Locals to Know: Cynthia Brothers

Cynthia Brothers is the founder of @vanishingseattle, which documents and celebrates the stories of the Seattle-area businesses and communities that have been displaced and the ones who have survived. If you don’t follow the account already, we recommend ya do.

With in-depth captions and photos, the page is a great way to stay up to date about the people and spaces that have built up our city over the decades and those that continue to now. The account brings life to various neighborhoods, communities and individuals that make our city what it is! What’s not to love about that?!

Now let’s get to know Cynthia’s memories of Seattle, how she learns about local history and what lights her up about the city…

Who are you? What do you do?

I’m the founder of Vanishing Seattle.

Wax poetic a moment and tell us: what brings you most alive about this city?

The spirit of creativity, resistance, and resilience that has been a throughline of both boom and bust times. Seattle has long been a place of innovation and influence (and in ways that may not be talked about as often, but need to be elevated) — such as in labor and social movements (i.e. the 1919 General Strike; the Indigenous, Black and Chicanx occupations of the ’70s and ’80s), in the arts (like the jazz, swing & R&B clubs on Jackson in the ’40s-’70s) and much more.

What’s your favorite Seattle memory? 

Too many to count, but one powerful memory was going to Pho Bang at Re-Bar in the early 2000s – organized by and featuring Jackie Hell and Ursula Android. It drew a diverse cross-section of punks, performers, queer folx, and characters of all walks. It was my first experience of live drag, it was both typically and uniquely Seattle, and it changed my life.

If you could eat only one meal from a local restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Ack, you’re killin me here! Impossible to choose just one, but I’ll go with pho tai nam at Phở Bắc on Rainier.

Outside of the obvious stop above, share your other top three destinations for where you’d go on your perfect Seattle day.

A coffee or fresh squeezed juice and waffle breakfast sandwich at Melo Cafe in the Central District, followed by a movie at the historic independent (and now Black-owned) Ark Lodge Cinema in Columbia City, topped off with homemade potstickers, a cold beer, and karaoke at the longstanding, family-run Yen Wor Village in West Seattle.

Source: Vanishing Seattle

What’s your favorite local social media account (Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, or etc.) to follow and why?

There’s quite a few awesome social media accounts that touch on local history and culture, including @seattlecityarchives, which preserves and shares historical records of the City of Seattle. It’s a treasure trove of local photos, videos, documents & other gems.

If you could give any one piece of advice to locals, what would it be?

Stay curious about and engaged in this city — both its past and present. The most rewarding thing is rarely the most convenient. Shop small and support local businesses, artists, and organizations!

How does Seattle help you do what you do/influence your work?

The city of Seattle is my muse, so everything about it influences my work. The good and the bad; its people, places and complex histories are what inspire and drive me to keep creating content every day.

What’s an unpopular opinion you have about the city?

This may actually not be that unpopular of an opinion, but “The Seattle Freeze” stereotype is kinda played out and overblown. Many locals are quite friendly and will reciprocate the effort and energy that’s given. If someone gives ya a wave or says hello, please say hey back!

What are you looking forward to this year?

Reconnecting with friends and experiencing more of the incredible music, art, culture, and beauty Seattle has to offer. These collective spaces and experiences feel all the more crucial and sustaining as we emerge from/deal with the ongoing pandemic.

Does this series bring a very special Seattleite to your mind? Hit us up with info on any local you think we should be highlighting in this series, by sending an email to [email protected] and they may just appear in the newsletter!