May 22, 2012

History hiding in plain sight: Students present back stories of local monuments

News and Information

The Hiker Memorial statue in Woodland Park was erected in 1924 by veterans of the Spanish-American War.

Tim Wright

The Hiker Memorial statue in Woodland Park was erected in 1924 by veterans of the Spanish-American War.

Historic monuments are stone-solid proof of the old adage that history is written by the victors. But time marches on, new wars and issues obscure the past in the public consciousness, and even markers of stone are forgotten and left untended.

Then too, there are monuments that glorify bloodshed now regretted in hindsight, while others celebrate individuals whose legacies may have tarnished with passing decades.

University of Washington doctoral candidate Tim Wright sets students off to explore such half-forgotten monuments, and others more well known, each year in his unique class, “Fact or Fiction: Historical Monuments of the Pacific Northwest.”

The students will present their findings from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 5, in the Allen Auditorium of Suzzallo-Allen Library. The event is free and the public is invited.

Student Scott Feltrup studied the history of the statue of Christopher Columbus in Waterfront Park, dedicated in 1978 after initial refusal by the Seattle Arts Commission. Feltrup learned that the statue has been vandalized near Columbus Day in recent years, causing the city to cover it with a wooden box near that holiday (a scene depicted in 2009 by artist Gabriel Campanario, the Seattle Times “Seattle Sketcher”).

This statue of Christopher Columbus in Waterfront Park was dedicated in 1978. The City of Seattle tends to cover it near Columbus Day to protect from vandalism.

Scott Feltrup

This statue of Christopher Columbus in Waterfront Park was dedicated in 1978. The City of Seattle tends to cover it near Columbus Day to protect from vandalism.

Eric Catlett explored the history of the 1856 Battle of Seattle monument in City Hall Park, which he writes “has all but vanished from the historical memory of the city.” The monument was presented to the city in 1916 by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Adam McJunkin looked at the Hiker statue in Woodland Park, which remembers fallen soldiers from the Spanish-American War and the Philippine War. He details the history of what he calls this “all but forgotten” marker in plain sight, as well as a plaque later added remembering the U.S.S. Maine and made of scraps from its wreckage.

Niguel Quiroz studied the history of the Medicine Creek Treaty marker near Olympia. “The signing of the Medicine Creek Treaty is one of Washington state’s most well-known events, and it has remained controversial since its ratification due to the resistance on the part of some Native Americans under the leadership of Chief Leschi,” Quiroz wrote. “What then, would the Native Americans hope to memorialize if they had the opportunity to create a Medicine Creek Treaty marker?”

Wright said, “Historic monuments stand at the intersection of history and memory. Deliberately built into the landscape, they can shape our understandings of the past and influence the way we think about the present and the future.”

He added, “But monuments seldom tell the whole story.”