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Interbay Cleaners – 2 West Roy Street – Lower Queen Anne – Seattle, WA

One of the hallmark features of the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood are the individually owned businesses, often run directly by the same people for 20 or 30 years. This stability creates an unofficial institutional memory that gets handed off from person to person. More importantly, these defacto elders, precisely because they have vested interests in the neighborhood impart their collective personality on it. This distinct point of view benefits me directly as I get to live where there is sense of place and through that I have come to understand that I live in what is effectively a small town surrounded by the larger urban sea.

One unanticipated joy of photographing the neighborhood where I live is that I have come to personally know a number of the people who make Lower Queen unique. An unexpected joy of recording this collective wisdom in my photographs is that I too have become been a something of stakeholder. I really care about preserving this community’s sense of place as it exists today.

Elder’s age and move on. This fact creates opportunities for change. What I see looming in our future is a denser and more vertical architecture, that because of its monolithic face to the street, will obliterate the more human scale and colorful buildings that now line the streets around Seattle.

For now Lower Queen Anne still has one foot solidly planted in pre-world war II Seattle with the other more or less planted in the modern city.

The severe recession has also created change by forcing a number of business to close either because of negative economics or because owners used the downturn as the trigger to pack it in and retire. Time will only tell how this will play out.

The Interbay Cleaner’s on West Roy Street is part of a company that has two other locations. This one closed at the beginning of 2012, I suspect because it failed to make it financially and a lack of parking. Prior to Interbay’s tenure it was occupied by a bicycle shop that had been there for many years. I have only lived here for 2 years and this building has changed its purpose twice.

I cannot save these places I have come to love but at least I have the passion and some ability to record these faces before they fade from our memories. I wish I knew how to convert preserving the visual record of Seattle’s neighborhoods as they exist to into career.

Change is not necessarily a tragedy – one of the most elemental forces of nature is the cleansing fires that set the stage for regeneration. Cities go through a similar process through the constant repurposing of how the land is used.

What I do find something of a tragedy is when we lose a sense of perspective about who we are as a community. There is value in knowing upon whose shoulders we stand as that can be a compass heading that guides us towards the far horizon.

Copyright 2012 By Katherine Johnson – All Rights Reserved.