Signal boxes are metal boxes located at each signalized intersection in the city. SDOT is transforming a group of these boxes with artwork that represents the Central District (CD) and engages pedestrians. Troy R. Miles, a local artist, has designed three images that are being printed as decals and installed on the sides of signal boxes.
A community meeting was held in September 2009 and with the help of the Central District Chamber of Commerce, it was decided that images reflecting the rich history of the neighborhood would be best. Continue reading to learn what inspired Miles as he created the images.
Straight Out the CD
By the mid 1940’s the CD had become home to Seattle’s blossoming Black population. African-American William Grose arrived in Seattle in 1861. In 1890 he built a home on 12 acres of land purchased from Henry Yesler between East Olive Street and East Madison Street at 24 th Avenue. The area quickly became one of the first Black settlements in Seattle.
In the 1960’s job discrimination created civil unrest in the community. The CD became prone to rioting, marches and various forms of civil disobedience. Edwin Pratt, an American Civil Rights Activist became head of the Seattle Urban League in 1961. He was instrumental in the desegregation of the Seattle Public Schools and led an initiative for equal housing opportunities. Sadly he was assassinated outside his Shoreline home January 26, 1969.
The Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center is an historical cultural arts institution. The former Jewish Synagogue Bikur Cholim located at 17 th and Yesler Street was established in 1969.
Jackson Street Jazz
The roots of jazz in Seattle run deep. Not only did jazz luminaries across the nation include Seattle as a stop on tour, during the 30’s, 40’s and 50’, at one time 34 nightclubs surged along Jackson Street. People danced and drank bootleg liquor from dusk to dawn. It has been said the partygoers did everything but go home. Along with several others who contributed to the area’s rich Jazz legacy, Seattle gave rise to the early careers of Ernestine Anderson, Ray Charles, Quincy Jones and Jimi Hendrix.
A streetcar scene on Jackson Street circa 1940.
Three waves of Jewish immigrants populated the Central area from the 1850’s through the late 1940’s. First came the German Jews, followed by the Polish Yiddish-speaking Jews and finally Spanish-speaking Jews from Turkey. There was also a legacy of Scandinavian presence. The First Danish community was established in 1890. In 1914 a group of 40 Danes met at what is now Washington Hall (14th & Fir Street) to establish a Brotherhood Congregation.
Learn more about history in the CD at HistoryLink.org.
The project was funded by Seattle Department of Transportation 1% for Art Funds and administered by the office of Arts & Culture and Seattle Department of Transportation.
Troy R. Miles has been involved with concept creation, development and marketing of images for several years. He has successfully brought to fruition multitudes of images for institutions, companies and individuals. He has also had his artwork featured in several local exhibitions. Miles is very passionate about the value of public art. To contact him email: firstname.lastname@example.org , or call 206-851-9915.