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Thursday, July 26, 2001 - 12:00 a.m. Pacific

Walking tour with grave concerns

By Rebecca Teagarden
Seattle Times desk editor

A walking-tour group pays its respects to Seattle's pioneers at Lake View Cemetery

She's quick, and they're definitely dead.

"Here's Doc. Doc loved to drink and to gamble. He lost more of his possessions that way, but he just didn't seem to care," says actress Beth Amsbary, shrugging her shoulders, palms up.

Doc, is Dr. David Swinson Maynard, one of Seattle's foremost founders, who hit town in 1852. He of heavy drink, gambling and two wives — at once. During the city's first 21 years, almost all of Seattle's commercial business was located on Maynard's land. And for about 90 minutes at a time, Amsbary is another Seattle pioneer, Louisa Boren Denny, during the Museum of History and Industry's (MOHAI's) Lake View Cemetery tour.

The cemetery tour is one of the museum's popular summer walking tours with various themes. What started as a summer program now continues into September.

Louisa Boren Denny
"Louisa doesn't call it a tour," Amsbary confides of the Lake View event. "She prefers to call it 'paying your respects.'"

If you're buried in Lake View Cemetery and are of historical significance, Amsbary knows all about you.

"Henry and Sarah Yesler loved to dance. Loved to. Loved it so much, he built the town a great big dance hall."

In the character of Louisa Boren Denny, Amsbary leads the curious on a no-stone-unturned tour of Lake View, located on 15th Avenue on Capitol Hill just north of Volunteer Park.

Seattle's beginning was rough-and-tumble for a town that now sees itself as polished, polite and fairly proper. And Amsbary, both herself and as Louisa, has come to really know and care about her dear-departed charges.

Sarah Yesler
"It is good to be remembered," says Louisa, whisking off each grave as she comes to it and placing a flower there when she leaves.

"You can understand a lot about how we live by how we treat our dead."

Lake View is a most beautiful place. From the top of the hill, standing near a who's-who of departed Seattle — the Phinneys, the Meydenbauers, the Chittendens, Chief Sealth's daughter Princess Angeline, Bruce and Brandon Lee, among others — you can see Lake Union and Lake Washington, the Olympics and the Cascades. It is the very definition of getting away from it all without leaving the city.

"It's all here at the graveyard," Amsbary says. "Any level of the parfait you want. You can enjoy the beauty, the nature or you can get into the down and dirty."

Carson Boren
If you do one thing to acquaint yourself with Seattle's history, stroll the winding roadways of Lake View. If you can't take the tour, a cemetery pocket guide is available at MOHAI and other outlets for $12.95.

The prostitutes, the "desperate characters" and the pious all mingle among the pages of the book "The Pioneers of Lake View" by Robert L. Ferguson, complete with a map and separate entries for the historic graves.

On your way out, don't miss the grave of "Lou Graham," as she was known in 1880s Seattle. She built and operated the brothel at the corner of Third Avenue South and South Washington Street.

Next to the madam, you will see the headstone of Ferguson, author of the cemetery guide.

His stone reads, "The tour stops here."

Related info:

Related links
Museum of History & Industry
The Washington State Historical Society
National Register of Historic Places
UW archives
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