The William Grose Center for Cultural Innovation and Enterprise celebrated its grand opening in the Central District of Seattle, reports Capitol Hill Seattle Blog.
The center was launched as an “economic empowerment and community-driven development” space that offers training, networking, and connections to help launch new businesses and careers in the Central Area.
“Historic Districts are OK, but we don’t want to be museum pieces and plaques in the neighborhood where we once were vibrant,” Africatown Community Land Trust president and CEO K. Wyking Garrett said. “This will be a living memorial.”
Previously, the building was home to a fire station and was used to store Seattle Police vehicles. After $1 million in renovations funded by the City of Seattle Equitable Development Initiative led by Black-owned contracting firms, and $400,000 in donations from KeyBank, Boeing, and Kaise, the building was transformed. UW Paul Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, Renton Technical College, Salesforce, and All is Well Studios have all signed on to become community partners of the center.
The week of celebration commenced on Monday with an appearance by Mayor Bruce Harrell. On Wednesday and Thursday nights, the center hosted open houses for visitors to tour the new facility and a ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on Friday. Descendants of the William Grose family were in attendance.
Around 1860, William Grose settled in Seattle, becoming the second Black resident of the city. As a successful restaurant owner and barber, he purchased 12 acres of land in Madison Valley in 1882. Just seven years later, Grose helped to transform the wooded area into a thriving oasis for Black families who moved to the Pacific Northwest.
Eventually, Grose would become the wealthiest member of Seattle's Black community. He helped to establish the Cornerstone Grand Lodge of the York Masons, Seattle's first Black Masonic chapter. The women relatives of the Masons went on to form the Queen of Sheba Court. The lodge held annual parades down Madison Street up until the 1940s.
Grose was also a trustee of Seattle's first African-American church, the Jones Street African Methodist Episcopal Church (now First AME Church).
He passed away in 1898.
Because of Grose’s efforts, Madison Valley and the hill up to 23rd became the home of the Black community in Seattle.
For more information on the William Grose Center for Cultural Innovation and Enterprise, visit their here.