Green Lake Tree Lighting 1941

December 24, 2015 10:57pm
Christmas Tree Lightinhg

Seattle Municipal Archives, Item No. 18803

In case you didn’t notice, Green Lake is full of holiday spirit! Not only do we boast our very own “Christmas Lights Tour,” but also decorate trees with twinkly lights (tree lighting must be hard wired into your Green Lake DNA). Case in point is a mysterious and beautiful photograph taken in 1941. And while we’re not sure who is responsible for this stunning snapshot or the backstory for this Christmas tree lighting, we think you’d agree that its captures Green Lake’s unique holiday spirit.


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The Mother of all Snowstorms: 1916

December 3, 2015 6:49am

via pauldorpat.com

Brrrrr, it’s cold out there! But, this recent chilly weather is down right balmy compared to the frigid storm of 1916, considered by many to be the mother of all snowstorms (for here anyway).

As local historian Paul Dorpat reports, this snowstorm was the second biggest, but most visually recorded. “By the year of our second biggest snow, cameras were nearly as commonplace as shovels. Almost certainly, more photographs of the 1916 snow were kept, copied, and shared more than for any other of Seattle’s snows.  Importantly, Seattle has had no snowfalls since then to fairly “compete” with it for snapping.”

The photo above, for example, shows skaters on Green Lake, Jan 30, 1916 – before the snowfall “killed” the skating.

As Dorpat notes, “Through the first 30 unusually cold days of January, 23 inches of snow had fallen on Seattle.  January 30th was a Sunday, and for this “day of rest” an estimated 3,000 skaters and their admirers descended on Green Lake.  Many stayed well into the night, encouraged by the Seattle Park Department, which lit several bonfires along the shores. On Monday the 31st snow began to fall again, lightly at first, but steadily.  About seven inches accumulated by 5 in the afternoon.  That was enough to “kill the skating.”

So if this weather has you humming the oldie but goodie song “Baby It’s Cold Outside”…. just remember the winter of 1916!

To read more go to: http://pauldorpat.com/seattle-now-then-archive/a-history-of-seattle-snows-exposed/seattle-snows-part-5/.


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A Haunted Relic in Green Lake?

October 29, 2015 6:41am


One doesn’t have to look too far to find a historic architectural gem in Green Lake. Case in point is a little, well actually massive, relic that looms large in Green Lake Park. Just what am I’m referring to exactly? The Green Lake Arch, located near our very own Community Center.

This impressive classical piece of architecture was in fact once part of the Martha Washington School for Girls. Built in 1921, the school was located on the shores of Lake Washington and consisted of Georgian-style brick buildings designed by architect Floyd Naramore. The school was operated by the Seattle School District and was intended to aid neglected and unfortunate young girls. It eventually closed in 1957.

According to HistoryLink.org “in 1972, the City of Seattle purchased the site and, in the following year, transferred it to the parks department.”

The building remained abandoned and rumors spread of eerie sightings of ghostly apparitions.

As HistoryLink.org notes, after a decade of discussions the city council eventually voted for the demolition of the historic building and creation of a park on the site.

The distinctive arch was in storage and in 2009 it was brought to Green Lake as part of city’s Shade Park and Plaza, funded with monies from the Pro Park Levy. So while for decades the arch greeted young students as they entered into the school to day, it’s now an elegant and welcoming focal point of Green Lake’s plaza.


via History Link

To read more on the Martha Washington School for Girls see History Link.


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Green Lake After the 1949, 7.1 Magnitude Earthquake

August 6, 2015 7:22am

Crack_in_pathway_at_Green_Lake_from_1949_earthquake_April_13_1949 copy

Recently it seems that much of Seattle is abuzz with the possibility that a massive shaker that may be in our future. The recent New Yorker article (July 20, 2015) seems to have awakened a new awareness that an earthquake will inevitably hit Seattle, at some time.

A photo from 1949 showing earthquake damage to the shore of Green Lake reminds us that the Pacific Northwest has always been prone to such natural occurrences.

According to HistoryLink.org, “On April 13, 1949 at 11:55 a.m., a 7.1 magnitude earthquake occurred in Western Washington centered between Olympia and Tacoma. As of 2002, this is the largest earthquake in Puget Sound since non-Indian people started to immigrate and settle along its shores… Earthquake damage in King County communities varied significantly. …. In King County, the quake’s strongest ground shaking was in Auburn, Richmond Beach and in parts of Seattle. Damage was considerable to well-built structures and extensive to poorly built ones. Some buildings collapsed. Chimneys, factory stacks, columns, and monuments fell. Heavy furniture overturned. People had difficulty driving…. Due to old construction and unstable ground most buildings in Pioneer Square received some damage. Cracks opened in the earth near Green Lake. One thousand and nine hundred brick walls throughout the city collapsed, fractured or bulged. They were condemned and had to be replaced… Cracks opened in the ground, some spouting water six feet high. Seattle gas lines broke in 100 places but fortunately no fires occurred. Books toppled off Seattle Public Library shelves at the Carnegie downtown branch at the northeast corner of 4th Avenue and Madison Street.”

