A community-wide open house celebrating the 50th anniversary of Seattle’s Freeway Revolt will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, September 23, at the Central Area Senior Center, 500 30th Avenue South, Seattle. Community members are invited to attend.
The Montlake Community Club is one of six Seattle community councils co-sponsoring the event along with Seattle ARCH (Activists Remembered, Celebrated and Honored). According to organizers Anna Rudd and Allan Davis, the open house aims to inform current residents about the citywide movement that helped quash plans for a dense network of freeways in Seattle. Rudd and Davis are among several former activists who will be on-hand to talk with visitors.
The free event will feature information on the planned freeway grid as well as materials from the citizens’ resistance, including, including maps, flyers, letters and more. A special preview of the forthcoming documentary by filmmaker Minda Martin will also be shown. Light refreshments will be served.
Visitors are welcome to stop by any time between 3 and 6 p.m. The program schedule includes:
3:00 p.m. Doors open, displays and information available
3:30 p.m. Welcoming remarks
3:45 p.m. “Open Mike” – former activists and others are invited to share their recollections and thoughts about the freeway revolt
4:30 p.m. Preview of “The Ramps to Nowhere” freeway revolt documentary
Communities across Seattle can be proud of their role in helping Seattle remain the vibrant, livable city it is today, say Rudd and Davis. “We wanted to create an opportunity to celebrate this amazing grassroots movement and honor those who did so much to save the city,” says Rudd. “We hope their actions will be a source of inspiration to current and future generations.”
Anti-freeway activists helped to defeat or dramatically reduce three planned freeways: the RH Thomson Expressway, a major north-south freeway parallel to I-5; the Bay Freeway, which would have connected I-5 to the Seattle Center along South Union; and a massive,14-lane I-90 bridge (downsized to 8-lanes with two earmarked for transit).
Participants included communities from Mt. Baker to Lake City and organizations ranging from Allied Arts to the Citizens Planning Council, League of Women Voters and Black Panthers.
The Montlake community took an early role in opposing freeway plans. In June 1968, then Montlake Community Club President Maynard Arsove became president of the newly formed “Citizens Against the RH Thomson” (CARHT). That same year the MCC joined six other Seattle community councils in endorsing a CARHT resolution opposing the RH Thomson Expressway and third and forth Lake Washington bridges. In 1969, the MCC was among twelve community councils that signed a letter protesting the “slumlording “ of Highway Department-owned homes in the RH Thomson Corridor.
Citizen opposition culminated in Seattle voters’ defeat of the RH Thomson and Bay Freeways in 1972 referendums. Battles over I-90 continued into the decade, as citizens successfully fought for design modifications that dramatically reduced its scope and impact.
Other sponsors of the September 23 open house include the Laurelhurst Community Club, Leschi Community Council, Mt. Baker Community Club, Ravenna-Bryant Community Association, and the Portage Bay/Roanoke Park Community Council.
More information on the freeway revolt is available in an online publication, Seattle’s Freeway Revolt: A Directory of Historical Resources, hosted on the Seattle Public Library’s special collections online. The directory was funded by a grant from 4Culture/King County Lodging Tax Fund.