Her first post, back in 2016, was of Inay’s Asian Pacific Cuisine on the last day of its existence.
A server who led a drag show at the Beacon Hill restaurant was belting a rendition of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” Cynthia Brothers uploaded the video of the performance to Instagram along with hashtags #vanishingseattle, #renthike and #gentrification.
She had been “feeling continually frustrated,” Cynthia said. Seattle was her home town and she was “seeing people get pushed out, and places I love going under.“
So Cynthia started the popular Vanishing Seattle Instagram account in January 2016, when she realized that the extreme inequity and gentrification that had been happening in New York’s Chinatown — where she’d lived for five years — had begun to surface in her hometown.
She first began posting photos that highlighted the changes she had seen happening in Seattle, like this #throwbackthursday post of the Buckaroo Tavern in Fremont, which closed in 2010.
View this post on Instagram
#TBT: The infamous #Buckaroo Tavern! One of #Seattle 's oldest #wateringholes, opened in 1938, and for 72 years poured taps split into "cheap beer" vs "good beer" & drinks stiff enuf to singe your nose hairs off. #10ThingsIHateAboutYou was filmed here – but that's probably the least cool thing about The Buckaroo. Closed in 2010 after they lost their lease. #Fremont #RIP #buckarootavern #TheBuckaroo #TheBuck #tavern #wildwest #classicbars #bikerbars #divebars #cashonly #iconic #landmark #gentrification #displacement #neonsigns #oldsigns #vanishingseattle #throwbackthursday
She also posted about small local businesses she thought others should support and help preserve and she shared photos that highlighted the frustration some Seattleites felt about the development in the city.
She wanted Vanishing Seattle to be provocative and to strike a nerve with people who looked at the photos and said “hell yeah” or “this is unfair.” At the same time, she’d heard from some people who were newer to Seattle who had said, “I’m mad that you’re mad about this. Just get over it.”
Cynthia had never wanted Vanishing Seattle to feel like a personal attack against a single person. But she knew the history would benefit newcomers with the “get over it” attitude, so they could hear and be empathetic to the concerns of Seattleites who had been feeling hurt by the changes. She was hoping that people could find some common ground and drop the us versus them mentality.
Five plus years later and Vanishing Seattle is still going strong, saving Seattle memories for those who had been and those who had yet to see. Like the Elephant Car Wash:
This Elephant Car Wash opened in 1951 (the famed one on Battery opened in 1956 & was closed & demo’d last year) by Dean, Archie & Eldon Anderson. First known as Five Minute Car Wash, it was the first automatic car wash in WA. Dean & Eldon invented the hands-free system (super innovative at the time) by building on the tunnel design with a new car pulley system, nozzles with soap & water, overhead sprinklers, mechanical brushes & a 50-horsepower dryer.
And, during the times of the Pandemic, she has used the account to pay homage to those local shops that have had to close down. Like The Stables event space in #Georgetown
And she gives good news to the businesses who have made it back!
To Seattle newcomers, Cynthia gives this advice: “Be the fertilizer, not the weeds.” By that she means, be mindful, curious and respectful in appreciating and helping maintain what people love about Seattle. “Even if — and especially if — it doesn’t directly interest or cater to you.”
Most importantly, she adds: “The account is not just about nostalgia, it’s about equity. I believe we have the power to make change if we share our stories, get connected and get engaged — and my hope is that Vanishing Seattle can be a part of encouraging and amplifying that.”
Vanishing Seattle is on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
This story originally appeared in an earlier edition of The Evergrey, but has been updated to thank @VanishingSeattle for the incredible work that has gone into it during the pandemic. Thank you 👉 Cynthia Brothers💖!