So, while we can’t look into a crystal ball and predict when an earthquake may occur, this is a timely reminder that we should always have an emergency plan in place. This week Seattle.gov launched an official notification system called Alert Seattle. Their website provides some great information on not only earthquake preparedness, but also how to prepare for any possible emergency.


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One of Green Lake’s Oldest Homes is For Sale

July 23, 2015 7:26am

"Looking toward Greenlake in 1890" Judge McDonald and his daughter are pictured. Seattle P-I archives

The Frederick A. McDonald house is one of the oldest homes in Green Lake, built in 1890, and its for sale.

According to the listing on Zillow:

“Nestled above Green Lake, this elegant Victorian preserves the sophistication and craftsmanship of that era but with todays comforts. The completely renovated 1890s home retains its original stained glass windows, grand staircase, solid oak doors and millwork. The parklike setting features secluded patios, a Koi pond, fountains and the massive Italianate stone-walled gardens and stairs to Green Lake. A romantic carriage house and private mother-in-law make this property a rare find.”

It would be interesting to know how much it cost to build the house back in the 1890s because today it is selling for $2.4 million.

Notice the trolley on the lower left side of the screen. That’s the same trolley that would circle Green Lake back in the turn of the century. No, not this past century… the previous one!

This house photo may look familiar to you… we posted about the home last year and its relation to the mysterious grave marker on the east side of the lake.

Whoever buys the home is truly buying a piece of Green Lake history.

And a special thanks to reader James for giving us a heads up about this house!


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Green Lake Wading Pool’s Historic Roots

July 2, 2015 7:36am

Children_playing_in_a_wading_pool_at_Green_Lake_Park_June_1937 copy

Perhaps nothing signals the beginning of summer quite like the opening of the Green Lake wading pool. With the mercury rising and our recent record breaking temperatures, this little aquatic sanctuary is the premier venue for the kiddos to wade, splash and beat the heat. (Actually, it attracts the young and old alike. Take a look and you’ll undoubtedly catch a glimpse of the “older generation” cooling their heels in the shallow water!)

With the Green Lake wading pool now officially open for business (let’s all breath a sigh of relief!), this is the perfect time to glance back on its long history.

Boys_sailing_boats_in_Green_Lake_wading_pool_Seattle_Summer_1934 copy

The wading pool was part of The Works Progress Administration. Renamed in 1939 as the Work Projects Administration (or the WPA) it was one of many Great Depression relief programs created under the auspices of the Emergency Relief Appropriations Act, which Roosevelt had signed into law. As History.com notes, “The WPA, the Public Works Administration (PWA) and other federal assistance programs put unemployed Americans to work in return for temporary financial assistance. Out of the 10 million jobless men in the United States in 1935, 3 million were helped by WPA jobs alone.”  
According to Seattle.gov, the Green Lake wading pool is part of the city’s “Big Three” projects and is not only one of the most popular, but the largest of its kind.

These two photos from the 1930s show children frolicking and launching sailboats in this little oasis, clearly demonstrating the wading pool’s enduring appeal!


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May Day: Time to celebrate!

May 1, 2015 7:42am

Courtesy of Seattle Post-Intellegencer Collection, MOHAI, PI24660

NOTHING is so beautiful as spring—
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing; 5
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush

The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush…

Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

—”Spring” by Gerard Manley Hopkins- 1918


 Yes, spring has indeed sprung all around Green Lake! May Day is quickly approaching and perhaps nothing is as celebratory, nor iconic, as the May Pole Dance.

This photo of Green Lake is from 1944 and shows young girls merrily skipping around the May Pole. To the right, their teacher stands patiently observing the festivities. Meanwhile, in the background, a couple strolls along the paved walkway and two sailors ride their bikes. Not much has changed!

So just how was May Day Celebrated in the past?

According to protectbritain.com,  “May Day celebrations have their origins in the Roman festival of Flora, goddess of fruit and flowers, which marked the beginning of summer. May Day began early in the morning. People would go out before sunrise in order to gather flowers and greenery to decorate their houses and villages in the belief that the vegetation spirits would bring good fortune.

Girls would make a special point of washing their faces in the dew of the early morning. They believed this made them very beautiful for the following year.

