As the Globe turns

What to do with the P-I's neon icon? How about making it the centerpiece of a memorial to journalism itself?
The P-I Globe, atop the old P-I building at 6th and Wall

The P-I Globe, atop the old P-I building at 6th and Wall Museum of History and Industry

Back in January I speculated about the future of the Seattle P-I's famous Globe. Some at the paper (like Joel Connelly) were irritated that I was speculating before the paper's heart had stopped beating. But another reporter at the paper asked me if it was true that the Museum of History and Industry had a pre-arranged agreement with owner Hearst Corp. about who would get custody of the Globe. I talked with MOHAI and found no such arrangement had been made, though the museum already has the P-I's original neon sign and the paper's photo archives. MOHAI's Leonard Garfield said the museum who be delighted to make the Globe part of its collection. One idea would be to install it in their planned new museum on Lake Union.

Now that the presses are silent, the Globe is center stage, not spinning in its grave but turning atop the de-populated electronic P-I's Elliott Ave. headquarters. Concerned about its future, three city council members have announced that they're going to nominate the Globe for city landmark status. In a press release March 27th, Tim Burgess, Jean Godden and Sally Clark, all former reporters (Godden a former P-I staffer), said they will be filing the nomination paperwork shortly. State preservation officer Allyson Brooks applauds the idea. Clark emphasized the need for speed, saying, "We can't act too soon to ensure the P-I's contributions to our community are not forgotten." Normally, speed in landmarking is driven by the threat of the wrecking ball, but here the worry seems to be civic Alzheimer's.

Is landmarking the Globe a good idea? There's great publicity value, and it would set out a series of guidelines and procedures for how the landmarked entity would to be managed in the future. And there is general concern. The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation says the Globe has been nominated for its "most endangered" list (listees will be announced in May). But, landmark status cannot offer definitive protection, as supporters of the old Music Hall or the Ballard Manning's/Denny's know. Nevertheless, it's certain that the P-I Globe would qualify as a landmark under multiple criteria.

One interesting aspect of the proposed nomination: The city's landmarks officer, Karen Gordon, says this would be the first time a landmark nomination would have come from the City Council. Anyone can nominate a potential landmark. However, the prospect of sitting council members nominating a landmark raises a question Gordon could not answer: council members also vote on a designated landmark's controls and incentives agreement, the document that sets the ground rules for how a landmark will be protected and managed.

If a city council member submits a nomination, would they then have to recuse themselves from voting on the landmark when it comes before the council? The council is often seen as a court of last resort when landmark owners object to a nomination and they could be seen as biased. I placed a late call (after 5 pm) to the city's ethics office and they responded immediately saying they'd look into it. Sally Clark says she'll also run it by them. Former council member and preservationist Peter Steinbrueck agrees that it's unprecedented, but doesn't think there's an ethical issue and that such council involvement should be encouraged.

Larry Johnson, an architect and experienced preservation consultant, emails that he doesn't generally approve of landmarking objects, though it should be pointed out that Seattle has landmarked many, from the Kobe Bell to the downtown street clocks, from the Chief Seattle statue to a bulletin board in Chinatown. Seattle also has numerous neon signs it loves, the Elephant Car Wash, the Pike Place Market, and the old Rainier Beer signs.

Johnson says, "Such an action would be more ceremonial than tactical, as landmarks are only 'protected' from radical change or destruction if an action affecting the landmark requires a building permit. That is the City's only restrictive power besides resorting to the normal PR route. So assuming the Globe is taken down and located to a holding place somewhere, if the 'owner' then wanted to pick it up and take it to a landfill, they technically could." It should be pointed out that moving, finding a new home for, or even disposing of, the Globe wouldn't be easy: it's 30 feet in diameter and weights over 18 tons. Re-locating it (if necessary) and restoring it are likely to be expensive propositions.


