Wednesday, May 1, 2013

As Seen from Seattle’s Oldest Staircase

5/1/13 Platinum Carbon ink, Zig markers, Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook
I had a heckuva time finding it.
Built in 1904, a short, stairway in the upper Queen Anne neighborhood (at Warren Avenue North and Ward) is on record as being Seattle’s oldest steps. I expected them to be made of craggy, crumbling stones or bricks, perhaps moss-encrusted, or at least narrow and crooked. But they look quite ordinary, probably rebuilt with standard concrete for safety at some point, and not even particularly long (42 steps). (I seem to be making a habit of finding underwhelming sights.)
I read about them in the book Seattle Stairway Walks – An Up-and-Down Guide to City Neighborhoods, by Jake Jaramillo and Cathy Jaramillo. Ostensibly, I got the book to find interesting fitness walking routes. But my ulterior motive was that I figured the book would lead me to sketching opportunities that I might not otherwise know about.
So I skipped the 3.7-mile walking route that would have brought me to this stairway and instead drove directly to the steps. It took me a while to find it, tucked away in the middle of a narrow, one-way street. When I finally spotted the stairs, I rolled my eyes to myself, unimpressed. Then I got out of the car and looked out over the stairs – at a quintessential view of Seattle: Space Needle, Mt. Rainier tucked behind it, and the downtown skyline all around. If you look to the very far right of the sketch, you’ll see the Pacific Science Center's arches, which I sketched the other day.
I’m sure many postcard photographers have captured this view, assuming they have found it.
(Technical note: I have several landscape-oriented sketchbooks, but since I hardly ever sketch actual landscapes, I never think to bring one with me. It would have come in handy today.)


  1. Hi there, we're the authors of Seattle Stairway Walks, and we approve of your sketch! Really nice!
    - Jake and Cathy

    1. Thanks, Jake and Cathy! Your book is great! Now that the weather is improving, I'm exploring more of those stairs!

      - Tina


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