Monday, September 30, 2013

Let's not forget the bigger problem here (Briggs Village, walkable neighborhoods and urban villages)


 A few weeks ago I was quoted in the Olympian regarding my opinion about the erosion of the ideal Briggs Urban Village. First floor retail, second story office and apartments. Its a great idea, but not one apparently very popular with the people who own most of my neighborhood.

Don't get me wrong, it is absolutely a great idea, and I would have really loved to see it happen. But, I'm okay with it not. Or, I could see myself living in a place where it doesn't happen.

And, that's because, despite it being a shy version of a grand vision, it will still result in some walkable commercial zoning in a part of Olympia that absolutely lacks it.

That said, I'm not satisfied if the Briggs strip mall is the only commercial we end up with out here. Allowing such a large portion of Olympia to develop without any small, walkable commercial or community spaces was one of the biggest mistakes we've made around here. And, Briggs won't help solve that much.

What we really need to do is backtrack to older neighborhoods in the Southeast and encourage in-fill commercial to take over some residential along main roads and open lots. But, I'm not even sure if that's a thing. I haven't found an example yet of a city or county slowly breaking of a decades old expanse of low density single family residential with new commercial areas.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Cascadia Exists: Dipping my toe into Cascadian religion

Religion seems to potentially be a deep and rich topic for defining how Cascadia exists. Like many other regions (Methodists in the Midlands and Baptists in Dixie) religion seems to have a defining pull on Cascadia.

But, in a unique way, different (seemingly) than another other region.

But, for now, just a couple of maps to get us going.

Cascadia has the highest level of regional diversity of religion:


Meaning, the marketplace for religion is stronger in Cascadia than any other region. There's more competition here than anywhere else.

Also, like upper New England and the upper Ohio Valley, Cascadia has the lowest rate of adherents of any region.


This is the so-called None Zone.

So, as an opening. Cascadian religious culture is diverse, and in large part, unattached to any particular sect.


Monday, September 23, 2013

I never thought anyone would suggest not rebuilding the Oyster House (Olyblogosphere for September 23, 2013)

1. How do you take a picture of a big tree?

2. A nine year old group of women.

3. And, here's a pretty nice piece from the OP&L on what's going on out at Boston Harbor.

4. And lastly, speaking of the people living near the water. I scoffed at Ken's post a few weeks back questioning whether the Oyster House would have a hard time rebuilding. No one would ever suggest leveling the building deep set in our urbanized downtown for restoration, right. Nope, Janine just did.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Draft of Call it Cascadia Manifesto

Don't call us the Northwest. When you talk about the upper left hand corner of the United States (and possibly the lower left of Canada), go ahead and call us Cascadia.

Here are a few reasons why:

1. The current alternative is "Northwest" or the redundant "Pacific Northwest" (as if we need to distance ourselves from the Northwest of the Midwest) is colorless. It is a direction, not a region.

2. Also, the "direction from where" question is troubling. Northwest of what? Denver? What we call our region should be centered on this place, not on some other part of the world.

3. Cascadia is just a better name. Cascadia is actually where we are. It doesn't look over its shoulder to some other place.

So, what am I missing here?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Walter Wilder shot himself in New Jersey

Prenote: If you're thinking about suicide, talk to someone right this minute. Call 1-800-273-8255 or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

It had been six years since the Capitol building in Olympia, Washington had been completed. Walter Wilder was in his home in Suffern New York, less than a mile from the New Jersey border.

While much of his life's work was within a day's travel of where he was at that moment, his and his partner's largest work was 3,000 miles away on the the other side of the country. Also there was Florence Tunnard.

Wilder would shoot himself two years after his partnership with Harry White dissolved, after his mental health had spiralled downward and after his wife refused to let him divorce her in favor of Ms. Tunnard.

I wonder how in the day Wilder took his life if his mind wandered back to Olympia. The day the architecture firm got world over 20 years earlier that they'd won a contest for a new state capitol campus that would become their largest project. To the years he spent seeing his drawings come to life on the hill above the town on the edge of Puget Sound. And to Florence, the stenographer working at the state Attorney General's office that he had fallen for.

At least in my part of the world, Harry White and Walter Wilder are most well known for the capitol in Olympia. It is a set of sandstone structures that to the amateur seem to emulate the national capitol in the other Washington. To the only slightly more informed, they are representations of an architectural movement called “City Beautiful.”

The dozens of other projects Wilder and White completed in their lives -- houses, office buildings and college buildings -- dot the New York and New Jersey region. They were successful in their own small way as architects, working consistently until the depression took hold and Wilders’ sanity lost hold.

In the end, the capitol group envisioned by Wilder and White was never built. After the construction of the original three buildings -- the Temple of Justice, the domed legislative building and the insurance building -- the state capitol planners took a break. The legislative building stood in the center of the unfinished group until the the middle of the Great Depression.

