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Topic: fire

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December 27, 2013 at 5:54 PM

Chinatown-ID building was far more than the site of Wah Mee massacre

I was driving out of Lam Seafood’s parking lot on Christmas Eve when I heard sirens and saw smoke rise above the Chinatown-International District skyline.

The next day, ABC News posted this headline from a wire report: “Seattle building that burned was site of massacre.”

Kind of creepy, I thought. Are the rumors true? That the building above Washington’s most deadly crime scene is haunted or cursed?

Shame on me for momentarily giving in to the lore. Long before 13 people were shot and killed in the property’s basement on Feb. 18, 1983, the three-story building was a gathering place for Seattle’s Chinese community. After the murders, the building’s owners locked the crime scene from public view and left it vacant. But small businesses have always occupied the ground floor retail spaces, giving generations of Asian immigrants a shot at the American Dream.

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On Friday morning, I ventured down to the corner of Seventh Avenue South and South King Street to see the damage. Firefighters and police were still at the scene. The family that owns the Yuan Sheng Hang medicinal herb shop at the corner was removing as much as it could from the premises. They looked dazed. Workers at Sea Garden Seafood Restaurant carted out undamaged supplies. My colleagues and I had just dined there two weeks ago. Across the street, I met Rebecca Frestedt, a coordinator with the city’s Historic Preservation Program. She toured the building three years ago, and pointed up at the corner window on the third floor where she had once seen beautiful murals hand-painted by Chinese immigrants.

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