Wayne Hensrude photographs, 1970s-1990s  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Hensrude, Wayne, 1944-2012
Wayne Hensrude photographs
1970s-1990s (inclusive)
Photographs, slides, and negatives (20 boxes and 1 oversize folder)
Collection Number
Photographs, slides, and negatives by Seattle photographer Wayne Hensrude, primarily of buildings being constructed and demolished in downtown Seattle, Washington
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 206-543-1929
Fax: 206-543-1931
Access Restrictions

Open to all users.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Wayne Hensrude (September 5, 1944-June 8, 2012) was born and raised in Bremerton, Washington. He showed an early aptitude for art and drawing, but his talent was not recognized or encouraged. He did poorly in school and, as was customary in the 1950s and 1960s, failed a couple of grades and was held back.

Hensrude was "in trouble" from the time he was fourteen years old. Instead of serving jail time for a car theft when he was eighteen, he was sent to Western State Hospital for mental illness treatment. A doctor there "diagnosed" him as being gay and attempted to cure him of it. Hensrude finished high school while he was a patient at Western State.

Upon his release from Western State Hospital, Hensrude moved to Seattle in 1964. He drifted from job to job but was often fired for poor performance. He met older male friends who enlisted him to take part in a residential burglary of a large amount of money. Hensrude was arrested for helping to transfer stolen money across state lines and was sentenced to federal prison for this crime, which was front-page news in the Bremerton newspaper, the Seattle newspapers, and on television. After his release from prison, Hensrude had difficulty finding work, and continued to re-offend and spend more time in prison. At his final arrest in 1977, his public defender attorney worked on Hensrude's behalf to plead to the judge that Hensrude be given another chance, given his mental health disability and non-violent record. Hensrude complied with his probation and was able to qualify for Social Security Income Disability (SSI).

Hensrude lived on SSI and in Seattle Housing Authority apartments from the late 1970s through 2007. While living near Pike Place Market and Belltown, he became interested in documenting Seattle's changing skyline created by new skyscrapers and condos. He bought a second-hand camera and lenses and learned how to use them. Although Hensrude had difficulty working in a traditional job, his photography projects showed that he had good skills in research, organization, and communications.

In April 1997, the Seattle Housing Authority newsletter, "The VOICE," featured Hensrude in an article entitled "The Past, Recaptured: Resident's photos preserve the face of a changing city." In the article, Hensrude explains that he takes his photographs because new buildings are "a major change in the neighborhood and there never seems to be a photographer around." He also received praise from Jodee Fenton, the Coordinator of the Fine and Performing Arts Department at the Seattle Public Library, who stated that "Wayne's work is really wonderful and he documents the way Seattle is changing with a regular person's eye...the man's got a mission, and he really goes after it."

Through his photography work, Hensrude learned a great deal of information about construction projects in downtown Seattle. He knew when a building was slated for demolition and what new building would go in its place. He took photographs as old buildings were being demolished, and floor-by-floor as new buildings were being constructed. He figured out how to gain access to top floors of other buildings to get better vantage points for his photographs. In addition to knowing about every new skyscraper built in downtown Seattle from the 1980s through the early 2000s, he also knew a lot of information about many of the older apartment buildings on Queen Anne and Capitol Hill, as he or his friends had lived there.

Hensrude loved to take photographs of buildings being demolished, and was in his element whenever there was an implosion. He took photographs of hundreds of downtown buildings as they were imploded, as well as the Asarco smelter and the King Dome. Hensrude also loved fireworks, and his 16th-floor north-facing apartment in the Bell Tower provided him with an ideal vantage point for taking photographs of the fireworks off the Space Needle.

Many of Hensrude's friends were down-and-outers and alcoholics like himself. They were poor or disabled, and lived in public housing or in shabby hotels and apartment buildings downtown. Many of Hensrude's photographs were of the new modern buildings being constructed, but they also included images of the grittier and poorer side of Seattle's downtown.

Hensrude's legacy will forever be the thousands of photographs he took of downtown Seattle buildings while he was living in Bell Tower at First Ave and Bell Street. In addition to the University of Washington Libraries Special Collections, Hensrude also donated many of his photographs, albums, and slides to the Museum of History and Industry.

Wayne Hensrude passed away on June 8, 2012 at the age of 68.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Photographs, negatives, and slides, primarily of downtown Seattle and surrounding areas. Many of the photographs document the demolition and construction of buildings in the 1980s and 1990s. Buildings under construction include the Seattle Art Museum, Benaroya Hall, Columbia Center, Pier 66, and apartment buildings such as Concept One and Belcourt. Buildings being demolished include the Music Hall Theatre and the Kingdome. Some photographs also document events, including protests, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot rallies, and fireworks from the Space Needle. Also included are two videocassettes: one featuring the "Lady Washington" leaving Seattle following the 1995 sailing, and another one of the Dorothy Day and Noel Houses. The collection also includes a hardhat with a "Kingdome Implosion Explosion" sticker and a rangefinder camera.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Creator's copyrights transferred to the University of Washington Libraries.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Apartment houses--Washington (State)--Seattle--Photographs
  • Demonstrations--Washington (State)--Seattle--Photographs
  • Neighborhoods--Washington (State)--Seattle--Photographs
  • Space Needle (Seattle, Wash.)--Photographs
  • Personal Names :
  • Hensrude, Wayne, 1944-2012--Archives
  • Corporate Names :
  • Benaroya Hall (Seattle, Wash.)--Construction--Photographs
  • Seattle Art Museum--Construction--Photographs
  • Geographical Names :
  • Pier 66 (Seattle, Wash.)--Construction--Photographs
  • Seattle (Wash.)--Buildings--Photographs

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Visual Materials Collections (University of Washington)