On yaHighway, we hold a weekly Road Trip Wednesday, where we ask a writing/reading question and all the contributors answer on our personal blogs. If you want to participate on your own blog, just post the link in the comments section of YAH and we’ll check it out! This week’s question:
If you could travel back to any historical era for research purposes, which would you choose?
Oh so timely. Because I am up to my ears in researching a very specific time in history for my current project. If you have a time machine, lemme in – I want to watch Seattle burn.
I mean, old Seattle. Not the city I live in now, which I love and would be very sad to see reduced to rubble. But the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 is a particularly interesting one.
The short version: A fire started in a shop spread and reduced old downtown Seattle, which was mostly wooden buildings, to nothing. Rather than admit defeat, the city used it as an opportunity to take care of a rather pesky sewage problem that had had citizens wading through crap (literally) to get to work.
They raised the city so that what were first floors became basements and sewage flowed underground where it was supposed to. Then they built new buildings on this new level.
I’ve also spent hours and hours at the library – (and here is where living in the city you’re researching gets super sweet) – talking with a librarian who worked at the library back in the 60′s and helped Bill Spiedel, the man responsible for cleaning up the underground and making it tourable – with his own research on pre-fire Seattle. Now that is just freaking cool.
I digress. Research is great, but actually witnessing such events is different. I’d go back in a heartbeat. Maybe a few days before the fire, just to hang out in a corset and bust through some saloon batwing doors, to see the fire (from a safe distance), then to watch a city built on top of another city.
Then I’d…come back? Nah. I’d hang around for a few more decades. Take a ride in a Ford-T. Protest for worker’s rights. Do the Charleston. Witness the meaning of industrialization. Hear some uplifting jazz that made a depression not so depressing after all.
Maybe witnessing history wouldn’t be so different from just researching it after all. Once you really got into it, it’d be hard to stop.