Seattle Now & Then: Licton Springs

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Before it became a city park, Licton Springs was run as a health spa. The distant home, left-of-center, at the northeast corner of N. 97th Street and Densmore Avenue N., survives in Jean Sherrard’s repeat. It can be found on the left above the Y in the Licton Springs Park pathway. (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archives)
THEN: Before it became a city park, Licton Springs was run as a health spa. The distant home, left-of-center, at the northeast corner of N. 97th Street and Densmore Avenue N., survives in Jean Sherrard’s repeat. It can be found on the left above the Y in the Licton Springs Park pathway.  And the house on the hill  can also be found below just above Jean’s salutations, my response  and Ron’s llinks.  (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archives)
NOW: Jean Sherrard estimates that for his repeat he needed to move forty or fifty feet to the northeast to escape a planted woodland of park trees that now crowd the prospect taken by the city photographer for the 1945 photo of the Licton Mineral Springs health spa.
NOW: Jean Sherrard estimates that for his repeat he needed to move forty or fifty feet to the northeast to escape a planted woodland of park trees that now crowd the prospect taken by the city photographer for the 1945 photo of the Licton Mineral Springs health spa.

In The Seattle Times Sunday Magazine for September 24,,1978, the wit Tom Swint, then one of this newspaper’s humorist feature writers, confessed that while on his “daily walker around the Green Lake track, I have often wondered about the scud of beer suds that from time to time formed on the north shore.”  Jean Sherrard, the ‘repeater’ for this feature, confirms Swint’s observation.   In addition to walking around the lake, Jean also lives near its north shore and has seen the “suds.”  

By Louise Wittelsy
By Louise Wittelsy

The source for this froth was the mineral-rich springs that are a mere mile north of Green Lake.  The Native Americans named them Liq’tid, or Licton, for the maroon mud that once it was blended at the springs, sloshed south in a small stream to Green Lake.  What the Indians applied as a cosmetic, E.A. Jensen attempted to exploit as a natural panacea. In the 1930s Jensen opened a spa at the springs that as the sign in the 1945 “then” reads, “Home of Licton Mineral Springs Thermal Baths Relief for Rheumatism Neuritis Arthritis Asthma.”  Jensen installed a steam plant to make these cold springs hot for soaking. 

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We chose this week’s subject to thank public historian Mimi Sheridan for her prolific contributions to Seattle cultural heritage.  Jean has posed her right-of-center in his “now” repeat of the 1945 Seattle Municipal Archive photograph.  Almost anyone who researches local history will have learned from Mimi, who has proved to be something of a renaissance woman.  Her delving and delivering has become a great local resource on subjects of local heritage, big subjects and small, from the Seattle waterfront to countless local landmarks. 

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Mimi has also enriched our understanding of many neighborhoods, including the one that rings the restful green Licton Springs Park from the Aurora Avenue’s stuttering speedway on the west to the Northgate commercial parking lot on the east.   Apropos the Springs, you may wish to take the time to read Mimi Sheridan and Carol Tobin’s historical study of the greater Licton Springs neighborhood.  Here’s the link:  http://www.lictonsprings.org/localin/history.html   On the fate of the Springs we learn that “the City of Seattle annexed the area and sought acquisition of the property in a 1954 park bond. “  It was approved in 1960.  

Twenty years ago Mimi Sheridan earned her degree in Urban Planning and Historic Preservation from the University of Washington. About a year ago a life-changing plan came to her in a flash. She calls it her “Saul on the road to Damascus” moment.  Mimi, who moved to Seattle from California in 1973, has now returned to it, choosing Monterey, which she reminds us, was the “first capitol of Alta California.”  While she has left much for us to learn, we will still miss Mimi. 

BELOW:  The House on the Hill at the northeast corner of N. 97th Street and Densmore Avenue North as seen in the featured NOW AND THEN at the top.

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WEB EXTRAS

Anything to add, lads?  Yup.  Ron has found a few repeats that keep to the neighborhood – with one exception for you to find.   Ron has also added a clue at the bottom with a 1946 aerial of the then still future park.  You will find both spa and the home “as clue” at 97th and Densmore.   A clue to the last clue: it is near the upper-right corner.

Then: The thousands of skaters on Green Lake in this late January 1916 view could not have known that the skating would soon be over, one of the victims of the Big Snow of 1916. Courtesy Fairlook Antiques

This rare glimpse of the rapid Ravenna Creek’s fall through Cowen Park was photographed not long before the stream that had had “topped off” Green Lake into Lake Washington’s Union Bay for thousands of years was shut off in 1911. (Photo courtesy of Jim Westall)

Temporarily untended the Good Shepherd orchard awaits its fate, ca. 1978.

THEN: Midwife Alice Wood Ellis, far right, joins her mother and two children on the front lawn of their half-finished home in the East Green Lake neighborhood, ca. 1901. Courtesy Carol Solle

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THEN: Like violence in a classic Greek play, the carnage suggested by this 1934 crash scene on the then new Aurora speedway was kept off stage, either behind the city’s official photographer, or in the county morgue. (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archive.)

THEN: Chalk-written real estate notices to the sides of Seattle’s Aurora Speedway in 1937 prelude by several decades the profession’s book and computer listings and the expectation of some that an agent will now be driving a Mercedes. (Courtesy, Washington State Archives, Bellevue Community College branch.)

4719 Thackeray Place NE. The 1938 WPA tax photo.

THEN: Far-left, Playland’s Acroplane, a carni’ flight-simulator, stands admired by future pilots in 1932. Behind them sprawls the amusement park’s fated Fun House. (Courtesy, Ron Edge)

THEN: Julia and Richard Ballinger owned a “gas-powered” rowboat to reach their summer home on their namesake Lake Ballinger. This 1911 view looks east from near the tracks of the Seattle-Everett Interurban. (Courtesy, Ron Edge)

THEN: Roosevelt Way bustling after the war. This subject first appeared in The Seattle Times on July 7, 1946. (Courtesy, Ron Edge)

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1946 AERIAL  – Wherein you may find both the spa and the home-as-clue.  

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2 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Licton Springs”

  1. I enjoyed seeing the picture of Licton Springs Park and Sauna Baths today in the Now & Then article. I grew up on 95th and Wallingford. My brothers and I spent fun summer days in the woods there. We were told there was “quick sand” there too….probably to keep us away from the muddy area. A little spring did indeed run through there. A neighbor boy said he’d caught a fish there. The spring fed waters to the bird pond south on 90th which continued into Greenlake.

    The large house noted belonged to the Denny family. I attended Oak Lake Elementary School with Donna Denny.

  2. I grew up at 92nd and Meridian and also went to Oak Lake Grade School. I walked to school every day right through that area. I often wondered what happened to “the Cat Man” as we called the fellow who had a lab that supplied dead cats and other animals to who knows who. Quick sand on one side and dead animals on the other. Interesting walk.

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