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Comments:

Posted Tue, Mar 31, 7:43 a.m. Inappropriate

Thanks Knute for advancing my idea of a public "Journalist Square" with the Globe being the centerpiece. We can discuss the details later. Now we have to:

1. Protect the Globe from any relocation OUT OF THE CITY.

2. Setting up a search committee to receive proposals for the public space.

3. Get control of the Globe from it's owner hrough a charitable contribution deduction to the city.

The Square could be an existing space that works in both size and location.
Or, it can be part of a private development in our downtown. The developer who includes it into it's openspace requirement should get trade-offs or bonuses to compensate for any loss of opportunity. The reason the private sector should be encouraged to offer up a public space on it's property, is that the long term maintainence and operation would be it's charge....forever. Perhaps an endowment for that purpose would be the subject of regular fund raisers.

What else can be accomodated in the space commemorating the contribution Journalists have made in our great city, could include a wall of honor, a permanent soapbox for impromtu speakers (like Bughouse Square in Chicago's Rush district)who demonstrate our freedom of speech and interpretive plaques/photos and markers that further tell the story of Seattle's rich journalist history.
So, let's get going! Perhaps the three Councilmembers who support the saving of the Globe could assemble the team needed to give this idea life.

Let's do it!!!

Art

Posted Tue, Mar 31, 9:31 a.m. Inappropriate

Right on! Start the ball rolling on the fund-raising and I'll be among the first to contribute to a Journalism Park in Seattle. A free press is truly the only thing standing between us and tyranny - and I don't see the Internet filling the void left by the demise of the newspaper. Investigative reporting takes investigation and reporting, neither of which is assured in cyberspace. Get the globe into public ownership and don't tuck it away behind museum gates. It needs to be prominently on display where people see it from the freeway. Even if they don't grasp the full significance of what it stands for, it will at a minimum serve as a learning tool for our children and children's children.

arizonan

Posted Tue, Mar 31, 10:52 a.m. Inappropriate

I cannot imagine a better preservation project right now than this for Seattle. With all the wonderful preservationists in Seattle I cannot imagine that it won't be less than sensational. And I love the idea of a Journalism Park in Seattle.

Posted Tue, Mar 31, 12:35 p.m. Inappropriate

Larry Johnson is right. It belongs back where it started. What do the Sabey's think? They own the old P-I building on 6th. Would they want it? Would they pay for the move?

Journalism park is an interesting idea, but not one that is going to get a lot of traction these days.

MJH

Posted Tue, Mar 31, 1:01 p.m. Inappropriate

I don't lament the loss of the old Seattle Star (though I do miss the one that existed from 2002 to 2005)--but I do wish I'd had the chance to read The Argus.

Posted Tue, Mar 31, 2:20 p.m. Inappropriate

Junk the Globe.
It is a trashy symbol of a newspaper that failed.
It wasn't ideology that killed the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. It was Hearst management.
The Globe represents Hearst at its worst. No class.
Mourn for the women and men who lost their jobs. Mourn for all the P-I employees over the years who tried to make the paper better, and sometimes succeeded, just to see their best efforts thwarted.
I remember the Globe well. It shown into the window of the tiny apartment I rented across the street when I first went to work at the P-I in 1978. It kept me awake, along with the noise of its turning.
My wife, who visited me there for a week, liked it but then she also loves dogs, including this one.
If one was going to save an historic monument to the P-I, then save the Garden Grove, where the staff drank so happily, some of the time. But it is long since gone as well as the hangovers it produced.
The Grove was a far, far better place than the lifeless Globe wherever it may be moved.
So junk the Globe. Spend the moneyh on the out of work staff, or on snow removal, or on one of the useless sports' teams.
Gil Bailey

Posted Tue, Mar 31, 2:44 p.m. Inappropriate

Is the Hearst corporation planning on removing the globe? At least from what is written in the article, this point is assumed, but not stated. The museum hadn't made arrangments to take on the globe either. So essentially, this is an action being initiated by serveral councilpeople who previously had been reporters. I would be in favor of legislation to preserve this icon, if it were needed.

