EXPLORE THE CENTRAL AREA
Welcome to the Central Area of Seattle. The Central Area of Seattle lies midway between the Central Business District (Downtown Seattle) and Lake Washington and is the city’s oldest surviving residential area. During the mid-1800 the area was logged off, creating an ideal location for residential development because of its proximity to the Central Business District.
Think you know the Central Area? See it from a whole new perspective with our immersive walking tour. Click here to get started.
A potpourri of colors and cultures flowed in and out of this four-square mile area during its more than century old history. There were the Native Americans, European & Jewish Americans, Japanese & Chinese Americans, African Americans & Spanish Americans. Before the 1800’s the land was occupied by Native Americans. By 1890 until World War I, the Central Area was a predominantly a Jewish neighborhood. The Japanese and Chinese came to Seattle in the late 1880’s and settled in the International District and spread into the Central Area through demographic growth.
In 1890 William Gross arrived in Seattle and build a home on his 12-acre land between East Olive Street and East Madison. After World War II, the Central Area became home to most of Seattle’s growing Black population because of housing discrimination and restrictive covenants. A natural outcome of segregated housing was DE-facto segregated schools and by the late 1950’s thru 1980 the Central Area became more than 90 percent Black. However, based on gentrification by the 1990s the Central Area has gradually changed in color and economic status pushing minorities to move out of the Central Area into Renton, Auburn, Federal Way, SeaTac and Tukwila.
ARTS AND CULTURE
JAMES & JANIE WASHINGTON CULTURAL CENTER
The mission of the James and Janie Washington Jr Foundation is to promote and preserve the art and legacy of James and Janie Washington Jr. to inspire creativity and build community. The eminent African American sculptor and painter James Washington Jr. was a leading member of the Northwest School. He grew up in Mississippi. After working as a WPA artist, he came to the Puget Sound region in 1944 to work in the Bremerton Naval Yard as a journeyman electrician. He found exhibition space at Frederick & Nelson’s Little Gallery and through that venue met Mark Tobey (1890-1976) and other Northwest artists. He places his visionary paintings and sculptures in the service of religious faith.
NORTHWEST AFRICAN AMERIAN MUSEUM
At the heart of the African American experience in the Northwest is the story of our journey to this region, the establishment of our vibrant community and the ways in which we have survived. To tell this ever-unfolding story, the Museum’s exhibits and programs feature the visual arts, music, crafts, literature and history of African Americans in the Northwest. Cognizant of the Black community’s continuous evolution, NAAM focuses on African Americans whose route to the new world was through slavery as well as recent immigrants arriving from places such as Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia.
LANGSTON HUGHES PERFORMING ARTS INSTITUTE
Built in 1915, the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute is an historic landmark in the historic Central Area of Seattle. Formerly the Jewish Synagogue of Chevra Biku Cholim, the building became a community center and part of the City of Seattle’s facilities in 1972. It is now a community facility that may be rented for events and community programs. LHPAI partners with the new non-profit LANGSTON to continue being a center for African American arts and culture in Seattle.
PRATT FINE ARTS CENTER
Pratt Fine Arts Center makes art accessible to everyone, offering a place for spirited exchange, self-expression and personal transformation through creativity. Pratt is dedicated to fostering artistic development and engagement locally, nationally and internationally. A unique multidisciplinary visual arts resource, Pratt provides education and instruction, community programs and professionally equipped art making facilities.