Magnolia – A History of Volunteering and Making Magnolia Memories

Snapshot in Time

Monica Wooton

Then: Over 15 years ago…the process was started that gave Magnolians a major gift of written history in Magnolia: Memories & Milestones; written and published by a dedicated corps of volunteers. The volunteer Board of the Magnolia Community Club (MCC) procured two $10,000 grants from Department of Neighborhoods. I had just retired as an MCC board member in charge of their history committee when I was asked to come up with a process that would capture history in some kind of book form. Nobody was quite sure what it would look like or how it could be done. I knew it would be more volunteering, a whole lot more, if I accepted!

Author Aleua Frare, volunteering for the MCC back in 1976, generously gave her time and produced an undocumented view of historical fact tied together by folksy yarns and urban legends. I wanted something more. And, I’d have to get a whole bunch of volunteers willing to give a whole bunch of time and energy to get it done.
If I did it that (and, I was quite unsure if I would or could), I knew I wanted professional well-written, well-sourced and well-illustrated stories of substance written by Magnolians, making it even more unlikely. Smart, capable folks bound together only by altruistic ideals, a love of a common neighborhood and no money-making motives.

Author Hal Will, before polio. He and his dad launch his boat, made in their Magnolia basement at Wolf (Wolfe) Creek Beach, 32nd Ave W. Will wrote:”A couple of years later the boat was smashed in a storm. I cried.”

I set up a “Write Your Magnolia Memories” booth at Magnolia Fest, to see who else I could lure into doing professional work for free. The first person to take the bait was a skinny guy doing wheelies in his wheel-chair. He pulled up to the booth, did a spin move (and, from somewhere on his person) magically produced a self-published volume on his colorful Magnolia childhood. That was Hal Will. That was so Hal Will. He had contracted polio in his early twenties and it left him a paraplegic. But, Will was all about opening windows when doors were shut. He immediately loved the impossible idea of doing this book. He immediately volunteered.

I reached out to people like Bob Kildall, of Discovery Park fame, who let me know he found me brash; but, was intrigued enough to join up.  Kildall recommended Scott Smith the guy “who fought Metro”.  My Mom’s friends, Patty Small and Joan Santucci, both excellent writers, signed up.  My daughter Jenny’s friend, Joy Carpine , still in journalism school at the UW, wanted to write a chapter. My writing group at the time produced four of the authors: Nancy Worssam, Sam Sutherland, Gail Martini-Peterson and John Hendron. Some were retired, some stay at homes, some had full-time occupations.

I designed for each writer a portfolio with all kinds of writing examples, history writing materials, style sheets, lists of contacts, subjects, sources. Why that didn’t scare everybody off, I’ll never understand. We began a long, time-consuming process which included long monthly meetings at the Magnolia Library to talk, exchange drafts, monitor progress and somehow, someway put together “our” book.

Every writer settled on a topic or two. Some wrote about their childhoods or researched early life on Magnolia through interviews or academic research. Worssam started at the very beginning with the Native American’s and Native American experts.  Experts came forward for no charge. People pulled out scrapbooks and photo albums, folks renewed friendships from their childhoods. Volunteer peer editors encouraged, kindly critiqued, help craft draft after draft. The Henry A Smith Magnolia’s First Pioneer chapter, that I wrote, had 27 drafts! Santucci proved to be my inspirational peer editor, all the while, doing her own chapter of the history of the Village.

Will with boat on borrowed trailer headed for the beach.

We combed archives. We learned about the Polk Directory, Kroll and Baist maps. We went to the periodicals room at UW Suzzallo Library to go through the old Magnolia News. We wondered and wrote; and, wondered and wrote more, month after month. We went on time consuming interviews: all over Magnolia, to the Seattle Yacht Club to meet with the Chamber brothers, sons of the first hardware store owner on Magnolia, to the University to discuss fish and fishing with the Fisheries Department to get a context for Fishermen’s Terminal.  All of us donating our time and getting others to do the same. Many authors volunteered to spend their own money on the project. And, did.

Authors produced pictures and proof of what they were writing about. Everyone had to have citations in endnotes, captions, proper credit for photos, copyrights and correct formats in Modern Language Association style. All time and talents given freely–no charge, our pleasure…and, it most often was! Rob Hitchings volunteered to work under Colonel James Collins, at the Fort Lawton Army Reserve, preparing for the long awaited Korean War medaling. Hitchings wrote of that and his father’s experience in that war, while he and his Mom, the Editor of the Magnolia News at the time, were left behind. Magnolian, Roy Scully, famous Seattle Times Photographer, volunteered to do “now” shots.

In the end, for three months, Smith and I traveled to West Seattle nearly every day, all day and into the nights to work with Paul Langland on the final book design. Smith logged in thousands more volunteer hours, gas and food money to make the book a reality.

