Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Vandalism of the worst kind

The Snoqualmie Depot is a local icon, a centerpiece for the City of Snoqualmie and the Northwest Railway Museum, and as a 120 year-old National-Register structure it is a powerful symbol of our cultural heritage. The depot is often cited as the second most recognizable image of Snoqualmie, the first being Snoqualmie Falls. Restored between 1979 - 1983 to its appearance in 1900, the Snoqualmie Depot is visited by over 85,000 people per year.

On Tuesday, June 30, 2009, the depot faced a threat even greater than a Snoqualmie Valley flood: fire. In the wee hours of the morning, a person or persons deliberately set a fire that threatened to destroy this beautiful wooden structure. The senseless act caused damage but, fortunately for our community, the building’s sprinkler system activated and when combined with a quick response from the Snoqualmie Fire Department prevented the loss of this important cultural property. But it was too close for comfort.

A broken window on a new building or graffiti on a wall is frustrating, ugly and demoralizing but for a price it can usually be repaired. However vandalism and other destruction directed at unique objects such as museum collections and historic buildings means a portion of our collective past gets erased and can never be fully replaced.

Culture defines us. It represents our society’s beliefs, customs, knowledge, and even enlightenment. Cultural icons are visible representations of these values and the Snoqualmie Depot is one of our community’s examples. So powerful is cultural property that through the ages despotic leaders and repressive regimes have sought to destroy these symbols in the (usually) mistaken belief that they can erase the ideas by erasing the images. While damaging or destroying one unique and historic building in of itself does not eliminate our local history, the story is certainly richer and more compelling with a complete and functional Snoqualmie Depot.

No comments: