History, politics, people of Oly WA

Month: February 2016

Race in Thurston County by maps

Statistical Atlas, in a lot of ways, is something I’ve spent a lot of time pinning for. While the tool is very simply just overlaying public census data over a map, this is the kind of visualization that hasn’t been freely available. And, it opens up (more easily) a broader discussion of how and where we live.

Take for example, race in Thurston County.

Thurston County is a pretty white place, but there are a few interesting features of this map. There are a couple of corners where whiteness is not a majority. One stretch of far Lacey, the area around the Nisqually reservation and small section near Grand Mound in the south:

The first hole in the whiteness map is explained by this map of hispanic populations (topping at 45 percent). The small area around Grand Mound is a plurality hispanic area:

This map on black population (topping out at 15.8 percent) shows another major theme. While the central part of urban Thurston County is pretty white, most minority populations are located in nearby neighborhoods of Tumwater or older portions of Lacey. Showing why possibly it was a really good idea to move the county’s ethnic celebration to Lacey.

You see the same pattern here with the Asian map (topping at 18 percent), but instead of Tumwater, the westside and noticeably Cooper Point. You also have here an explanation of the second non-white majority area, with Asian being the plurality.

And, “other,” which from a reading of the map, would probably mean Native American, given the deeper reds closer to the Nisqually Reservation (topping at 39.7 percent), which is the third non-white majority area.

These are fascinating maps. I was fairly surprised by how white this particular tract was in downtown Olympia. Well, not totally surprised. I suppose it does back up what I would’ve assumed had I thought about it for a few minutes. But almost 95 percent white was a surprising number.

So, it really isn’t the wettest winter in Seattle History. Well, in a way it sort of is

Cliff Mass, simply by moving the starting point further back to October, says it is really just the second wettest.

But, as a history person, I am going to pick on the use of the phrase “in Seattle History.”

So, obviously, you know where I’m going. Record keeping on this sort of thing started in 1894. Obviously, even if you are going to only count the white dominated part of our regional history, there are at least 4 decades of rain seasons that aren’t accounted for.

And if you’re a broad minded progressive, you’ll quickly point out that Seattle History did not start with the Denny Party landing on Alki, and that somewhere back in the history of all humans along Puget Sound (even in its most recent post ice age state) there were likely much wetter winters.

1894 though, right? Doesn’t that make sense?

Let’s go back five years. Washington was poised on the edge of a new era. After decades of federal servitude as a territory and economic servitude as a commercial outpost to San Francisco, Washington started the year with a constitutional convention with an aim at statehood. Then, it seems like every city in the state caught fire, most notable Seattle. It burned to the ground.

While on the face a long series of tragedies, the 1889 fires gave the cities an excuse to grow beyond their pioneer and territorial constructions and build something better. The year after the fire, Seattle was able to stretch beyond Puget Sound rival in population (42k to 36k) and never looked back since.

The fire laid waste the city, but it gave the people there the opportunity to build a brick and mortar, modern, and fireproof city. And, if you think of this new city as the historic Seattle we know today, then 1894 is as a good enough year as any (since it gave the city long enough to rebuild) to start recording historic rainfall.

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