .

Hey, wait! What’s the Lincoln Toe Truck doing in here? I miss going by it on Fairview on the bus. . .

Lincoln Toe Truck

. . . and I guess now the Lusty Lady sign is officially history. . .

Lusty Lady Sign

. . . of course, we all miss the wild & humorous Lusty Lady signs. I know. It’s a family museum.  Actually, those real signs were across the street from the Seattle Art Museum, often with long lines of school kids on field trips, though. Hopefully that wasn’t all they remembered when they got back to class!

Sometimes WTO seems like really ancient history, in spite of, or maybe because of?, the fact I lived through it.

WTO Turtle Costume

The turtle costumes were great! They got people asking why and learning how the treaty, created for large corporations benefit, knocked down laws to protect sea turtles.

Of course, WTO wasn’t Seattle’s first major protest that shut down downtown. In 1919 the Unions were also out for the Seattle General Strike.

A dire warning from The Seattle Star newspaper:

Seattle General Strike Headline

Another epic part of American history, including Seattle’s, was the Great Depression. A photograph of Seattle’s Hooverville, stretching out in the current SODO neighborhood where there are now two sports stadiums is at MOHAI.

Seattle’s Hooverville

It was kind of jarring to walk by Seattle’s current Nickelsville tent city on the way home.


We seem to be going backwards. While I’m glad at news from this week’s Real Change newspaper that Nickelsville may soon have a permanent location, we really need housing (and living wage jobs) for all.

One of my favorite exhibits were the ship mastheads:

Ship Mastheads

I hadn’t realized there were ones of men as well as women. Wonder if that’s where the expression “like ships passing in the night” comes from?

History is really on the move with MOHAI, because MOHAI is moving. Evidently the planned I-520 expansion for the Evergreen Point Floating bridge is displacing it from it’s current beautiful, but obscure, location; and it’s going to be moving into the old Naval Reserve Armory building on South Lake Union.

In fact, MOHAI has a separate website on the move:

Wait! Is that a picture of Pearl Jam I see? Well, at least it’s under “History is Relevant”!

Old Armory/Future MOHAI

It will be a great location for the museum. I checked out the new Lake Union Park that’s around the old armory building following an Sunday afternoon Amnesty International planning meeting at the Westlake Ave. Uptown Espresso.

There’s more history behind the armory building, with the Northwest Seaport Maritime Heritage Center and their historic fleet, including the 1889 Arthur Foss Tug, which they let you wander around on (and have a donation box, suggesting $1 a person):

Arthur Foss Tug

Next door to the Lake Union Park is the Center for Wooden Boats:

Center for Wooden Boats

Native American boat carvers were working on a boat that day.

Boat carver talks to a family

You can wander around and check out all the beautiful wooden boats:

Wooden Boat

All of which will add to an interesting visit once MOHAI moves into the old armory in 2012!

More information on MOHAI and current exhibits at:


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