All over the map: Seattle’s hidden parks to visit while social distancing
With so many people working from home and walking around their neighborhoods for exercise, you may discover parks and other public spaces you never knew existed.
This is exactly what happened to me on a walk around Lake Union earlier this week. I drove my car and rode my bike past a place on Eastlake Avenue for decades. But on foot, I came face to face for the first time with Fairview Park.
It’s along Eastlake south of Allison Street – not too far from the University Bridge – and it’s a cool little park with long stairs down a steep hill to a meadow with picnic tables. The park isn’t huge, maybe about an acre, and its western edge runs up against Fairview Avenue East along the shore of the lake, but it also has water access.
Fairview Avenue East in this neighborhood has nothing to do with the thoroughfare that connects Lake Union and Denny Way. This stretch hasn’t changed much since 1970, when the Seattle Times described it as “an ill-defined two-lane patchwork of bumps and potholes.”
Fairview Park, with its unique views of Lake Union, the houseboats, Queen Anne Hill, Gasworks Park and all the boat traffic on the water, is a great place for a picnic, or even an alternative outdoor work space with a laptop and a pair of headphones. Officially, Fairview Park is considered part of the Lake Cheshiahud Union Loop which circumnavigates Lake Union in a route of about six miles.
I researched Fairview Park and didn’t find much, but there is some interesting information.
At their website, the non-profit organization Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks, writes:
In his 1903 report, John Charles recommended a number of smaller parks and playgrounds located throughout the city, including three possible sites which “are desirable on the east and south shores of Lake Union”.
The location of Fairview Park, which he identified as a “pleasant site”, but “not as well located or as useful for playground purposes” as the site further south (which includes the present Terry Park pettus).
From the “random history-rabbit-hole” department, it turns out it was front page news that very day – March 20, 1930 – when Fairview Park was listed along with other parks other than the Engineering Department. of the city wanted to cut new roads through. For Fairview Park, this could have meant extending Shelby Street from east to west.
It was also at the same time that it was first publicly revealed that the city wanted to break into Aurora Avenue through Woodland Park. There was much public outcry and a spirited campaign to try to stop the bisection of Woodland Park, but voters broadly approved of the new stretch of road in November 1930. Colman Park in West Seattle, which had also been threatened with a bisector road, was spared.
For many of Seattle’s largest parks, there are wonderful historical essays and maps produced in the 1960s and 1970s by a talented parks employee named Don Sherwood. As far as I know, Sherwood never mapped or wrote about Fairview Park before his death in 1981, but information about all the other parks he researched and wrote about is available online. through the Seattle Municipal Archives.
Sherwood’s stories of Seattle parks are absolutely invaluable, and another newer resource is my friend david williams book, Walks in Seattle – with maps, photos and detailed notes on human and natural history along several suggested walking routes in the city.
With so many people working from home and spending more time in their own neighborhoods all around Western Washington these days, I hope you and your family may have stumbled upon some neighborhood parks or spaces greens that you hadn’t noticed before or had a chance to explore.
If you know of an interesting place, share it in the comments or email me with details. Be as specific as possible on the exact location and send a photo if you can. We’ll share information about these places on MyNorthwest, and if I can find an interesting story about one of these places, we’ll share that as well.
You can hear Feliks every Wednesday and Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News and read more from him. here. If you have a story idea, please email Feliks here.