Category Archives: Historic Sites

University of Washington Suzallo Library

Suzzallo Library

It’s no big secret that I love libraries. Just check out my History Spy Pinterest Board.  One of my favorite libraries is on the University of Washington campus.  Also, referred to as the Harry Potter library by recent patrons, the Suzzallo library is worth a special trip to the campus next time you find yourself in Seattle.  Bring a book or some research to do though, because as you enter, the ambiance makes you want to sit and study.

It opened in 1926 and named the Suzzallo Library in 1933 after the death of former university president, Henry Suzzallo, and considered the crown jewel of his administration. The architecture is an example of the Collegiate Gothic style.

As you walk up to this magnificent library, you see eighteen statues along with many coats of arms.  While studying the history of the library, I found that the statues depicted Moses, Louis Pasteur, Dante, Shakespeare, Plato, Benjamin Franklin, Justinian, Sir Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Goethe, Herodotus, Adam Smith, Homer, Gutenberg, Beethoven, Darwin, and Grotius – all chosen for their contributions to learning and culture.  The coats of arms are from many outstanding universities around the world in the early 1900s.

As you first enter the library, you’ll find the Grand staircase where you can see the worn marble treads from so many years of use by dedicated students. It ends in a beautiful room with a vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows called the Grand Stair Hall, but my favorite part of the library and the part which invoked the Harry Potter name, is the adjacent Suzzallo Reading Room. Suzzallo envisioned a cathedral of learning, and it does have the look of a cathedral with a ceiling that’s 65 feet tall.  It has beautiful huge oak bookcases topped with hand carvings of native plants. Much of the light comes from the 35 foot tall leaded and stained glass windows. Other light comes from old brass lamps hanging from that enormous ceiling.  The students study silently in there, and I did not hear a noise above a faint whisper until a student stood up accidentally dropping a book.  All eyes immediately looked up from their studying assessing the source of that unwelcome disturbance.

Suzzallo Library Reading Room

Mysterious doors behind a locked glass wall.

There are rows of thick oak desks with quaint little lamps, and what really caught my interest was a glass wall with a locked oak door.  Behind the glass is a whole row of ornate wood doors  which have called out to me ever since to write a story about the mystery which lies behind those doors.  For those of you who have been to that library, have you ever noticed that intriguing area?

If you’ve been to the Suzzallo Library leave a comment on your favorite area, and if you never have been there, I hope you’ll take the time to visit next time you’re in the Seattle area.

The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist

St. John’s Cathedral – Spokane, Washington

The cathedral of St. John the Evangelist is one of Spokane, Washington’s architectural jewels. Located on Grand Boulevard above the hospitals, St. John’s towers majestically over the neighboring landscape on Spokane’s south hill, and is visible from many parts of the city including I-90.  An Episcopal cathedral, it’s the Spokane Diocese which includes Eastern Washington and the Idaho Panhandle.

The massive stone exterior is only a hint of the grandeur of what lies inside.  The first time I walked into the cathedral, my eyes were immediately drawn up to the beautiful stone detail and lace work tracery in the upper stained glass windows and the huge California redwood beams supporting the tall ceiling. The stained glass windows are breathtaking on the inside, especially on a sunny day.  Beautiful symbolic details are throughout the interior. In addition, thousands of pipes from the famous Skinner organ are in eye-catching groups in the cathedral.  There also is a carillon with forty-nine cast bells with a range of four octaves. The biggest bell weighing 5,000 pounds has the nickname, Big John. The carillon can be heard daily in nearby areas, and in the summer people enjoy picnics on the cathedral lawns while listening to the concerts.

Construction for St. John’s started in 1925 and is the only cathedral this side of the Mississippi designed in the style of a thirteenth century English gothic cathedral. It also has French influenced detail and is the brainchild of Spokane’s famous architect, Harold Whitehouse, who also was a member of the congregation. Donors are still needed to finish the last of the massive stained glass windows.

In the Middle Ages and early Renaissance, when literacy was low, stained glass windows and mosaics told Bible stories as well as local history. In that same tradition, even though literacy is much higher, stained glass windows still tell the same stories. If you go on a tour of St. John’s, you will learn the meanings of the windows depicting  biblical stories and local history.

The northwest pillar by the organ has a fascinating  cornerstone containing inserted stones – one each from the Mount of Olives, the ancient Glastonbury Abbey in the United Kingdom, the first Episcopal church in Jamestown, Virginia, and the former All Saints Cathedral in Spokane.

The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist - Cornerstone


In addition to volunteers offering tours,  there are many concerts throughout the year hosted by the cathedral.  One of my favorite Christmas memories was attending a Christmas Eve service at St. John’s and experiencing the beauty of the organ and choir in the majestic cathedral setting. The atmosphere was enchanting, and I felt as if transported to Europe.

Have you been to St. John’s?  What is your favorite memory?

Gum Wall - Seattle, Washington

Bye Bye Gum Wall

Gum Wall - Seattle. WA

The iconic gum wall next to Pike Place Market, a disgustingly cool gum composition, is now history because apparently the sugar in the gum ate away at the bricks.  For years happy tourists and locals alike added their chewed up gum to the wall, many of them taking pictures next to their proud addition to the iconic gum artwork.

