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A Moment in Repose

The West Coast Printing building, with its American goldfinches. Photos; David Yamaguchi.

MUCH HAS BEEN MADE of late of the gradual disappearance of Seattle’s once vibrant African-American community, under the onslaught of rapid population growth, rising land prices, and associated heightened property taxes. That community is centered on 23rd Avenue South and S. Jackson. Yet, what is also vaporizing are the landmarks of the adjoining Japanese American landscape many readers have known their entire lives.

In May 2017, I described the closing of Linc’s Tackle, at Rainier Avenue South at S. King St. To this, we can add the demolition of the home formerly used to house St. Peter’s Episcopal pastors— on the southeast corner of 16th Avenue S and S. King—and of the West Coast Printing building, on Rainier at S. Lane.

This trend would be harder for mainstream journalists to spot, because many former JA properties were not obviously JA. The businesses commonly had American-sounding names, to not attract attention and to blend in.

Only a few buildings were obviously JA. Besides the various Buddhist churches, I remember seeing the C.T. Takahashi building downtown from the bus, along the east side of 3rd Ave. For throughout the first six decades of the twentieth century, being JA was unpopular.

Photo by David Yamaguchi

Like the St. Peter’s pastoral house, the West Coast building is slated to be torn down for higher-density housing. In the fleeting time that the West Coast Printing building has remaining, three extraordinary American goldfinches have made it their home. These male birds are unusual for retaining their bright-yellow summer plumage in winter. The bird books tell us that male finches are vivid because it helps them attract mates.

As a native JA Seattleite, I have mixed emotions on seeing buildings like that of West Coast Printing slated for demolition. On the one hand, we will lose the JA landmark. On the other, multistory brick buildings like it need to come down. They are earthquake hazards. Moreover, present-day crowded Seattle needs the housing space.

And so, in the remaining time that the West Coast building has, I suggest that readers take a last look at it, and its goldfinches.

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David Yamaguchi has written for the NAP since 2006, at first as a volunteer, then as a paid freelancer (2016-2020),then as a staff writer/editor (2020-2023). He is presently executive director of the Japan-America Society of the State of Washington (JASSW).