Magnolia: Memories & Milestones was presented in December of 2000, just in time for Christmas. Quickly selling out two publishings, a third was done. It was awarded the Virginia Marie Folkins Award from the Association of King County Historical Organizations (AKCHO).

The preface of the book began with me saying: “I will be retiring from a 25 year “career” of volunteerism at the end of this project. If only every one of us had the privilege of 25 years of service to devote to causes we believed in, what a better world it would be!”

Little did I know:  from that band of 13 volunteer authors the Magnolia Historical Society (MHS) became a 501(C)3 non-profit in 2001. These begat new volunteers, doing new things for Magnolia history, me continuing to be one of them.

The main perpetrators: Front to back, left to right. 1st row: Joy Carpine (and Petey), Hal Will, John Hendron.  2nd row: Scott Smith, Monica Wooton, Patty Small, Roy Scully.  3rd row: Jonathan Wooton, Joan Santucci, Rob Hitchings, Shirley Will, Betty Ivie.  4th row: Gail Perterson-Martini, Cindy Howell, Rob Wilson.  Back row: Steve Erickson, Nancy Worssam, Dan Kerlee.  Invisible: Claudia Callan, Bob Kildall, Rick Malsed, Sisi Sedgewick, Mimi Sheridan, Sam Sutherland.

The main perpetrators: Front to back, left to right.
1st row: Joy Carpine (and Petey), Hal Will, John Hendron.
2nd row: Scott Smith, Monica Wooton, Patty Small, Roy Scully.
3rd row: Jonathan Wooton, Joan Santucci, Rob Hitchings, Shirley Will, Betty Ivie.
4th row: Gail Perterson-Martini, Cindy Howell, Rob Wilson.
Back row: Steve Erickson, Nancy Worssam, Dan Kerlee.
Invisible: Claudia Callan, Bob Kildall, Rick Malsed, Sisi Sedgewick, Mimi Sheridan, Sam Sutherland.


Now:  Santucci, Kildall, Will, Small, Malsed, Scully, and Hendron have passed on. All leave us with a huge loss of ready, generous service and a generation of memories. But, they leave behind a grand legacy of generosity and a clear sense of the place they called home.

Writing remains the main mission of the Society which produced a second volume, Magnolia: Making More Memories in 2007, having 32 volunteer writers; and, also nominated for the Virginia Folkes Award. Hard cover books are falling out of fashion. Sales of the Magnolia books are slow. MHS writing workshops produce new memoir writers. The hope for a third corps of volunteer writers dealing with Magnolia in the 50’s and 60’s lingers; but, seems unlikely.

Nearly all long-standing volunteer organizations on Queen Anne and Magnolia struggle now to get new, younger people committed, involved and in leadership positions. The Historical Society is now without a president and is seeking new Board members. The MCC also needs new Board members. Two parents working, kids in elite sports, Facebook, Twitter and texting seem to be replacing “face-time”, serving on Boards or going to meetings.

Volunteering, the only reason so much award-winning history about Magnolia exists, the only reason our wonderful neighborhood is what it is, seems to becoming a part of the past. I still have hope: young “x and y gens” and newly-retired “boomers” prove it isn’t so by serving as a local volunteer.

You can volunteer to join the MHS Board, purchase the Magnolia history books and learn more about this place called Magnolia written by volunteers by visiting the rest of our website:

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New Year’s Resolution: Replace the Magnolia Bridge?

By Monica Wooton


Eighteen years ago this month, the “New Year’s Mudslide” damaged the Magnolia Bridge, closing it for four months.
According to Joy Carpine-Cazzanti in “Critical Connection: Bridge to Bluff” in “Magnolia: Memories & Milestones”: “The 1997 New Year brought the most dramatic trouble the bridge had ever experienced. On Jan. 2, the backyards of six houses perched on the bluff, near the west end of the bridge,…slid…knocking out several reinforcing beams… The Seattle Times reported that approximately 20,000 cubic yards of earth moved off the bluff that day, enough to ‘fill Husky Stadium 12 feet deep.’”
Carpine-Cazzanti wrote that Frank Yanagimachi, the city project manager for the $5.2 million slide repairs, summed it up in a personal interview: “Part of that earth swept under the bridge between two support columns, taking some cross brace with it, before smashing into the [the Navy’s bachelor’s officers house]. More earth came to rest against one of the bridge’s footings…. If that footing had moved the section of the bridge that it supported, it could have collapsed.


Photo of the Garfield Street Bridge (now called The Magnolia Bridge) being built. 1930. Seattle Engineering Department.

