Shanty Cafe on Elliott Ave. "The building was originally a pay station for dock workers, and became "Violet Shanty" restaurant in 1914 - and they have a menu from the '30s hanging inside." - @vanishingseattle 
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Shanty Cafe on Elliott Ave. "The building was originally a pay station for dock workers, and became "Violet Shanty" restaurant in 1914 - and they have a menu from the '30s hanging inside." - @vanishingseattle
Credit: Vanishing Seattle/Cynthia Brothers

Favorite Seattle spots show up here. Then disappear

You'd better hope your favorite Seattle spot never shows up on Cynthia Brothers' Instagram feed.

To be featured on @vanishingseattle, or on the companion Facebook site Vanishing Seattle, probably means imminent doom.

Not, of course, that Brothers is the cause. She's just the chronicler.

Brothers is a native Seattleite, and for the past year she has kept a visual record of the Seattle she knew, a Seattle that she believes is now on the verge of fading away.

It started in January 2016, with a video post of drag performer Atasha Manila's final show at Inay's Asian Pacific Cuisine. The restaurant was closing because of rising rent, and Manila's performance of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" tapped into something the whole crowd was feeling. The moment was so powerful, said Brothers, that "I just felt a need to not only document it and have it on record, but to share it and say: Look. Look at what a powerful, special moment this is. And this is something that we're losing."

Since then, Brothers has posted about other endangered bits of Seattle, from teriyaki-laundromat-donut shops (King Donut), to cheap-eat strip malls (Asian Plaza), to dinner theater (Teattro Zinzanni). Brothers documents other signs of a changing city, too: single family homes destined for the wrecking ball, fenced-off parking lots, defiant graffiti, and "Notice of Proposed Land Use Action" signs.

The feed has become something of a community. "When I post on places like Louie's Cuisine of China, or Old Spaghetti Factory," Brothers said, "people will share stories about how they celebrated their weddings and anniversaries there, how they brought their kids there all the time, how they grew up there. They're very meaningful experiences, and there's a real sense of loss."

Brothers has heard the arguments that, in order to make the city affordable for everyone, there needs to be more density, and more housing units. And Brothers would like to clarify. She does not hate progress - she just has questions. "I do hear a lot of comments about supply being the magic bullet, that's going to solve all our problems of affordability" she says. "But I would like people to think about: 'Who is able to benefit from the supply?"

Brothers also acknowledges that there is an element of nostalgia in her work. But, she said, for her that's just an entry point, a way of starting the conversation. "For me, the primary thing is about equity. It's a question of who loses out from these places that are being lost, and who is able to have access to the things that are replacing them."