Did you know that Seattle residents live under 240 days of gray skies per year? The cover illustration of this wonderful book, Seattleness, is a histogram featuring color samples from the Seattle sky measured over a year’s time and laid out in lengths of hours. The daily colors-of-the sky photos were taken from a camera mounted on the tip-top of Seattle’s Space Needle.
Creatively-used data in this book illuminates the connections between geography, buildings, and people’s experience of our beloved city. Would you like to know the relative density of coffee shops per neighborhood in Seattle? Then page 49 of Seattleness is for you! You can see a graphic of Seattle’s steep streets on page 98.
What is it that is special about Seattle?
Each of us has favorite places in Seattle and aspects of Seattle geography that we love. It might be the water: Seattle is bounded by the salt-water Puget Sound on the west and fresh-water Lake Washington on the east. The two bodies of water are connected by the Lake Washington Ship Canal, where the Ballard Locks are a place to watch the comings and goings of boats.
The authors of the book Seattleness have used maps, diagrams, visualizations and illustrations to explore the city. Facts, such as the number of bridges and the number of bridge openings per day, frame the visual and emotional impact of experiencing Seattle’s ship canal where we can watch the marine activities. We learn that the Fremont Bridge stands only thirty feet above the water line of the ship canal, and that this bascule bridge opens more times than any other in the USA (page 114).
The city of Seattle has some historic neighborhoods such as Pioneer Square with its classic architecture, where Seattle was rebuilt after its Great Fire in 1889, or we may favor edgy Fremont with its outdoor art and its many small, locally-owned shops.
We may be fond of certain Seattle buildings for their use (the library!) Or we may be in love with buildings which are not only beautiful in their architecture but which also represent significant periods in Seattle history, such as the Smith Tower. Some people are even enamored of the soaring skyscrapers which are being built in the present era. Pages 20 to 25 of Seattleness show the progression over time of Seattle’s downtown density of buildings.
A well-kept secret of Seattle is its microclimates (page 116). If you have ever felt that there is a dark cloud hovering directly over your house and continuously dumping rain, you may be correct! Rainfall in Seattle can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, because Seattle’s hills create miniature rain shadows.
Almost everything you might want to know about Seattle is in this book, and additional material includes maps of Sasquatch sightings throughout Washington State (page 53) and reports of Unidentified Flying Objects (page 32). Fun fact: people in Washington State report UFO sightings more than in any other state; about three hundred per year!
This book is terrific and I recommend that you give to someone (or to yourself) for Christmas (start your shopping now!) For a preview, check out a copy of the book from the Seattle Public Library. Published locally by Sasquatch Books in 2018, the authors of Seattleness are Tera Hatfield, Jenny Kempson, and Natalie Ross.