It’s the end for the Last Exit

The Last Exit.

The Last Exit coffeehouse in Seattle's University District, date unknown. (Seattle Wiki)

Editor’s note: This story is incorrect. The University of Washington says it is not demolishing the site of the old Last Exit coffeehouse – for now, at least. Here’s an update correcting the record.


Maybe it’s appropriate the same week Walt Crowley died. Or maybe it’s something in the air. But the University of Washington has sent out a press release announcing that it is vacating and will tear down the wonderful old Brooklyn Building on Northeast 41st Street and Brooklyn Avenue Northeast in the University District. The building was home to one of Seattle’s legendary 1960s coffeehouses, The Last Exit on Brooklyn, which moved from the location years ago and eventually folded.

The Brooklyn currently houses mostly staff members of the UW’s Human Resources Department. They are being moved to another location, starting tomorrow. The press release says the building “is worn out” and that its planners have concluded that “repairs aren’t financially worthwhile.” The building may be demolished as soon as early next year, though they say there has been no decision on what to do with the site. The UW is also looking to demolish a number of small, older houses it owns in the neighborhood.

The Last Exit was one of Seattle’s great ’60s landmarks, a gathering place for UW students, radicals, poets, nut jobs, chess masters, teens, intellectuals, workers, musicians, artists, beatniks, and hippies. It was located just off The Ave, the tumultuous center of campus politics. A great description of The Last Exit scene can be found at Seattle Wiki.

In the ’60s and ’70s, The Last Exit was a haven for the city’s weirdos when weirdos were still in a distinct minority in Seattle. It served espresso before almost any place else and kept poor students alive with dirt-cheap, mile-high peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Somewhere in my storage unit, I have one of their signature battered tin teapots.

As a teen in the late ’60s, I found The Last Exit to be a great all-ages hangout – a kind of Blue Moon without the beer. I remember the din, the open-mike music, cigarette smoke, impromptu poetry readings, the arguments of lefties, libertarians, crackpots, and cultists. You could hear the rhythm and roar of the counterculture as it lived and breathed.

The era is gone. Now a wonderful reminder of those times – a brick building imbued with the spirit of those times for those who remember – is about to go, too.

Note: The memorial service for Walt Crowley is slated for Tuesday, Oct. 2, 4-6 p.m. at the Museum of History and Industry in the Montlake neighborhood.


Editor’s note: This story is incorrect. The University of Washington says it is not demolishing the site of the old Last Exit coffeehouse – for now, at least. Here’s an update correcting the record.

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