Originally published in Skill Shot 16, October 2010
The Pacific Northwest has always been a great place for pinball and now it’s even better with the recent opening of the Seattle Pinball Museum.
The Seattle Pinball Museum (SPM) is the creation of Charlie and Cindy Martin of Federal Way WA, who first began forming their plan for the museum back in February. By mid-summer, Charlie had created a Facebook page announcing the museum and soon after, the Martins hosted a BBQ/meeting to gauge community interest. Needless to say, the pinball community responded positively and the Martins began searching for a space to rent.
While investigating spaces in Pioneer Square they became aware of Storefronts Seattle, an organization involved in revitalizing the Pioneer Square and International District neighborhoods. Storefronts Seattle matches artists/art with unused retail space and gets them free rent for a limited time, with the hope that the increased foot traffic the art brings in will improve the neighborhood as a whole. Realizing the potential of the Seattle Pinball Museum, Storefronts Seattle made them one of the first ten art projects accepted into the program.
The space was finalized at the end of August, and the Seattle Pinball Museum had one week to move in and open up for the First Thursday Art Walk, which happens each month in the neighborhood. Many people volunteered to make this happen by donating and delivering pinball machines, cleaning, advertising and other thankless tasks the museum needed done. On September 2nd the SPM had 10 pinball machines (and a few pachinkos) up and running for the Art Walk. Two days later they had an official grand opening with 13 working pins.
The SPM is located in a retail space on the bottom floor of a hotel in the International District/China Town of Seattle. It’s a large space that has big windows and a long wall of pinball machines. Above each of the games is a placard giving some facts about the pin, including the date it was manufactured. Almost all of the pinball machines are in working condition and available for the public to play. The machines are also lined up in chronological order with a flipper-less 1936 Bally Bumper being the closest to the front door, and Galactic Girl (2010), built by Seattle’s own Dominique Nick, holding up the rear.
The museum is an active space and while people playing pinball, often pins are being worked on. Go there during the day and you’re likely to see someone trying to coax a machine back to life, or giving one of the games a tune-up. There have been some interesting donations to the SPM recently, including a Tropics bingo-machine (1953) and a KISS (1978), neither of which were in working condition when dropped off. There’s also a lot of comings and goings, as pinball machines are added to the museum roster on a weekly basis. Charlie says that they have the space for 28 games.
The Seattle Pinball Museum is currently open Thursday – Sunday. Admission includes unlimited free-play. They also plan on opening for special events and tournaments. Check out their Facebook page for further details.
Seattle Pinball Museum, 508 Maynard Ave S, Seattle WA