Skid Road: An Informal Portrait of Seattle
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Skid Road: An Informal Portrait of Seattle

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  167 ratings  ·  38 reviews
Skid Road: An Informal Portrait of Seattle, by Morgan, Murray
Paperback, 296 pages
Published January 1st 1982 by University of Washington Press (first published 1951)
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Amy
Aug 03, 2014 Amy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Amy by: Pam
2.5 stars. I found parts of Skid Road to be very entertaining. I really liked the treatment of Doc Maynard (a most excellent fellow), I appreciated learning about how Chinese immigrants were demonized in Seattle during the 1880s, and I enjoyed learning that women got the right to vote in Washington (and thus Seattle) in 1883 (lost it in 1888), and regained it again in 1910. Women were not give the right to vote nationally until 1920, so I was amazed that Washington women were enfranchised so ear...more
David
Histories are often dry reads, but this one avoids that by focusing on the often outlandish personalities and stranger-than-fiction politics of early Seattle. The result is a book that's absorbing and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. Unlike many history books, which tend to end before the reader's living memory, this one has an additional chapter at the end that recounts events up through the early 1980s, albeit in somewhat less detail than the rest of the book. Footnotes are used sparingly an...more
Larisa
After living in Seattle for 11 years, I figured it was time to learn more about its history then I'd gleaned from taking tours when my parents came to visit. The first few chapters are engaging and enlightening. Morgan's focus on the lives of the people who founded the town (particularly Doc Maynard) really fleshes out the events. I love knowing that the reason the streets still don't match up downtown is because Maynard and Henry Yesler were stubborn and refused to compromise. However, as the b...more
J.M. Hushour
If ever adapted into another medium, this is one of those works of history that'd be narrated/personified by Sam Elliott or your drunken grandparent, always happy to kick their heels up, fold their arms across their chest and tell you stories of the good ol' days. That's precisely what this is: a story of Seattle's good ol' bad ol' whorin' and drinkin' days, before the city got all pseudo Super Bowl Space Needle respectable and all those kids with their jangled-fangled instruments screaming into...more
Natalie Bayne
This book took me forever to read. Not because it wasn't good (it was really good) but because it's only available in print. And since I usually read on my phone, I didn't realize that the lights above my bed had been out for a while. And since there was no way I was getting out of bed to change bulbs, I started reading something else instead. By the time I'd finished the new book, this one was buried somewhere on my nightstand under crossword puzzles and glasses of water and I'd completely forg...more
Charlie
I would like to give this book more stars because of local pride, and the fact Morgan was writing about an almost-forgotten backwater in the 1950s. But this is one of those history books that should be read by someone who knows nothing of Seattle, sort of a timeline pegboard to hang things on when one decides to get serious. For example, Morgan makes no mention (or one-sentence descriptions) of the Curtis brothers, or Vernon Parrington, or Seattle's function as a stop on the Underground Railroad...more
Tom
Mar 23, 2008 Tom rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Seattleites,urban historians
Recommended to Tom by: My mom
This is the definitive history of Seattle pre 1950, with some updating to the 1970s. It does miss Seattle's incredible growth since the late 1970s, and the whole Starbucks/Grunge/Microsoft thing that so enamored the New York Times in the 1990s. But it's good solid history of the founding of Seattle, the poor treatment of the Asian population (not just during WW II), and its various boom and bust cycles. The discussion of why Seattle didn't end up playing second fiddle to Tacoma is particularly s...more
Arianne Bergman
A ton of fun. Didn't know what to expect aside from saucy stories and salty old dogs, but was actually well-written, well-researched, and one of the more enjoyable books I've read in a while. Even having grown up in Seattle and feeling like I knew it pretty well, this brings out layers I had no idea were even around. Definitely keeping my copy for re-perusal at random.
Erin Gayton
I agree with other readers who note the uneven nature of this book, but the first half of the book is so strong that I think it warrants 5 stars, even if you quit reading after the chapter on the great fire. I first read "Skid Road" years ago, and have never been able to get Morgan's characterization of Doc Maynard out of my head (particularly the image of him paddling his canoe up Puget Sound, the tall conifers crowding the water). Reading it a second time, there are moments when the book feels...more
Donna
I really like this book, a portrait of old Seattle. The Skid Road is now a major east/west street, but it was originally named by the book's title, because the lumber was cut and then shoved down this steep street to the waterfront for export.