But at this point, as far as I know, the Hearst corp is not planning to dismantle this icon. First of all, they are continuing on with a digital version of the PI, albeit one with fewer reporters and resources. While I agree this landmark should be preserved, I think journalism is going to continue to go on, only it will be in digital form, not newsprint. Sure, it won't be the same and we should preserve the history of newspapers so that generations in the future can read the details about how it worked. At the same time, I feel too much time is being spent on lamenting the past and not enough time is devoted to utilizing the technical advantages inherent in the future because of the change of technology. Somce of the advantages might be: media can be more dynamic (print and video combined to illustrate stories), more interactive (easier for readers to be heard by posting comments, they might also add valuable insights because of some special access or technical knowledge they have), easier access to opposing viewpoints (via links to alternative articles/sources), less censureship (it will be more difficult to push propaganda on the population as long as the Internet remains free), encouragement of greater participation in discussions (thereby enhancing democracy), faster news cycles, etc.

Sure, there are also some disadvantages, but journalists have already pointed this out.

It might be valuable to discuss specifically which types of organizations and structures can be to support this new journalism. While foundations can be good, they also might have biases, subscriptions might be good, advertising might be good, government support might be good, etc.

At this point, I wouldn't be in favor of sticking the PI Globe in a museum yet until the Hearst Corp decides to remove it. Journalism in mind my has a long way to go. On the other hand, we can't really say the same thing about people in trades like: Compositors, Lithographers, Pressman--where are all the stories about the losses THEY are experiencing by the way? Are they in a different section? They must be on the site here somewhere . . .

EJS

Posted Tue, Mar 31, 2:46 p.m. Inappropriate

I received an answer on the conflict of interest question from Wayne Barnett, executive director of Seattle's Ethics and Elections Commission. Here's what he said in an email:

"It's my understanding that there are two ways in which a landmarking decision can come before the Council.

"First, the property owner can dispute the Landmark Board's determination, in which case the matter comes before the Council acting in a quasijudicial capacity. In that case, I've advised that the Councilmembers who nominate the landmark would need to recuse themselves. (I believe that would be required not only under the Ethics Code, but also under the rules that govern quasijudicial proceedings.)

"Second, the Landmark Board and the property owner can reach an agreement, which then goes before the Council to be blessed. I'm still advising the Councilmembers that they need to recuse themselves, but I'm less certain about this advice, so I've encouraged them to submit this question to the full Commission for a formal opinion when and if it becomes apparent that this is how the matter will come before the City Council. I think their submission of the paperwork initiating the process would appear to impair their independence of judgment, but I do appreciate the argument that this should be treated no differently than a councilmember submitting a bill for consideration. So if that's what comes to pass, I'd like the full Commission to take this question up based on a full factual record. (We lawyers would say that the question isn't yet ripe.)"

Mossback's take: I hate to see the council's enthusiasm for historic preservation dampened in any way, but it seems like the ethical questions here are real and the possibility of a misstep could be significant if the landmark process (over the Globe or any other nominated entity) turned hostile between the owner and the city. Would love to hear opinions from others who have been through the landmarks process.

Posted Mon, Apr 6, 7:09 p.m. Inappropriate

The idea of the globe as a free-standing sculpture is an interesting idea, although I don't know about a monument to journalism. But arguably there is an artistic quality to the globe that would be worth preserving, and might add to the character of the city - depending of course on where it's placed. I like the idea of returning it to its original home.

It's certainly no worse than most of the art in the SAM's sculpture garden. How about there? The Seattle Tower was initially designed and submitted to the Chicago Tribune company for consideration as the company's Michigan Avenue Headquarters, so it indirectly has journalistic history attached to it - so why not there? I don't know that the roof could support it, but if you put it on top of that the building itself would develop an almost comic book "Daily Planet" quality to it. Forget the three rods on its existing roof.

If it attains landmark status, does it make it easier for MOHAI to acquire it?

Why not place it on top of the Times? The building itself could use a little personality - as could much of that part of town, the Times is intertwined in the PI's history, it's viewable from the freeway, the Times could lease some its vacant space to PI.com, and maybe it makes some thematic sense.

Be creative on where you put it. Let people see it. But definitely keep it.

sandysdad

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