Seattle Now & Then: Madrona Park – End of the Line

(click to enlarge photos – no exceptions made)

THEN: Thankfully, the original photo for this early view of Madrona Park has its date, December 18, 1892 written on the back. (Photo Courtesy, Ron Edge)
NOW: After the city took possession on Madrona Park in 1908 it removed the hotel shown in the historical photograph and later built the bathhouse showing here nearly on the same footprint as the bath house turned dance studio in the “now.” (Photo by Jean Sherrard)

The city’s “great fire” of 1889 excited its already boom town qualities with the great labor of rebuilding more than 30 city blocks from scratch and real estate loans.

The technology for running electric trolleys came to Seattle only months before the fire and following the destruction, trolley systems – in addition to cable cars – began to send out their trunk lines in most directions from the city’s core.  Many in the immigrant tide needed cheaper land to build their homes – sites not in old Seattle but also not far from it.  The new common carriers to Ballard, the University District (still named Brooklyn then), Beacon Hill and those on the east shore of Lake Washington obliged.

Three lines reached the lake – at Leschi, Madison, and Madrona.  There all of them featured parks and other attractions like promenades, canoes for hire and nature trails. The line to Madrona was the last of the three and the final part of it, where the trolley cars descended to the lake, was in the embrace of a picturesque forest.  On reaching the lake riders found bathhouses, a dance pavilion, and rustic benches disturbed along paths that led back into the forest.  The hotel shown here greeted them at lake’s edge.

The Madrona hotel was built in 1892 and that’s the date penciled on the flip side of the original photo card produced by A. J. McDonald, a photographer responsible for a few of the best suburban scenes hereabouts in the early 1890s.  On the left a trolley car stands at the end of its line.  Perhaps McDonald road that car to the park to make this impression, while the conductor waited for him to return for the ride back to Pioneer Square, with a First Hill transfer on Broadway Avenue to a James Street cable car.  The fare from waterfront to waterfront – Elliott Bay to Lake Washington – was five cents.


For the complete MADRONA PARK STORY with some extras too, please click here.

6 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Madrona Park – End of the Line”

  1. Love your Seattle Then and Now column and always study the pictures. While looking at the Madrona Park Then and Now pictures closely in this morning’s Pacific Northwest Magazine I observed the following–the date on the photo, December 18, is not supported by what’s in the picture–leaves on trees and people without coats.
    What do you think?

  2. I heartily enjoy the pictorial history you present each Sunday in Pacific Northwest. I, like Ms. Kenny, wonder about the date matching up with the more summer looking state of the trees and the dress of the people in the photo.

  3. Paul;Old ferryboater here asking if the rails extended out to the west edge of Lake Washington vice east?

  4. Oh my Brigette and Paul haven’t you heard that the Madrone tree for which the park was named does not lose its leaves? That is my preferred response. The truth is that as I get older I am both slower and preoccupied. I don’t always pay attention to the growing things. Here – Jean suggests – that I enjoyed the architecture too much and did not see the trees for the timber. David I do not understand the end of your question about rails extending “to the west edge of Lake Washington vice east?” The rails did not follow the shore either north or south from this point. Towards the end – and long after the lake was lowered – a circle of rails was laid at this terminus so that the trolleys used could be single-enders. Somewhere I have a photo of that.

  5. Paul I over simplify things and when I read that the tracks headed to the east side of the lake I immediately related that area as Bellevue and knew that didn’t happen so if not east side of the lake then west. db

  6. On doing some Seattle Times research on the Factoria area on the Eastside, I came across a promotional story from September 1910 where the promoters of the Factoria town-site purchased a hotel building and had it floated across the lake from Seattle to serve the developing community, since they didn’t have time to build one from scratch. Could this have been the same one?

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