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Hillman City Time Capsule

Collection of historical and current materials for a time capsule to be opened in 2057. Part of Hillman City's Annexation Centennial celebration.

Time Capsule Wrap Up

Time Capsule PartyOn Saturday, February 2nd, Hillman City neighbors and friends gathered at the Rainier Avenue Church for a celebration of the Hillman City Time Capsule Project and a peek at the time capsule’s contents. Many people brought last-minute contributions to the capsule as well, including family photos, personal stories, organizational documents, and a well-loved set of My Little Pony dolls (Thanks, Lola!)

When we first started working with the Hillman City Business Association on the time capsule, we saw it as a chance to research and document Hillman City’s history – we knew a few facts, but hadn’t really taken the time to dig into the records. The centennial of Hillman’s annexation to Seattle in 1907 was a great opportunity to find out about the founding of Hillman and its early days, but we also wanted to know more about more recent history – the Great Depression, WWII, and the incredible changes that shaped Hillman City in the second half of the 20th century.

History has certainly been an important part of this project. But the more we thought about it, the more we realized that time capsules aren’t really about the past; they’re about the future. In order to put together a time capsule, you have to project your mind into the future and try to guess what stories, images, and objects will be meaningful to people who haven’t even been born yet. It’s an exercise in imagination as much as documentation – and not unlike the act of imagination required of a historian who is trying to cast his or her mind back to the past, to understand an event or an era from the perspective of those who lived through it.

Our audience for this time capsule is not that far off – just 50 years. Some of the people who contributed items to the capsule may well be here to see them again in 2057. This time capsule is our collective, multi-media letter to them, an attempt to describe our lives today (and how we got here) in a way they will find interesting. It includes questions for them as well – from frivolous ones like “Are these Croc clogs totally ridiculous, or what?” to more haunting queries: “How’d that global warming thing turn out, anyway?”

Mostly when we cast our minds into the future, we just want to know that things are going to be okay, even if we won’t be here to see it. In researching time capsules, we came across a note that was placed in a wall in 1897 “by the Plasterers working on the Job, hoping when this is Found that the Plasterers Association may be still Flourishing. Please let us know in the Other World when you get this, so as we can drink Your Health.”

Here’s hoping we can do the same for you, future Hillman City-ites!

A Few Highlights from the Time Capsule:

• A glass slipper, made at Viscosity Studio in Hillman City. The slipper was commissioned by Marvin and Jeanett Charles, founders of Divine Alternatives for Dads Services (D.A.D.S.), also located in Hillman City. D.A.D.S. provides social services and support to fathers who want to reconnect with their children. The Charleses renewed their wedding vows in a fairy tale ceremony in Pioneer Square that included Jeanett’s arrival in a horse-drawn carriage, Marvin putting the glass slipper on her foot, Jeanett knighting Marvin with a sword, and all of their children in attendance. They wanted to model their love and commitment for their children, their clients, and their community. When Tracy? X at Viscosity made the slipper, she created several versions – the slipper we have is one of the extras. Thanks to Tracy for donating the slipper, and to the Charleses for sharing their story.

• Several people donated items related to environmental sustainability. A model Hummer and a model Prius, an ad for a Ford Silverado pick-up, a paper Starbucks Coffee cup, a biodegradable plastic grocery bag from the PCC. We also received a copy of An Incovenient Truth, Al Gore’s book for kids. All of these items illustrate one major question for the people of the future: Have you figured out a way to live on the earth without destroying it?

• Hillman City Hellcats T-shirt and photograph – thank you Luke Held and Jenn Seva? The Hillman City Hellcats Softball Team grew out of the Hillman City Neighborhood Alliance, and illustrates our neighborhoods growing pride and sense of identity. We have also included several announcements about Hellcats games that went out over the neighborhood Yahoo! Group – we wonder what Yahoo! Groups will have evolved into fifty years from now… Verlie Erickson? Donated a 1920s photograph of the Hillman City baseball team her father played on – let’s hope the Hillman City tradition of hitting balls with bats is alive and well in 2057!

• The Street family donated their well-thumbed copy of What Will Harry Do?, a book of Harry Potter clues and predictions came out while fans were waiting for the seventh and final book in the series. Or course, when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows hit the stands in July 2007, this book became entirely useless! We feel the introduction expresses some of what our thoughts about this whole Time Capsule:

How lucky we are! Future generations will read [the Harry Potter series] knowing that to know what happens next al they have to do is move on to the next book. But we live in a glorious limbo. We’ve read everything from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince… and we don’t know what happens next! We get to enjoy all the speculation, all the wild musings, all the “what if’s.” No one else reading the books will ever get to experience what we’re experiencing right now. So what will happen next…?

• This was accompanied by 9-year-old Bronwen Street’s written description of a costume party that took place on the night the 7th book came out, with accompanying photographs.

• Fashion Items: Samba Ceesay at Rainier Beauty supply donated hair extensions and hair accessories. We got an incredibly cool spinning hubcap belt buckle at Toure Plaza. Helen at Time 4 Nails painted a beautiful nail extension for us. And Simon Kidde donated a pair of red resin clogs – better known as Crocs. We assume all of these items will amaze or amuse the fashionistas of 2057.

• Cometscapes: Nighttime landscape photographer Michael Williams donated a set of photographs and articles documenting a staged cosmic battle between aliens and humans – hopefully this fiction won’t have come true by the time the capsule is opened!.

• Youth in Focus photographer Jaesun Easton contributed a collection of photographs of Hillman City that reflect the neighborhood’s incredibly diverse landscape – from urban grit and irony along Rainier to seemingly pastoral scenes from the Hillman City P-Patch.


LaureenTCThe contents of the time capsule were on display at our office during the spring of 2008 and then packed up in a sealed container, labeled with opening instructions by Laureen Kelly. The time capsule will be installed at the Rainier Avenue Church, on the corner of Rainier and Juneau, as part of their exterior renovations later this year. We are working with artist and Church member Patti Rice to design an installation that will mark the capsule’s location.


Big thanks to the many people who helped make this project happen: Nancy Dulaney, whose idea it all was. Denise Gloster, who embraced it early on and has continued to help it succeed. Bill Hobson at DESC for so graciously agreeing to host the time capsule at the facility they are building on Rainier Avenue, and for being understanding when we decided to relocate it. Paul Olver and the Rainier Avenue Church for offering us the final location. Jaesun Easton, our Youth in Focus photographer, and Sam Smith, his advisor. Others who have helped in big and small ways along the way: Connie Cox, Laureen Kelly, Michael Williams, Stephen Hultburg, Murray Kahn, Brian Thomas, Anne Melone, Mohammed Sheik Hassan, Russ at Lola’s South City Bakery, Chris at the Columbia City Starbucks, and many others.

And of course, we are grateful to our funders: the Mayor’s Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs and the Department of Neighborhoods. Both have been remarkably understanding about the delays and adjustments we’ve had to make to the project. Thank you!