But don’t be downcast, don’t cancel your travel plans to visit Seattle because officials tell us gum can be added again to the famous wall now that steam has cleaned off the 20 year accumulation.  I think a plan is in order this time.  Artists could copy famous paintings on the bricks, then the gum chewers could put their gum on the designated places in the wall that match the color they’re chewing.  It could become a famous gum mosaic.  A Van Gogh fan myself, I would like to see Starry, Starry Night reproduced in gum. It could be a whole new business for an enterprising shop in Pike Place to sell gum in the specific colors needed to complete the gum mosaic masterpieces. It could be a great ongoing fundraiser for many organizations including The Society for Brick Preservation.  Okay, I just made that name up,  I’m not aware of that society yet, but it might be out there somewhere. The newly formed School of Mosaic Gum Art could be in charge of making the outlines of the giant-sized interactive color book . Student assignments could include periodic policing of the artwork to move errant placed gum colors to their proper locations in the pictures.

The possibilities for making the new gum wall even more famous than before are endless.  Maybe this is the perfect time to buy stock in a gum company.  Or maybe, I should start a gum company making unique, artistic gum colors with a sugar substitute that doesn’t destroy the brick.  I would call it Van Gogh Art Gum.  I can see it now – beautiful gum mosaic masterpieces imitated all over the world.  The demand for Van Gogh gum would skyrocket and fund my retirement.

Chew on gum lovers and artists, chew on.

The Old Mining Town of Murray, Idaho

Murray, Idaho Post OfficeThe silver mines of Kellogg and Wallace, Idaho, are still in existence today, and are the common areas of conversation when the discussing the subject of mining in Idaho, but the town of Murray, Idaho, is largely unknown or forgotten; however, it played a key role in mining history. Murray  is known as the cradle of the Coeur d’Alene Mining District, and Spokane owes much of its early growth to the silver and gold mines across the state border in Idaho.

In 1882, a discovery of gold on Pritchard Creek created a feverish gold rush and in three years, Spokane’s population of 800 grew rapidly as over 10,000 people came to the area in hopes of cashing in on the riches of the day. Murray, Idaho, became the central city in the gold rush, and its credits include the last great mining discovery in the continental United States. Miners branched out in the area during the next years and in addition to finding rich sources of gold,  they discovered the largest silver mine in the world about 17 miles south of Murray. Over the next 115 years, the area produced 1.2 billion ounces of silver. Road crews in the area today are still known to uncover gold and silver.  How is the Empire State Building connected to Murray?  The Guggenheim profits from the gold rush in Murray built it.

Today, Murray is a semi ghost town inhabited by prospectors, loggers, and retirees. It has some fascinating sites. The Sprague Pole restaurant and museum is a must see. The museum, located inside the restaurant, is unexpectedly very large – and cold; dress warm. It has many period rooms, rock, mineral, and gem collections, old mining equipment, coin collections, as well as memorabilia. Also, stop in at the Bedroom Goldmine Bar where you can see a mining hole through a bedroom floor.  The owner, convinced that he was sleeping on a gold mine, ripped up his floorboards and dug down 36 ft to bedrock and gold. Overlooking Murray about one mile south of town is the Murray Pioneer Cemetery containing the graves of many pioneers of the area as well as the man credited as being Mark Twain’s inspiration for Huckleberry Finn, Captain Toncray.

Murray is about a two hours from Spokane, Washington,  with beautiful scenery along the Coeur d’Alene River Road as you drive north from I-90 just past Cataldo. Turn on Pritchard Road which will take you to Murray.  Let me know what you discover when you go to Murray, or what you remember if you’ve ever visited.  I want to go again.  Does anyone have a metal detector and sturdy shovel I can borrow? Pick ax?

Palouse Falls


I stopped at Palouse Falls the other day on the way back from doing some out-of-town consulting.   It’s such a beautiful and unexpected place south of Ritzville, Washington, hidden among wheat fields and cattle ranches.

I remember the first time I drove to Palouse Falls State Park. I wasn’t sure what to expect even though I’d seen a few pictures. I followed rural roads for miles and hadn’t seen any water. The terrain was a little hilly, but there were no hills big enough for a huge water fall.

I drove down the last narrow road into the park and heard the roaring water before I saw anything.  It didn’t take long to realize I was at the edge of a canyon, and the water falls were in sight within a few feet.  It amazed me to know I had lived in Spokane for years and hadn’t heard much about the falls.

It’s a beautiful hidden gem of a state park with a half mile of scenic trails to explore. The Palouse River is the source for the falls which then drop 198 feet into a canyon eventually emptying downstream into the Snake River. The scenery of the magnificent canyon walls is simply breathtaking. There is a nice picnic area, bird watching, and wildlife viewing to enjoy while there.

My recent trip down the empty rural roads once again rewarded me with the sounds of rushing water, stunning falls, and spectacular scenic canyon walls. I need to stay longer next time with a picnic lunch to savor the natural beauty. Hopefully, I can make this a yearly outing.

Do you have beautiful back road gems where you live?

Ginkgo Petrified Forest

Ginkgo Petrified Forest image

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve traveled through Vantage, Washington on Interstate 90 and noticed the sign for Ginkgo Petrified Forest. I often wondered what it was and thought that I should go there sometime. This week I finally stopped there.  I couldn’t believe how close it is to the freeway, and Vantage is about halfway between Seattle and Spokane, so it’s a perfect spot to take a little break.

Ginkgo Petrified Forest a very small place that overlooks the Columbia River, has great information, and has a nice trail if you’d like to stretch your legs.

imageThe petrified logs scattered around the property are many shapes and sizes.  If you look closely at the sign in the top  photo, you can see that it is made of the beautiful petrified wood.

I think I will stop there again soon because like re-reading a good book, there is always more to understand.

You can find out more at

You can learn a lot if you make the stop.  Hey that rhymes!