(click to enlarge photos)
On Christmas Day 1894, a landslide dropped a 150-foot swath off the bluff between the lower and upper parts of Kinnear Park into Elliott Bay. Seattle’s third park sits on the southwest brow of Queen Anne Hill. From its northern border on West Olympic Place, it nearly plunges 250 feet in elevation to the waterfront.
For the Seattle Park Board, the slide of ’94 was encore to a swan dive taken a year earlier by the city treasury with the economic Panic of 1893. The board decreed that “the limited funds at disposal” be used only on the “upper portion of this park, which is upon the solid bluff.” When Angie and George Kinnear gave the park to the city for one dollar in the fall of 1887, the beach, backed by ancient Douglas Firs, was already a poplar retreat for those who could reach it. Its open view to the Olympics was blocked earlier that summer of ‘87 by the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern Railroad, the first of three off-shore trestles to run between the beach and the bay.
From the upper park the views across Puget Sound were transcendent, (still are) and it was there that the Seattle City Council relaxed on the afternoon of its May 1, 1900 “official inspection tour.” City Engineer Reginald Thomson, sitting here directly behind the councilman on the far left, led the May Day tour that was primarily of the reservoirs and standpipes being then completed for the anticipated delivery by gravity of cool and pure Cedar River water in abundance. For his “repeat” one hundred and fourteen years later, Jean Sherrard took the freshly restored but still steep path down the bluff to record the Park Department’s and FOLKpark’s Grand Opening of the restored park on Saturday, April 26, last.
FOLKpark stands for Friends of Lower Kinnear Park. For this Sunday’s feature the most important member among them is Marga Rose Hancock. A neighbor of the park, she first suggested this “now and then,” and then, out of respect to the dress code of the city council in 1900, pulled from her large collection of purple hats, covers for the heads of those posing now, including one of a FOLKpark member’s dog named Sam. Jean’s “now” is a sampler of both happy and concerned citizens. It includes the department of park’s acting superintendent, the deputy mayor, several more members of FOLKpark, two council members, a Washington State senator, the director of the Queen Anne Historical Society, and a representative of the neighborhood’s Uptown Alliance.
Also posing are two members of the Ballard Sedentary Sousa Band, which played for the dedication ceremony. Marga Rose is found, all in purple, behind the band’s trombonist named salamander. It is a moniker that by request includes no caps or first name.
Anything to add, Paul? We hope to – Ron and I. There are former features from this blog that have parts relevant to this southwest corner of Queen Anne Hill. Included are the blog features titled “The Whilhelmina / Winona;” “Smith Cover Glass Works,” published April 28, 2012; and “Testing Cedar River Water,” that appeared here on Jan 2, 2010. And there are others, as you will find if you use the KEY WORD approach offered above, and type there either “Kinnear” or “Queen Anne.” We sincerely hope to also put up actual links to some of these by the time the sun rises, illuminating the paper routes to your front doors.
THE KINNEAR PAR MUSHROOM AKA UMBRELLA
Seattle’s earliest parks from the 1880s and 1890s were rusticated with park benches shaped from unhewn tree limbs, trestles, pergolas and gates that one might imagine were handmade by forest nymphs. Judging by the number of photographs that survive, one of the more popular examples was Kinnear Park’s romantic mushroom – or umbrella or parachute.
A “rustic parachute trellis seat” is what the Seattle Park Department’s annual report for 1892 calls it. Also that year a “rustic bluff barrier rail” was completed along the exposed edge of the upper level of Kinnear Park. Thee improvements were made two year after the Kinnear family’s gift to the city was cleared of underbrush. Beds of flowers and hrub were donated by neighbors and arranged by the park’s gardener. In 1894 a “picturesque pavilion” wa added atop a knoll and connected to the park by “rustic bridge.”
The Seattle Park Department’s archival “Sherwood Files – named for Don Sherwood and searchable on the park department’s web page – do not reveal when the umbrella was removed. Ultimately these rustic structures were too delicate – too organic — to survive the wear of admiring park visitors. And on occasions this narrow strip along the southwest slope of Queen Anne Hill was quite busy. For instance, the crowds attending the Tuesday evening concerts in the park during the summer of 1910 averaged more than 2,500.
Through the summer of 1936, Kinnear Park was used for Sunday forums on such uplifting topics as “How Cooperatives Help Our City” and “Are We Getting Better or Worse?,” and six-minute talks on “Why I am a Republican, Democrat, Socialist, Communist, Prohibitionist.” These assemblies concluded with community sing-alongs which, The Seattle Times reported, send the crowds home with their faces “wreathed in smiles.”
2 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Kinnear Park”
Greetings, I assume I’m address Jean Sherrard, maybe Paul Dorpat too. I grew up until I was in my teens in the large brown house right next to the Kinnear mansion on the same property. My great uncle Charles owned the mansion then, and I used to visit him and his wife Lena in their sitting room on the second floor. I often played in Kinnear Park which was probably about a quarter mile from my house, and my maternal grandmother lived in an apartment just beyond the west end of the Park. I thought you would enjoy a wonderful picture that came down to me of the mansion on a snow-covered day. It’s on the cover of my book, “My Father’s House”, which you can find on the Amazon website, either by searching the title or my name, Cal Kinnear. My full name is George Calvert Kinnear (Middle name is my mother’s family name; her father was Frank Calvert, a cartoonist and one of the founders of Beaux Arts Village). My father’s full name was George Cosgrove Kinnear, and of course great grandfather’s name was also George Kinnear.
I was delighted by this article about the Park, as I have been for many years by the photos and remarks Paul Dorpat has run in the Times. My thanks for the fine, enduring work.
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