Preservation Special Projects


Project Title

African American Heritage Sites Digital Content Development

Short Description

We seek funding to hire a consultant to develop content about African American heritage sites in King County for our heritage tourism website, Revisiting Washington.


Project Description

The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation seeks funding to hire a consultant to research and produce content related to African American heritage sites in King County. While the project will consider sites throughout King County, we recognize that a number of sites will likely be located in Seattle’s Central District, given migration patterns of the 20th century. This new African American heritage content will be added to Revisiting Washington (RevisitWA for short;, the Trust’s heritage tourism website and mobile app. Altogether, 15 to 20 African American heritage sites will be profiled, with content to include site history, contemporary and historic photographs, oral history interviews (written, video, and audio where available), and GIS mapping files. We anticipate that the research and content development will be completed by January 2020 and subsequently incorporated into the Revisiting Washington website and app by March 2020.

RevisitWA is a digital project that works to support heritage tourism around the state. Its content was sourced from the 1941 guidebook “Washington, A Guide to the Evergreen State”—our state’s contribution to the American Guide Series published from 1937-1941 under the auspices of the Writers’ Program of the Work Projects Administration. Conceived as a Federal New Deal project during the Great Depression, the guides were part history, part cultural record, and part travel maps, capitalizing on the burgeoning age of automobile touring. In 2017, the Trust created RevisitWA by taking the guidebook’s driving routes and transforming them into an interactive website/app for the modern heritage tourist. We’ve added digital navigation tools; photographs, audio, and video; and updated locations like National Register sites. But more has changed in our country since 1941 than just new approaches to tourism and technology. In recent years, it has become clear how incomplete national and state registers and other historical records can be, with many communities’ stories omitted. Furthermore, urban development has led to increased gentrification, displacement, and demolition of important cultural sites. It is incumbent upon us to acknowledge and highlight diverse cultural heritage sites.

Since RevisitWA launched in 2017, we have added thematic content exploring underrepresented heritage sites. A section showcasing Japanese American heritage sites on Vashon Island was added in May 2018, and another featuring Latino heritage sites in King County and the Yakima Valley was added in February 2019. (Thanks to 4Culture for their support of both projects.) Now we seek to fund a project showcasing African American heritage sites in King County. Extant sites include Mount Zion Baptist Church, the Dr. James and Janie Washington Cultural Center, Northwest African American Museum (formerly the Colman School), Washington Hall, and Pablo O’Higgins’ “The Struggle Against Racial Discrimination” mural at the University of Washington. In generating other heritage areas to be featured, we anticipate that Beyond Integrity, 4Culture’s assessment of King County properties associated with underrepresented communities which failed to achieve landmark status through the City’s Landmarks Preservation Board, will be an invaluable resource.

Our goal in this project is to broaden the scope of RevisitWA to include more stories of Washington’s history and heritage. Our target audience for RevisitWA is tourists and Washington residents alike, across boundaries of race and ethnicity. Though RevisitWA is still developing a following, with 825 pageviews per month, we are working to increase 4Culture Panel 2019 (Preservation Special Projects – 1905) usage by promoting it through our monthly e-newsletter, social media, community events, and strategic partnerships.

Project Impact

As Seattle and its surrounding boroughs continue to develop at breakneck speed, King County’s historic sites are in jeopardy. In areas like the Central District, the danger is compounded by wealth inequality and rampant gentrification. A 2018 Crosscut article by Naomi Ishisaka* estimates that in the 1970s, African Americans made up 70% of Central District residents, while today that number has plummeted to 20%. As African American residents move out, many historic buildings telling the story of Seattle’s black community are being torn down, demolished, forgotten. Those that do remain are often unprotected, frequently deemed ineligible for city landmark status for integrity reasons, given changes that may have occurred across decades.

This project seeks to tell the story of the structures so integral to African American history in Seattle—some extant, some lost—within the RevisitWA platform, so that they receive equal visibility and representation within the heritage landscape. For us at the Washington Trust, it is a natural evolution of the work we have been doing to include underrepresented communities within our digital presence, with the development of content related to Japanese American heritage sites on Vashon Island and Latino heritage sites in King County and the Yakima Valley.

We hope that this project will accomplish a number of aims. First, like 4Culture’s Beyond Integrity task force, we seek to demonstrate that many cultural sites such as African American historic sites in the Central District, while not traditionally adhering to strict preservation definitions of physical integrity, are worthy of historic consideration and that city landmark and state/federal register standards currently in place may restrict efforts toward greater inclusivity. Second, we seek to impress upon our community of historians and preservationists the tremendous loss represented by the demolition of many of these historic African American sites and the attendant importance of saving and supporting the assets that remain. Lastly, we hope to engage new audiences, who may be interested in black history or cultural resources but perhaps have not yet engaged in historic preservation—by working with program partners like, the Black Heritage Society of Washington State, and the Northwest African American Museum, and by promoting the project widely through special events, magazine articles, social media, and more. Thus, the project will engage the community through partnerships with local organizations, leveraging and supporting limited resources among nonprofit organizations and community groups to jointly contribute to a publicly accessible digital platform to share stories that have a lasting impact within their community.

* “An epic battle against gentrification” by Naomi Ishisaka, published in Crosscut and Seattle Magazine, April 2, 2018

Relevant Expertise / Experience / Accomplishments

The Washington Trust as an organization and project facilitator has a track record of successfully undertaking similar projects to generate heritage content for RevisitWA, having previously completed projects developing content for Japanese American heritage sites on Vashon Island and Latino heritage sites in King County and the Yakima Valley (both thanks to the funding support of 4Culture).

For our project consultant, we envision working with Artifacts Consulting of Tacoma, who have served as consultants for multiple elements of previous RevisitWA projects and are familiar with the project goals and content development process. Artifacts would liaise with program partners to identify African American heritage sites to be surveyed and to generate content. Once the content has been developed, all material would be uploaded and integrated into the RevisitWA website and app.

Project Implementation

Once notification of the grant is received (expected May 2019), our consultant will begin research and content development, which we estimate will take between six to eight months. Once completed, around January 2020, that content will be submitted to us at the Washington Trust for review and subsequent incorporation into the RevisitWA website and app. Altogether we anticipate the project will be completed by March 2020.


Project Expenses

  • People – $15,000
  • TOTAL – $15,000

Project Income

  • Foundations – $5,000
  • 4Culture Request – $10,000
  • TOTAL – $15,000

Project Budget Notes

Support from 4Culture in the amount of $10,000 will help underwrite the fees of the consultant we will hire to research and develop content. We have already received a $5,000 grant towards this project from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which will likewise underwrite consultant fees.