Sketched March 6, 2014
Shrunken heads from the Amazon. A two-headed lamb. Totem poles carved by local Native Americans. A hat worn by Chief Seattle.
The Ye Olde Curiosity Shop on Pier 54 isn’t the tourist trap I expected. It’s like a museum that epitomizes the same weird Seattle I love for its Fremont Troll, Archie McPhee or the Pike Place Gum Wall.
Founded in the years of the Gold Rush by Joseph “Daddy” Standley, a shopkeeper with a fascination with curious objects from far-flung cultures, the business has been a staple of the waterfront since 1904 (it was founded in 1899). The mosquito fleet of privately owned ferries that crisscrossed Puget Sound and the steam locomotives that ran by the store are long gone, yet the shop is still owned by Standley’s descendants. (That’s his great-great-grandson in my sketch below, current store manager Neal James.)
Architects dreaming up the post-viaduct waterfront as a giant playground with floating swimming pools and concert venues may want to stop at the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop for further inspiration. The shop underscores the original identity of the waterfront as a place of commerce and global trade, not just entertainment. And isn’t it wise to look at the past when you are trying to envision the future?