08-29-08 - 2

I've been doing some architectural history investigations walking around Seattle. Just by looking at the buildings in the neighborhoods, it's evident that Seattle was really prosperous around 1900-1925. There are lots of huge mansions from that time, and the old apartment complexes are really high quality, all brick with lots of nice architectural details, leaded glass, etc. Also around that time the city built a public transit system, re-graded the whole downtown area, raised Pioner Square up 15 feet, and built the city park system. Olmsted was called in to do the parks, which is sort of equivalent to hiring Frank Gehry to build you something today - it's a way for the up & coming podunk towns to show off.

You can also see that were was a big crash after that. There's almost no construction at all visible from 1930-1960, and then there's a bunch of really awful stuff from the 60's and 70's. You can be walking down a nice street full of old houses from the 20's and suddenly there's a ramshackle apartment complex from the 70's. That's a clear sign of an economic collapse, the families living in the houses bailed out for some reason and shitty apartments got built.

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