Home on 26th Ave E in Montlake demolished in the early 1960s for the (never built) R.H. Thomson Expressway. Image: Seattle Engineering Archives, via the Montlake Community Club.
What do Saul Alinsky, the Black Panthers and the Arboretum have in common? The successful grassroots campaign that stopped the R.H. Thomson Expressway from carving up East Seattle neighborhoods in the 1960s and 1970s. A Thursday lecture hosted by the Arboretum Foundation will discuss the movement in detail. RSVP info below.
Remembering the Grassroots Campaign That Shut Down the R.H. Thomson Expressway
Advocacy on behalf of the Arboretum is one of the key components of the Foundation’s mission. Please join us at the Graham Visitors Center this Thursday, May 23, at 7 p.m. to hear Franklin Butler tell his compelling story of activism from more than 40 years ago, when he joined with other citizens of Seattle to help preserve the Arboretum we know and love today.
Butler was a student at UW in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when state and city officials were proposing to construct a new freeway, the R.H. Thomson Expressway, through the eastern edge of the city of Seattle. If built, the expressway would have run right through many city neighborhoods, as well as through the west side of the Arboretum, destroying much of this Seattle landmark.
As part of a larger grassroots movement, Butler and several other students decided to oppose the project. They sought help from famed community organizer, Saul Alinsky, who came from Chicago to train the students in activist techniques. Radical groups such as the Black Panthers and the Students for a Democratic Society joined their campaign.
The infamous “ramps to nowhere” in the Arboretum – soon to be permanently removed as part of the upcoming 520 bridge replacement – are evidence that the campaign led by Butler and other local activists was a success.
Don’t miss this chance to hear Franklin Butler’s first-hand account of what happened.
Space is limited, so please RSVP soon to save your place. To RSVP, email Rhonda Bush or call her at 206-941-2550.
Proposed S.R. 520/R.H. Thomson Expressway interchange in the Arboretum. Image: UW Special Collections