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January 22nd, 2014 MARTY SMITH | Dr. Know
 

Dr. Know: Pearls of Wisdom

drknowILLUSTRATION: Hawk Krall
With regard to how the Pearl District got its name—I heard it was named after the original developer’s favorite slave.

—Leon

You’re a laugh riot, Leon. Ordinarily, a letter like yours would never see print—I’d simply (a) alert the laugh-riot police, (b) let them disperse you with laughing-gas grenades, seltzer cannon and rubber-chicken bullets, and (c) get back to freebasing Rogaine.

Today, though, your letter allows me to revisit the Pearl District-naming controversy (“Dr. Know,” WW, Jan. 1, 2014), in which there have been important new developments.

I know it may be difficult to imagine that this column—the Northwest’s leading promulgator of the word “boner”—might be in the position of correcting the historical record, but bear with me.

You’ll recall that the accepted Pearl District-naming story is that gallery owner Thomas Augustine casually dropped the phrase in a 1980s interview with an unspecified “travel magazine,” and it spread like wildfire from there.

It now seems that someone was pouring gasoline on that fire. “I dare say I’m the one who made the name popular,” says Terry Hammond, editor and publisher of the now-defunct Rose Arts Magazine.

A March 1987 story in Rose Arts called “The Pearl District” appears to be the first mention of Augustine’s coinage in print, and Hammond says he wrote it with the express purpose of getting the name to stick.

Hammond, who acknowledges the name helped his magazine sell ads, says he stumped hard for “Pearl District” with neighborhood businesses. The turning point may have been in September 1987, when organizers of a planned annual fair agreed to call it the Pearl Arts Festival.

When the name turned up in Sunset magazine the following year, Hammond knew he was home free. “I thought, ‘Yes! Literature does work!’” Ah, the printed word, making a difference in people’s lives. Those were the days.


QUESTIONS? Send them to dr.know@wweek.com

 
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