The state capitol commission eventually turned its attention to the back of the campus. With ample public money coming from the federal government for public works projects, the commission hired Olympia architect Joseph Wohleb to finish off the Wilder and White campus.

Wohleb is surprisingly similar to Wilder and White. If not for ignoring any contests to design state capitol buildings in eastern cities, Wohleb had a shockingly parallel career to the New York pair. His work is spread almost exclusively throughout the Northwest and mainly in Olympia. But, when it came to competing the last buildings constructed in the 1911 proposal, the state went to their home grown architect.

Wohleb had moved to Olympia just as Wilder and White had finished their original plans. As he put his head down and went on designing over 150 buildings throughout the decades. Surely, he would also look over his shoulder to watch Wilder and White at work.

But, in 1935 with Wilder dead and White still working in the east, those last two buildings were his to design. While it was outside his normal style, the stayed true to the partner’s original, classical style.

After that, the campus would turn west. forgetting the final pieces Wilder and White drew. One last office buliding (a matching pair to the insurance building, which flanks the legislative building on the east) was never built. Also, the once temporary governor’s mansion, (a permanent mansion envisioned by Wilder and White was to overlook Puget Sound on a bluff), is still hidden too far south.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the campus would creep east across Capital Way, further changing the original Wilder and White orientation from a northern facing to east. An entire neighborhood would be lost underneath new campus buildings.

One house that was eventually removed from Capitol Way -- mercifully moved in one piece a mile to the south -- was the Egbert-Ingham house. This house was where Walter Wilder lived when he met Florence Tunnard, the love for whom he would eventually kill himself.

Eventually, his campus would expand beyond his vision to uproot the house to the south. The owner of the house in the 1970s put it up on wheels and put it down where it still is today.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The rise and decline and possible rise again of the Olympia oyster

The history of the Olympia oyster -- as talismanic center of a Puget Sound home grown industry -- is one of the most fascinating stories around here.

It is literally an industry and species wiped out because of industrial pollution which itself doesn't exist because of laws and social concerns that didn't come about until decades later.

For decades dozens of small companies picked and packed these little native oysters and shipped them across the world. People like E.N. Steele, who wrote the book on the Olympia, dedicated large parts of their lives to the industry and the oyster.

Steele:
The oyster growers feel that the decline has been caused by pulp mill waste from the mill at Shelton.
 ...

In conclusion, I must say that The Olympia Oyster industry is very sick. In fact it is, at this writing, on its death bed, unless the knife that is stabbing at its heart can be removed. Those who love the Olympia Oyster, and who grew it still have hope. In nature there is always survival; no such thing as extermination of species by nature. But trade waste is man-produced poison. There must also be progress in industry. But man has been given intelligence to find ways and means to prevent the trade waste from destroying the natural resources so that all may survive and live together.

But, because of pollution from another home grown industry (timber), the Olympia lost its place to the immigrant Pacific oyster. While oystermen were disturbed to see that pollution was taking away the Olympia, they coolly and calmly replaced it with the more hardy Pacific.

But, now, because of impacts of ocean acidification, the tables might be turning on the Pacific. The chemistry of the oceans are slowly changing because we pollute too much. And, because of the way Pacific oysters reproduce, they're apparently at a disadvantage to the Olympias.

From the The World in Coos Bay:
“The short answer is that the native Olympia oysters may be doing OK and recovering in Coos Bay despite ocean acidification,” he said.

Rumrill, currently the director of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife shellfish monitoring program, was instrumental in Olympia oyster recovery efforts at the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve near Charleston.

“It may be that the shallow parts of Coos Bay may be able to act sort of as a buffer,” he said.
Oregon State University Professor George Waldbusser said said difference in survivability likely lies in the species’ reproductive practices.

“Olympias are brooders,” he said, referring to the species’ trait of carrying eggs in an internal chamber for several weeks after fertilization.

Pacific oysters, on the other hand, are broadcast spawners, meaning their eggs are fertilized and develop in open water.

Waldbusser said the native species’ reproductive period is on the edge of the coast’s seasonal upwelling cycle, when deep ocean currents force cold water to the surface.

Upwelling is believed to contribute to the acidification process by bringing oxygen-deprived, CO2-rich acidic water to the ocean’s surface.
 We don't dump timber production waste directly into Puget Sound the way we used to. We did it for long enough to put Olympias on their heals and the oyster world moved on to Pacific oysters.

Eventually our laws caught up to timber waste, but it was too late for Olympias. It would be supremely ironic that Olympias would stage a comeback on Pacific oysters because our laws couldn't catch up with ocean acidification.

Monday, September 09, 2013

What we're all concerened about right before the city election (Olyblogosphere for September 9, 2013)

The somewhat under cover debate on a low income shelter somewhere in northern Thurston County finally surfaced in August when a possible location on the eastside of downtown. Here are a sampling of the Olyblogosphere discussion so far.

