HISTORY IN PERSPECTIVE | New parks shaped our community

This article is excerpted from the book “Queen Anne: Community on the Hill,” as written by John Hennes, published in 1993 by the Queen Anne Historical Society. It appears here with some updates. Visit qahistory.org for articles written since 1993 and a link to obtain a copy of the book

On Queen Anne, the issue of parks has always brought out the community in its attempts to balance development with preservation.

A field house had long been sought for Queen Anne. In 1936, the Queen Anne Community Clubhouse (now The Seattle Gym) on Queen Anne Avenue was proposed by the Council of Queen Anne Clubs for conversion to a field house suitable for official park activities, but the proposal did not succeed.

The focus for a field house location moved to the West Queen Anne Playfield, commonly known as Howe Field, located between First and Second avenues West and West Blaine and Howe streets. The dirt field had been the location of Harry Treat’s stable and track. It was used every fall for Queen Anne High School football practice from the late 1920s through 1958, when Luther Memorial Field (now the location of John Hay Elementary School) opened.

The site gained support, and plans to vacate the area north of West Howe Street for a field house and community building were pursued. But a strong reaction to the incipient loss of houses led, in 1946, to a petition drive opposing extension of the field. A counter-statement from a wide variety of school and youth groups contained endorsements for the expansion.

Finally, in 1948, following much community input, the plans for a field house were authorized at the West Queen Anne Playfield.

On April 28, 1950, the Queen Anne field house was opened. It was the work of Naramore, Brady, Bain and Johansen architects. A dance for Queen Anne High School students followed that evening, kicking off years of youth activity.

Landscape architects Richard Haag and Associates designed the expansion of West Queen Anne Playfield, which included the area between Second and Third avenues West and was financed by the passage of the Forward Thrust bond issue in February 1968.

In 1972, the Queen Anne Recreation Center, as the complex of field and field house was then called, was completed.

Funds for the Queen Anne Swimming Pool were also part of the Forward Thrust bond issue. A pool to serve the Queen Anne-Magnolia area had been a goal for decades, but all proposed locations met with controversy. The West Queen Anne/McClure Junior High site was the ultimate choice. Ten homes were razed along First Avenue West between W. Howe and Crockett streets.

In 1977, after a cost of $846,000, plus the land purchases, the Queen Anne Pool was opened. The building was designed by Benjamin F. McAdoo, Jr. (1920-1981), the first African-American architect to operate a long-term practice in the state of Washington.


Waterfront parks

As far back as the 1904 Olmsted Report, there were proposals for waterfront parks along Elliott Bay. That report recommended acquiring land at the foot of Denny Way. It also suggested a Harbor View Park in the area bounded by First Avenue, John and Bay streets and the water, including the high bluffs there and the railroad tracks, then on trestles.

In 1968, Myrtle Edwards Park was developed from Bay Street North to Pier 88, the old rock-fill pier at Smith Cove.

The Forward Thrust vote also included funds for two neighborhood mini parks: Mayfair Park and “Bhy” Kracke Park. Mayfair Park, at Second Avenue North and Raye Street, fits into the side of a northeast Queen Anne Hill ravine. It occupies 16,448 square feet and contains a variety of small park environments.

“Bhy” Kracke Park, at Fifth Avenue North just north of Highland Street, is named for Werner H. “Bhy” Kracke, who lived for years on the park’s upper-most level. He died in 1971 before fulfilling his promise to donate the site for a city park and $20,000 for its development.

Its unique design, by landscape architect Roy Lehner, features a steep, winding trail linking the lower level, containing the playground, to the middle and upper levels, whose winding paths provide surprise vistas to the Cascades, Lake Union and Downtown Seattle.



Marshall Viewpoint, the park across the street from Parsons Gardens overlooking Puget Sound, was a gift to the city in 1960 from George and Margaret Marshall. A section of the park had been named in honor of Admiral Thomas S. Phelps, who, in 1855, was aboard the gunboat Decatur during the “Battle of Seattle.”

Several sections of sidewalk by Northwest artists (Mark Tobey, Guy Anderson, Morris Graves, Margaret Thomkins, Kenneth Callahan, Victor Steinbrueck, Richard Gilkey, Harold Balazs and Charles Stokes) and a tiny sculpture by James Washington Jr., are a memorial to Betty Bowen, a civic leader and preservationist who lived nearby at 715 W. Prospect St., now a designated city landmark.

Kerry Park Outlook, on West Highland Drive between Second and Third avenues West, was enhanced in 1971 by “Changing Form,” a well-loved sculpture by Doris Totten Chase (1923-2008) and donated by the children of Albert Sperry Kerry Sr.

The park has gone by various names. Called Franklin Place when George Kinnear first donated a parcel to the city in 1904, it became Kerry Park in 1927, when A.S. Kerry Sr. donated land that brought it to 1.4 acres. The city’s website now calls the upper portion Kerry Viewpoint. The lower portion on West Prospect Street named Bayview-Kinnear Play Park — under which lies a large water tank — recently received a new playground and landscaping.


MICHAEL HERSCHENSOHN is president of the Queen Anne Historical Society (qahistory.org). To comment on this column, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.