Tag Archives: Washington state

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?

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 parks.wa.gov/288/Ginkgo-Petrified-Forest.

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