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How will we know it’s us without our past?

John Steinbeck

There is a Bothell I used to know. It is an increasingly distant memory, a mist flickering on the moors of my imagination. What remains of that Bothell amounts to the dying embers of a fire that is being stamped out by an oversized boot called Progress.

In the early 20th century, progress was a large house for the Ericksen family, Bothell pioneers. Gerhard Ericksen was a state legislator whose legacy lives on although most people don’t know his role in the building of Bothell. The Ericksen family only owned this house for a few years. Then it became home to a different family who stayed for quite a while.

The Bothell the Ericksens helped build was not a city that decimated its natural resources and constructed seas of soulless boxes priced beyond what many could bear. It was a Bothell that coexisted with much of its natural environment, that built individual homes with sufficient space between them.

This is summer 2019. Unable to bear the high property taxes any longer, and with property values going through the roof, the strained owners of our eclectic beloved shopping center sold out to developers. An out of state company headquartered in Atlanta stepped in.

Fences went up, buildings started coming down. I was told that the City of Bothell didn’t have the money to save any historic buildings at Country Village on the Bothell-Everett Highway south of Canyon Park. The developer did not respond to questions.

The free-roaming chickens were rounded up and rehomed. People started to take mementos from Country Village without permission. There were online auctions and some of us asked what protections the ducks would be given. We were assured that the duck pond would stay, but that did not mean a thing for the surrounding land that the ducks have nested and lived on for generations.

Have you ever watched Disneyland burn? That’s how losing Country Village feels. For decades we shopped there, ate there, fed ducks there until they banned it, saw Santa there, sang songs there, took photos of the reindeer there. Country Village is where people went for haircuts, Moso bags, toys, antiques, Pirate Day. You could stop by for no other reason than to sit on a bench near the pond and enjoy a bag of kettle corn.

There was a peace there. Malls don’t have this peace. Urban shopping centers don’t have this lifeforce. The feathered fowl, the willow tree, the aging arches and old wagon lent themselves to a calm in the frenzied Seattle metro bustle. No matter how busy it was, you could hear yourself breathe.

On this sweltering day I stepped inside the northern arch to photograph one of the buildings that, to my amazement, was left standing. A security guard approached and related how people were waltzing into the property despite signs indicating that we needed to go no further than where I was. A red dragonfly hovered above his car as we talked at length. Who were you really, dragonfly?

Above is one of the two buildings that I learned would be left standing until April 2020. If someone does not move the buildings by then, they too will be lost forever. So I put the word out– free houses! But there they stand, and now it’s October. They have less than six months to live unless we find a kindhearted soul to save them.

This is the front of that old building. I stood there and stared into the ragged trellis of 2 X 4s designed to protect its interior. But for how long?

How long have these houses stood here unmolested? And now they waste away in hopes of a savior, a moving truck, new land to live the rest of their lives. I remain perturbed that there has not been an organized effort to save them. There are so few like them left.

I still have books I bought in these buildings as a kid.

The Ericksen House served as Whitehouse Antiques in recent years. They had quite the collection of candy and chocolate in addition to metal signs and antiques. Visitors would wind their way through its midsection, then clomp downstairs to circle the basement where, inevitably, someone would always trip at an unexpected step down. Then you’d clomp upstairs past the records on the wall and visit the old bedrooms that were either too hot or too cold.

In an era of big box homes with tiny to no yards, it’s disturbing that a historic beauty like this could go the way of the dodo. Experts tell me that because of vandalism and remodels much of the interior isn’t original. But the bones are still there. And it’s still significant. And it’s still one of a kind.

Descendants of the Ericksens marched in the 2019 Bothell Fourth of July Parade.

This is now October 2019. The former Country Village site looks like someone scraped away all of its trees and creatures and structures with a merciless metal spatula. Someone meaning Progress. This is what’s happening throughout King County as forests are being razed for huge developments, like the travesty in Black Diamond where thousands of cookie cutter homes will transform that wild, tiny mining town into Anywhere, USA.

The land regulations that allow this alarming displacement of wildlife and construction of myriad buildings that are grossly unsuited to the surrounding habitat are supposedly environmentally sensitive. “People need somewhere to live” they tell me. Why do they have to wipe out the local biome and pack people in like sardines? “We need affordable housing,” they say. Then why can’t longtime locals like myself even afford half of one of these supposedly affordable units?

This is the land where we ban plastic straws but tear down acres of proud ancient trees without regard for the inhabitants who’ve been there for thousands of years. There is no empathy for the mountain beavers, coyotes, deer, possums, raccoons, bears, birds, fish. Many of the new inhabitants have no connection to the surrounding environment or local history.

What’s that in the distance? To the right?

What’s that to the left? Oh. The same generic buildings that will soon fill the entire site. That seem to be dominating the Seattle metro area. That are consuming the I5 corridor from Chehalis to Bellingham.

This is what’s left of the duck pond. The rest of their habitat has been destroyed. I don’t know how ducks will be able to roam a high density complex of concrete freely, but Progress knows.

Look north and there it is, its footings being sheared away by loud machines. The Ericksen House is still standing proudly in the face of impending destruction. It’s nightmarish seeing this, and only this corner, of the village left.

It seems illogical, implausible, impossible that in a community as collectively wealthy as Bothell that we cannot find enough of us to band together and save this.

This is not a sinkhole. Not literally. But these buildings will be sucked into the sinkhole of Progress next spring without intervention.

The arch that used to say “welcome” now serves as a billboard for the demolition company.

Near. Far. But near could soon be so much farther that we’ll never see it again.

Will the road signs have to be changed too? Or will they stay and remind us of what Progress has cost?

As if there weren’t enough of these on the former back lot already, here are over a hundred more… along with thousands up and down the Bothell-Everett Highway. As an out of town visitor said, this road seems to have turned into a nonstop block of high density from downtown Bothell to Everett. Where is the wildlife supposed to go? Where are the lower to middle class people supposed to go?

After taking that photo I looked south. This cloud looked like a hand, a tidal wave, an angry face, or perhaps, if you tilt your head to the left, a mighty angel sheltering something with its wings.

If buildings could talk, these two might be reciting lyrics from the ’80s, the decade Country Village was born.

My defenses are down
A kiss or a frown
I can’t survive on my own…

Send me an angel
Send me an angel
Right now…

Above is the Ericksen family plot in the Bothell Pioneer Cemetery near UW Bothell, established 1889. Like the house they built so long ago, their graves face east, hoping for new life.

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History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are.

David McCullough

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©2019 H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com. All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/wildninjablog.com.

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