The fifth star is missing because if you are not from Seattle or the surrounding area, it may not be of as much interest to you as it is to me. However, the late Murray Morgan is good with prose, and can make nonfiction sound like a fascinating tale he just...more
Barrie
Hmmmm, so I didn't like this as much as I wanted to. I've had to lie to a few people because they would just gush over how great this book is and for the sake of not getting into a conversation about it, I'd agree. But really I think I'm just not into historical books, unless they're memoir biography types. It's just that there's so much information crammed into 200+ pages that I quickly get lost. The book isn't quite a story, rather than lots of historical accounts. I enjoyed the information, b...more
Michael
Jun 27, 2014 Michael rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Michael by: Peter Stark
Enjoyable history
Wesley Andrews
Installment #4 on my quest to learn more about my home, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

I just started Native Seattle, by Coll Thrush. Previous installments: Once Upon a Time in Seattle, by Emmett Watson; Pugetopolis, by Knute Berger; The Street-smart Naturalist - Field Notes from Seattle, by David B. Williams.

This quest was prompted in large part by Kurt Hoelting's, The Circumference of Home: One Man's Yearlong Quest for a Radically Local Life.
Felisa Rosa
The definitive book on the history of Seattle, which is sort of surprising when you consider that the author modestly calls Skid road 'an informal portrait of Seattle'. Everyone who writes about Seattle's history quotes Murray Morgan, probably because he was an evocative writer with a great eye for the characters and tidbits that make history fascinating. A wonderful book. If you are going to read one book about the city, read this one.
Josephine Ensign
Interesting although also infuriating in the lack of citations/sources of the numerous direct quotes throughout the book. Also has a misleading title since it is really an informal history of the (mainly) white men in power positions throughout Seattle's formation as a city. Only passing references (again unsubstantiated except for one UW sociology student unpublished thesis) to the residents of Skid Road.
giselayvonne
It was well written, but it ran the gamut: from the fun and ridiculous of Seattle and ending, pretty much with an exceptionally long chapter on the history of union organizations...at the same time interesting and boring. an interesting read even if at times it was tedious, but gave me perspective on this Seattle city since it's origins as a city.
Maura
I really enjoyed this book. It was a great history of Seattle. After reading this book I went on the Seattle Underground Tour. The tour was very intresting, but the book had been so informative that I found myself silently editing the information provided by the tour guide. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of Seattle.
Justin Gailey
Pretty much the Howard Zinn of Seattle history. Highlighting the people that made Seattle but never got a street named after them.
Nancy
I lived in Seattle for about 16 months in 1967 & 1968. My time there only gave me a snapshot of the city. This book helped me learn about the personalities who created the Seattle I dallied with. Perhaps it was just me, but it took a few chapters to get really engaged with the book.
Robyn O'hara-prentice
Very good history of Seattle. Some nice Anecdotes, would have liked more pictures of "then and now" but got some good ideas of where to look none the less. Will look forward to exploring pioneer square now. Have good insight as to where and how the downtown streets got the names
Mickey
Daniel B. got me this book for Christmas, as part of my plan to get to know Seattle better the way I got to know Philly better by reading Prayer for a City. Didn't quite work out that way, since this book was a lot dryer.
Lily
Really engaging recounting of Seattle's history. Explores the city's past and explains the historical reasons behind the modern day setup of the city. A must-read for any Seattlite.
Gerry Czerak
We loved our week in and around Puget Sound, so this history of the Seattle region became part of my collection of histories of places I have visited. Rough and tumble!
Frank
Bravo! I knew Seattle had an interesting history, but Morgan does a bang-up job focusing on essential characters and events in a concise but compelling fashion.
MC
Murry Morgan's narrative style is great. Reading this is like listening to your great-uncle tell stories around the fireplace. A must for Seattle folks.
Nathan Waldren
How come native Northwesterners are such a pack of weirdos? This book is a good primer on where the Northwest came from and how it came to be.
Mark
Great character portrait of early Seattle. Brings to life the real motivations and the colorful personalities that forged the Emerald City early on.
Jessica
A great history of Seattle! Written as more of a novel (as opposed to a textbook). Very colorful characters and very well written!
McLean
A wonderfully insightful and readable history of Seattle. It's amazing to see where our current culture came from.
Shirley
Well researched about Seattle, especially useful were chapters on vaudeville and the Klondike gold rush.
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