A traditional May day dance is known as Maypole Dancing. On May Day, people used to cut down young trees and stick them in the ground in the village to mark the arrival of summer. People danced around them in celebration of the end of winter and the start of the fine weather that would allow planting to begin. copyright of protectbritain.com

Maypoles were once common all over England and were kept from one year to the next. Schools would practice skipping round the pole for weeks before the final show on the village greens. The end result would be either a beautiful plaited pattern of ribbons round the pole or a tangled cat’s cradle, depending on how much rehearsing had been done.”

Happy Spring!



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Gone Fishing at Green Lake

April 23, 2015 7:59am

Children_fishing_at_Green_Lake_Seattle_1909 copy

It appears that since the early 1900s children have “Gone Fishing” in Green Lake!

According to Brittany Wright, the caption for this 1909 photograph identifies the young boy waving excitedly as the son of a local Green Lake druggist. His little sister, outfitted cozily with earmuffs, is seated nearby in the buggy.

Interestingly, Olmsted’s Green Lake design would have been only approximately one year old at the time that this photograph was taken. Yet, its success is already apparent as it quickly became (and still is) a gathering place for even the youngest of anglers.

Take a look around Green Lake and you will undoubtedly find a similar group of children partaking in this beloved pastime!

Apparently, though time passes, some things never change in Green Lake…


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Green Lake’s Very Own Pioneer Midwife

March 26, 2015 8:32am


Alice and her daughters, Courtesy of the author

Alice and her daughters, Courtesy of the Susan Fleming

Green Lake’s history is full of inspiring men and women who, at the turn-of-the-century, sought a fresh start and better life in our neighborhood. One such fascinating woman is Alice Ada Wood Ellis (1868-1936), the subject of the book: Seattle Pioneer Midwife: Alice Ada Wood Ellis Midwife Nurse & Mother to All.

HER great-granddaughter, Susan Fleming, a registered nurse who for more than 30 years has worked with moms and babies, tells Alice’s story.

I read this captivating book in record time and was thrilled to chat with the author:

SG: Congratulations Susan, can you tell me a little about your book? 

Susan: In 1900 my great-grandmother, Alice Ada Wood Ellis, had one year of nurses’ training, no license and called herself a nurse. She was a single mother with two small children Myrtle 2 ½ years of age and Marie a 6-month-old baby.  She traveled to Seattle on a locomotive steam train. She placed two beds in her front parlor and ran a birthing service, for a fee, in her own home in Green Lake. She fulfilled her calling as a pioneer midwife and this is her story.

SG: Her story is full of Seattle’s rich history – including the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, women’s suffrage , bubonic plague- as well as many compelling characters, including doctors and the women/children Alice cared for.  How much of your book was fact and how much was fiction?

Susan: Nearly every story was based on true stories mostly from Alice’s time or my time as a labor and delivery nurse. However, the names (outside the family) were made up. Definitely more fact than fiction, however, the intricate details of the stories I created.

SG: How and when did you first learn about the story of your great-grandmother?  Was it always part of your family’s history?

Susan: Ever since I can remember. My father and his mother (my grandmother Marie, Alice’s youngest daughter), told me most of these exhilarating stories. In 1967 I was 10 years old and I traveled to Seattle with my grandmother. I spent the whole summer with her and my dad’s cousin Iris Ramey. They loved to talk about Alice. In the early 1980’s I was in nursing school and my grandmother lived very close to my school and I would drive over there and I asked my grandmother to tell me those stories again! She was happy to do this.  In addition, my cousins and Aunts gave me confirmation to many of the stories, which was extremely valuable to writing this piece.

SG: When did you first formulate the idea of writing her story?

Susan: Ever since I was 10 years old. At least it feels that way. I was so impressed I kept writing them in my mind. However, most of the writing started in 2008, when I started my PhD program, all the way up to 2014.

midwife greenlake photosmall

Alice and others. Courtesy of the Susan Fleming

Continue reading…


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The Cold War Lives on Under I-5 in Green Lake

February 20, 2015 7:02am

If you had a time portal at a particular door on Weedin Place near the I-5 bridge, be especially careful how you set the dial.

What's behind this door? From WSDOT's Flickr

What’s behind this door? From WSDOT’s Flickr

If it’s 2015: Walk through this door and you’ll find a dusty, strangely shaped WSDOT document storage facility.



If it’s the mid ’60s-late ’70s: Walk through this door and get in line – it’s time to get your driver’s license renewed.

I-5 fallout shelter


If it’s 1963: If there are other people going for the door, run for your life and push through. There’s been a nuclear attack, there are only spots for 200 in this fallout shelter. Continue reading…


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