In Memoriam of Seattle’s Central District

I think it is time that we pay our last respects to our dearly departed iconic Central Area spots that we’ve loved, and yet never properly mourned. I was born and raised in Seattle, and it has been my home for almost 60 years (oowee).  As a child, I resided with my family at a number of locations including 15th and Cherry, 18th and Jefferson, 28th and Norman, and the Yesler Terrace. My aunt and uncle owned a house on 28th and Norman, where much of my childhood was spent. Additionally,  my uncle owned two record shops in Seattle: Summerrise World of Music on 12th and Jackson and the Wholesale House on Rainier Ave South across the street from Boraccini’s bakery. For some residents, these were good, prosperous times in the Central Area. Recently, however, the Central Area looks less and less like the Black community of the past, and it makes me sad. I feel a sense of grief and loss for what once was a thriving community. 

Earlier this week I drove past the southeastern corner of 23rd and Jackson, a site formerly known as Promenade 23. I witnessed for the first time, a huge, beautiful new complex. My first thought was “how many Black people will be living there?” I was not excited about this new building because it did not represent something that “belonged” to the community. Instead I felt resentful. I’m being honest. In the months I spent watching this building taking shape, I felt the need to mourn that particular block of the Central Area. Gentrification has continued at an alarming rate in the Central Area. I do not claim to have the answers as to how this trend will be reversed. This blog post is my cathartic way of mourning for the Central Area. Join me now for the Memorial Service for the Central Area. I think I hear the community gathering, and they are singing “Oh my lord, lord, lord, lord. Oh my lord, lord, lord, lord. Um hmm, um hmm, uh mmm.”


OPENING SONG “Back Down Memory Lane” By Minnie Riperton (click on link)

Old testament reading Lamentations 3: 22-23

New testament reading Revelations 21:4

Community Reading “I Remember the Central District in a Special Way”

“Today we are going on an imaginary trip through the old Central District. We will name and remember favorite local spots that no longer exist. Some of these sites were businesses,  stores, schools and restaurants. There is no need to hold back your tears, cry as loud as you want when we visit these places. There should be plenty of tissue available. Here we go…

Summerrise World of Music 12th and Jackson (not actually in the CD, but it was owned by my uncle and he lived in the CD and he served the community)
RL’s Home of Good Bar-B-Q Yesler Way (The best barbecue in Seattle, hands down! Cash only, and there was an accompanying sign that read”In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash”)
Little’s Mini Mart – Corner of 17th and Jefferson across from Providence Hospital
Inez’s Kitchen 12th & Jefferson
La Mediterranean (Black owned restaurant near Seattle U, and a favorite of my husband’s when we were attending SU)
Central Area Motivation Program 722 18th Ave. (The original can never be replaced. My aunt, cousin and my husband were all employed here at one time. My son injured his head at the park next door when he was four, resulting in his first stitches. Luckily his big sister was there and rescued him.)

Liberty Bank – 24th & Union (a Black owned bank, where I had an account)
Frank’s corner store 24th & Jackson (I used to buy red ginger and lemon here)
Jordan’s Drugs – Cherry St. (open for  late night prescriptions)
Catfish Corner ML King Jr. & Cherry (I know they have new locations, but nothing beats the OG spot and staff)
Promenade 23 Includes Red Apple, Joy Unlimited Christian Bookstore, Lady Legs Hosiery, Welch’s Hardware Store
BJ’s Beauty Supply 24th & Jackson 
Hidmo Eritrean Cuisine 20th & Jackson (Rest in Peace Rahwa Habte)

Heritage House/Cotton Club Martin Luther King Jr. Way S. & S. Dearborn ( the R&B group Blue Magic performed there)
Carol’s Essentials Gift Shop 23rd Ave. in the post office plaza
Helen’s Diner 23rd Avenue & Union
Thompson’s Point of View Off Union
Philly’s Best (original location on 23rd and Union)
Sammy’s Burgers 26th & Union (you needed patience and courage to order from this place)
Eddie Cotton’s on Madison (home of the Soul burger and the best shakes)
East Madison Valley Cleaners (my mother worked here for L.B. Haynes. He called me “Small Fry”)
S.O.I.C. on Madison and Jackson (my aunt Hellyne worked there as did many African Americans in the 80’s)
Deano’s on Madison (this is for somebody out there)
Oscar’s on Madison (who’s spot was this?)

Special Salute to South Seattle’s historic past (Read silently, but loud sobbing allowed)
Reflective musical tribute  SOUF by Rell Be Free

Zion Preparatory Academy (both of my children attended Zion Prep at both of the locations. Is there even a marker?)
Rainier Cinema Columbia City (it was our Black theater)
Unforgettable’s Gift Shop Rainier Plaza
The Wellington Tea Room (my daughter’s 8th birthday was celebrated here)
Southwest Mortuary at Rainier & Henderson

Parting View Yesler Terrace (our family resided at 911 Alder, Apt 799)

Recessional song        “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday”  By G.C. Cameron

Our Yesler Terrace address 911 Alder, #799 (Upstairs East unit) Seattle, WA

This concludes our service in memory of the Black Central District and surrounding neighborhoods. The community is welcome to celebrate the passing of these iconic places by regularly supporting our local Black businesses still in existence. Together we can keep hope alive!

p.s. Please share any fond memories you may have of the CD in the comments. God bless you.

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. misshappya
    Feb 27, 2021 @ 01:08:26

    OMG! You are such a creative amazing writer!
    This article should get rave reviews in your local paper! Very well done and gentrification is a real issue that needs to be dealt with, along with reparations.

    Love you cuz, I’m glad I found a moment to read this, throughly enjoyed it!


  2. Gregory Davis
    Feb 27, 2021 @ 02:23:13

    Giiiiiiirrrrrrrllllllll, you went in! Great rememberence!


  3. Rell Be Free
    Feb 28, 2021 @ 19:47:33

    This is great (and sad)!!
    It is wild to live in a city with so much wealth and resources but to watch our lil community be pushed out and built on top of. The question of “is there a marker?” for Zion Prep hits differently, because driving by the former location always makes me feel some typa way.
    Brilliantly written and the creativity of a memorial service is fitting, although I don’t want to say we lost just yet 😔
    I would add the Silver Fork (bought out by Safeway on the corner of Rainier & Charlestown) to the list of South Seattle spots that we miss.


    • Shawn
      Feb 28, 2021 @ 22:18:57

      Thank you for your encouraging comments. I can’t believe I left out Silver Fork! Yes, we mourn the loss of that great establishment where the community met for breakfast. Your sister enjoyed the grits as a baby:). I love you!


  4. Dee Williams
    Jul 16, 2021 @ 02:49:02

    I am new to Seattle (35 years) Even in those short years, I mourn with you. Do you remember I think it was called “Lloyds’s gas station.” Not sure when it was last used for gas station, I understand it was a place of learning and teaching. It was on odd corner Yesler/Boren/Broadway. Books and conversations.


  5. Jeff Latta
    Feb 07, 2022 @ 08:53:18

    Not from the area, stumbled across your excellent article while searching for an old haunt of mine, Eddie Cotton’s Place. Appreciated your point of view, and wanted to let you know…


  6. Lynette
    Mar 17, 2022 @ 02:34:54

    I lived on 20th and Union. You captured the essence of the CD. I wish you posted Richland’s chicken backs. Pal’s Tavern on 21st.


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