Disappearing act(Former) Hostess Cake factory, Seattle, WA

Former Hostess Cake factory sketch by Chandler O'Leary

All cities grow, shrink or evolve over time—but as Seattle is in the midst of yet another building boom, the place is changing so rapidly that I can’t keep up. Landmarks and local mom-and-pops disappear in a puff of smoke—while presto-change-o, mammoth condos and office blocks pop up, seemingly overnight. Painted plywood fences mask building sites the way a magician’s red velvet cloth covers the lady sawn in half. Whole arterial exchanges get picked up and moved elsewhere, my shortcuts and well-worn paths shuffled like a deck of cards. Not only can I not begin to record all the changes in my sketchbooks—sometimes I have to erase huge swaths of my mental map and completely redraw them.

The sweeping changes are disorienting, but small tweaks are everywhere, too. The big plans misdirect our attention while the little things shift by sleight of hand, well beneath our notice. This prestidigitation happens so often that I wonder sometimes if I’m the only one still peering closely, trying to discover the magician’s trick. If I’m the only one whose heartstrings are tugged with every posting of a land use permit.

So revisiting the Hostess Cake Factory, which I sketched last year, seemed like the perfect symbol of how I feel about all this. The structure is an empty, faceless shell now, awaiting a makeover, or a tear-down, or something else entirely. The only remaining identifying features are the building’s rounded corners and its location on the map.

Saddest of all, the red hearts the building wore on its sleeve are gone—which feels suspiciously like a metaphor for the whole neighborhood. Maybe the magician will surprise us and make those hearts reappear at the history museum down the street. Until that day, I’ll keep their memory safe in my sketchbook.

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