Yesterday, Ruth & I went to Seattle to check out the new Museum of History & Industry, MOHAI. If you have a desire to learn lots & lots about the city that spawned Nirvana & Pearl Jam, this is a 5 Compass addition to its scene.
MOHAI officially opened on December 29, 2012, and was immediately successful. 7,000 showed up on its first day and 30,000 have already been in, seemingly equally divided between locals reminiscing about the Seattle where they grew up and those who don’t live here but are eager to learn about its history and unique culture. I highly recommend MOHAI to those visiting Seattle for the first time and needing an introduction to the Northwest’s most exciting city.
MOHAI is located in a part of town that has experienced a renaissance. Very recently Lake Union Park north of downtown at the South end of Lake Union was an area of derelict warehouses, etc. Now its alive with just opened coffee houses and tempting new places with names like Serious Pie and Lunchbox Laboratory. In a lovingly restored Naval Reserve Armory with art deco detail, MOHAI has 4 levels. My advice would be to focus on #2 where there’s an excellent film to get you started.
Level 4 is about Seattle’s maritime history in a relatively small area with many windows overlooking Lake Union. At one point we were staring out as a seaplane, a sailboat, and a tugboat converged. The most fun object, for us, was an actual working periscope. The marine information amazes: by 1904 Puget Sound was second only to New York in U.S. export shipping.
Level 2 extends around the building and covers industry, mining, the music scene, sports, movie making, etc. Seattle always has and still deserves the name Boomtown. In 1889, for example, more than 800 new buildings kept construction workers busy. For every church there were a dozen saloons. There’s a serious focus on local business–Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon–in a city where the median age is 36. “Celluloid Seattle” celebrates cinema in a city with a lively Cinerama theater. It Happened at the World’s Fair, an Elvis epic, is one of dozens of films with recognizable names made here and featured in MOHAI.
The extremely spacious Level 1 is of special interest to locals with exhibits like a classic UPS truck and Black Bart, the actual animated Cowboy who greeted World’s Fair visitors in 1962.
One slight disadvantage to MOHAI’s location is parking. The Museum encourages patrons to take public transportation. We were very lucky to find 2 hour on-street parking nearby. It took us about 2 hours to get barely introduced to this superb addition to Seattle’s attractions.