1. Ken has a fairly well written explanation of what the prevailing opinion would be of people living east of Eastside:
Most of us think that all homeless people are drug addicts, mental patients  and alcoholics, but fully 80 percent of our homeless are just that – homeless – and without the problems associated with drugs and alcohol.

They are often homeless for a short period of time before finding some place to live.
But, it’s the drug addicts and the alcoholics, which we most often find living on the streets, pan-handling and making downtown Olympia a place to avoid.

Many people, me included, think that the City of Olympia goes out of its way to encourage the homeless to hang around downtown.   Most social services they need are located in the city’s urban core.  And, the city is always looking at more money for social services.
2. Rob Richards points to a map and a list of downtown businesses that support the shelter.

3. I've seen my share of quickly put together super-local neighborhood level websites complaining about certain issues, and of course there's one for the proposed low income shelter on 10th. Here's a particularly well done post, taking on the claims of NIMBYism pretty quickly.

4. Plus! North Thurston beat Steilacoom in football. But, the most fascinating thing was the twitter spit in your McDonald's hamburger that happened later.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

People outside of Cascadia don't think about Cascadia. Is that a bad thing? (Cascadia exists #6)

This map series in the Business Insider is fascinating. It is a series of graphic answers to questions asked to Americans about what they think about other states.

What state is the rudest, has the best food, best or worst sports fans and that sort of thing. California, the South in general and New York seem to engender the most opinions. But, one thing I found consistent is that Cascadia (in this case Oregon and Washington) are generally out of the collective conscious.

Washington does rate fairly well as a "smart" state (thanks Bill Gates!) but not at the top. What we do rate the highest in is being under-rated. The last map of the series highlights Cascadia in deep blue, the most underrated place in the country.

Well, at least folks know they're not thinking about us.

This sort of back of the mindness to the rest of the country is either a good thing or bad thing. You can either seek to solve it or seek to accept it. Or, actually encourage it.

It is a fact that we don't really have a regional narrative to tell the rest of the country, at least in a historic sense. Much of our history never played out here, since we're so newly established (I'd even call us a post-WWII region). We aren't California, we aren't the Rocky Mountain states, we don't have much a pronounced presence.

You could take a look at this and hope to tell our region's story to the rest of the country. But, I'm going to cut you off right. Seriously, why bother?

The attitude of Oregon governor Tom McCall (of enjoy your visit, but don't stay fame) I think rules this point. We should create our own story, our own narrative for our region and not worry about aggressively presenting it to anyone else.

I don't have a totally formed though here, but it just seems that we should focus this energy within our region. I keep on coming back to Jim Lynch's book Truth Like the Sun, which is probably one of the best pieces of fiction (historic or otherwise). I especially appreciate how it focused my thinking about our region and the important transition period that was the 1960s.

But, how important is the story of Truth Like the Sun to someone in Kansas? The 1960s and the World Fair and what it represented was important to our region, but it hardly informs the story of the larger America, beyond the obviously well written human story.

Back to my main point. We know what Cascadia means, we need to keep on telling that story to ourselves and grow it. Maybe people who answer poll questions to business websites will get it, but that will be secondary to what we find out for ourselves.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Oregon's territorial delegate didn't purjer himself in front of the Supreme Court and Washington's first Republican territorial governor wasn't a Lincoln pall bearer

First on Samuel Thurston, which I wrote about here, but I'll do it again.

Its pretty interesting, I took at look into this claim, that Samuel Thurston (the first territorial delegate from Oregon to Congress) lied in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to take revenge on English settlers that predated American claims. I read as much as I could, including Thurston's own diary, and couldn't come up with a single time he even went in front of the Supreme Court.

An old version of a Historylink article on Thurston repeated the claim:
Section 11 of the Land Claim Act was a vendetta against former Hudson’s Bay agent Dr. John McLoughlin, and sought to deny him a land claim in Oregon City.  Methodists wished to build a mission and settlements on the same property and by the time Thurston arrived in Oregon, the dispute was intense. Siding with the Methodists, Thurston falsely testified to the United States Supreme Court, discrediting McLoughlin on the basis of citizenship.

So, I emailed the author two years ago to see if she could point me towards a reference. It doesn't look like she came up with anything, because the current article has no reference at all to a Supreme Court incident.

So, onto William Wallace (featured recently in the Suburban Times), the Lincoln era territorial governor and delegate of Washington. He's a very interesting man, he defended Leschi and was also instrumental in Idaho being invented.

But, was he a Lincoln pall bearer? Maybe? Not at least in the sense of what you'd think of a pall bearer (here and here). It is possible that he at one point helped carry the Lincoln coffin as it was transported from Washington D.C. to Illinois. But, when you look at the list of pall bearers, the most prominent men who were recognized in the era for their duty, there's no Wallace.

It is just a bit funny that one of Lincoln's sons was named for a William Wallace, whose wife was named Frances, one of Mary Todd's sisters. But, our Williams Wallace's wife's name was Lucena.