Seattle’s many small, independent bookstores each have their own unique identity, largely formed by the books and other items that they choose to house on their limited shelf space. Each has an ideal customer that the bookstore is built for. But which bookstore is for you? Well, if you are a caring parent, an attentive teacher, or a curious kid, there is a store in Seattle built just for you: Dr. Rudolf Steiner Bookstore & Children’s Shop.
Situated in a small blue house on Lake City Way, the store is packed with unique books, toys, and crafts, many of which are informed by the work of Rudolf Steiner, the turn-of-the-century Austrian philosopher who developed the spiritual philosophy of anthroposophy and created Waldorf education. Yet, even those unfamiliar with Waldorf will find tools to foster the creativity and imagination of children.
Here are five features that make the Steiner bookstore a must-visit destination for anyone interested in finding new, fun ways to encourage the intellectual and artistic pursuits of our children.
Besides the large selection of games, play silks, dolls, crafts, and art supplies, the store is best known as the home of Georgian Wood Toys. Established in 2001, the Seattle company is the original North American importers of beautifully hand-crafted and painted toys from the Republic of Georgia on the Black Sea. These one-of-a-kind toys are suitable for children of all ages and range from teething rings and baby toys to dinosaurs to an extensive variety of animals of all kinds, as well as trucks, cars, planes, trees, bushes, and Bible toys. The quality is exceptional and this bookstore has the largest selection in the country to choose from. They make great birthday and holiday gifts because there simply is nothing else like them.
About 75 percent of the store inventory is dedicated to children, including hundreds of children’s books. The books for children range from classic to contemporary, including many that are unique and creative. There are Christmas and wintertime books, and books that feature Biblical stories and themes with many book series for older readers as well.
The adult section includes books on art, science, farming and gardening, education, parenting, esotericism, and Christianity. There is special emphasis on books about anthroposophy and related material by Steiner and others who write out of the same stream of spiritual wisdom.
Dolores Rose Dauenhauer, the store’s co-founder, adhered to the principles of Waldorf education, which emphasizes the role of imagination in learning and strives to holistically integrate the intellectual, practical, and artistic development of students of all ages. Today, there are thousands of independent Waldorf schools in more than 60 countries. “We have all sorts of resources for parents and teachers to help the intellectual, practical, and artistic development of youngsters,” explains Dolores’ son, Frank Dauenhauer, who now manages the store. “Not just Waldorf parents, but all parents can find little treasures here—toys, crafts and books—for their children. Plus, we have all kinds of art materials and books for adults too.”
Dolores Dauenhauer discovered the anthroposophical movement of Steiner at a Seattle lecture in 1975. She had been searching for a philosophy that would unite her artistic, educational, and moral ideals, and anthroposophy fit the bill, her son said. She dedicated the rest of her life to implementing the Steiner philosophy, particularly through the arts.
She and fellow Seattle resident Ronald Moss founded the bookstore in 1976. She took over the bookstore operation on her own in 1995 after Moss’ death, eventually purchasing the little blue house where the bookstore currently operates. The bookstore comes under the umbrella of the Center for Anthroposophical Endeavors, a nonprofit organization she and Moss originally founded in 1982 under the name Friends of Anthroposophy.
“My mother was dedicated to bringing out imaginative and creative spark in children and adults,” Frank says. “This was her passion, her commitment. She wasn’t out to make a profit.” In 1978, Dolores co-founded the first Waldorf School in Seattle, which follows a Steiner curriculum. She brought in speakers from all over the world to educate parents on Waldorf education and Steiner philosophies.
“She must have had thousands of people come to speak over the decades that followed,” Frank says.
The store website includes a virtual tour in addition to a large selection of toys and books that can be ordered online. Frank says the store is expanding its inventory in preparation for the holiday season. He also encourages visitors who come to the store to walk the labyrinth and a meditation garden that were special projects of his mother.