“Officials closed the bridge…leaving only West Emerson Street and West Dravus Street to serve the 17,000 vehicles that used the Magnolia Bridge each day…. A paramedic was stationed in now-isolated Magnolia to respond quickly to any medical emergencies,” she continued.
Carpine-Cazzanti says supports that were …felled by the slide were part of a rehab project on the Bridge: “…By 1959, [the bridge] was showing definite signs of wear. City inspection found: …an uneven deck surface, exposed reinforcing steel, spalled and/or separated concrete, pronounced surface cracking, loss of support to suspended spans and an undulating movement of the bridge deck.
“The Seattle City Council passed an ordinance on Aug. 10, 1959, to provide $825,000 to rehabilitate the aging bridge, and extensive underbracing was done.”
In February 1999, a slide above the west-end …on-ramp of the bridge caused another two-month closure to stabilize the Queen Anne hillside above it, which had a history of serious sliding as far back as 1915.
The 2001 Nisqually earthquake damaged the bridge again, according to King County Department of Transportation: “Repairs after the 2001 earthquake included replacement of column bracing at 27 of the 81 bridge supports. Although the bridge is currently safe for motorists to use, it is vulnerable to severe damage in another seismic event. Continued deterioration has weakened the structure.”


Photo of the Garfield Street Bridge (now called The Magnolia Bridge) being built. 1930. Seattle Engineering Department.

These events brought to light a series of questions regarding the safety and future of the Magnolia Bridge. According to the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) website, a process to identify the best Magnolia Bridge replacement alternative began in October 2002. After four years of study and community input, in November 2006, SDOT selected a new bridge structure and path.
The SDOT website says: “The project is put on hold until appropriate funds have been obtained in order fully fund the final design and the construction work. SDOT continues to pursue a blend of funding sources in order to complete the final design…There is no timeline identified at this time regarding when the necessary funds will be secured. Estimated project cost as of 2007 was $262 million.”
In January 2014, KOMO-TV ran a story by Luke Duecy, saying, “One year after Seattle’s Department of Transportation listed the Magnolia Bridge third on its [sufficiency rating] priority list, the city still doesn’t have plans to tear it down and build a new bridge.”


“One method of prioritizing bridges for replacement/rehabilitation is the utilization of the bridge’s sufficiency rating (SR)… The Magnolia Bridge has a sufficiency rating of 16.78 out 100,” according to SDOT project manager Kit Loo.
SDOT Road Structures manager John Buswell says SRs are not always reliable a good thing to look at because “its major function is to prioritize bridges for federal funding.” and may not accurately “identify or it may misidentify bridges” as needing replacement.
He offers, “Because of the consequence of bridge structural deficiencies, bridge engineers manage bridge safety very conservatively. Our No. 1 and highest standard is public safety. Long before a bridge becomes unsafe, the bridge is either restricted from heavy loads or closed altogether. There is conservatism built into the analytical process that is called ‘load rating’…. The Magnolia Bridge is currently load-rated for legal loads only. No over-legal vehicles are permitted to use the Magnolia Bridge. The ramps that go down from the bridge to the Pier 91 gate are posted ‘no trucks allowed.’”
Buswell is responsible for calling for a new load rating on the Magnolia Bridge to be completed late this year. He believes it is time to look at the bridge, get the latest safety information and begin to get decision-makers thinking in terms of replacement.
He added, “The entire budget for Washington state for these types of projects is only $38 million a year…in contrast to what a bridge like this will cost” [hundreds of millions].
Buswell says, “Seismically retrofitting has not been done in the many repairs this bridge has experienced, and it would most probably not perform as well as West Dravus or West Emerson in an earthquake…. The City Council knows the Magnolia Bridge is an issue. It has been on the minds of city government for some time.”
Seattle City Council member Sally Bagshaw, who may run for reelection specifically representing Magnolia, Queen Anne and Belltown, comments: “The Magnolia Bridge serves as a primary connector… for commuters, buses, freight, businesses and residents. It is a major thoroughfare and, therefore, must be in good repair… for the thousands who cross the bridge every day… We must continue to monitor the safety of the structure… and coordinate with SDOT, WSDOT (Washington State Department of Transportation) and federal authorities to ensure the bridge is well maintained and funded at a level that guarantees the safety of our community.” She did not respond to a question relating to replacement of the bridge.
Janis Traven, a Magnolia resident who worked on the Design Advisory Group for six years, points out, “That was possible because Sen. Patty Murray got funds… This absolutely needs to be moved along… The original premise for the new bridge design in 2002 was, ‘This bridge needs to be replaced.’”
Traven contends, “The Magnolia Bridge remains one of the most structurally insufficient bridges in the city. Magnolians are still waiting to learn what the city and Port [of Seattle] have designated as a really viable emergency route in the event of a collapse. There is neither funding or a plan to fund the needed replacement nor provide a fourth access for Magnolia, which was part of the discussion.”

Magnolia Bridge March 2014. Courtesy of Photo by Joe Mabel

Magnolia Bridge March 2014. Courtesy of Photo by Joe Mabel

Author MONICA WOOTON is a board member of the Magnolia Historical Society.
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