Parks and Points of Interest

An Urban Lake

An Urban Lake. Gouged out by a glacier more than 12,000 years ago, Lake Union is now one of the world’s most urban. At the geographic and population center of Seattle, the lake supports every conceivable use Industry, residences near and on the water, a major fish run, birds and other animals, the dumping of storm water and sewer overflow, boating, aviation, tourism, recreation–and more.

Native Americans referred to the lake as Tenas Chuck (”little water”); one of their camps existed at the south end of the Lake until at least 1875. Many acres of Lake Union have since been filled in, mostly from the city’s various regrades, and some from the I-5 construction. The 1918 construction of the ship canal connecting Lake Washington to Puget Sound raised Lake Union somewhat, and brought shipyards and other industry.

An Urban Lake

  1. Steam Plant Public Dock. This floating dock was built and dedicated to public use by Zymogenetics as a part of its 1993 redevelopment of the 1917 Lake Union Steam Plant, a historic landmark. The public dock lies in the submerged portion of the Fairview Avenue right-of-way, providing a water-level walking alternative to the Fairview Avenue trestle. Just offshore is one of Lake Union’s last large pieces of open shoreline, much of it in State Waterway 8; additional submerged parcels owned by Seattle City Light on either side of the waterway are in jeopardy of being sold. The wooden pier, once used to unload coal and then fuel oil, is now favored by large birds, including cormorants, grebes, and an occasional great blue heron and bald eagle. To help in the effort to keep this section of the lake open, contact ECC at
  2. Lake Union Dry Dock. This 12 acre complex–entirely over water–is one of the largest industrial sites near downtown, and one of the oldest continuously operating marine businesses in the city. Once a builder of Coast Guard cutters, Navy minesweepers, tuna clippers, pleasure yachts, and even some large canoes and whale boats (and manufacturer of the first waterskis in the U.S.), the company is now a leader in ship repair. None other has as many floating drydocks that are certified by the U.S. Navy.
  3. Fairview Avenue East shoreline walkway between Fairview Avenue North and E. Newton Street. .
  4. The 1998 Eastlake Neighborhood Plan identified a walkway at this site as a priority. Even before the neighborhood plan was published, Seattle Public Utilties installed a walkway, landscaping, and optimized public parking on Fairview between E. Blaine and E. Newton Streets. Then in xx the Eastlake Community Council received $20,000 from the City and under a Street Use permit from SDOT, ECC hired a contractor to make the following improvements between on Fairview between E. Blaine St. and Fairview Avenue North: cleared away the blackberries that were blocking shoreline access and views, and installed curb stops and gravel pathway. A series of volunteer work parties removed invasive blackberries, ivy, and clematis and installed native plants. In xx, ECC successfully applied to SDOT’s Neighborhood Street Fund, and SDOT widened the path and paved it with asphalt, installed bollards, and installed pedestrian lighting.

  5. United State Seafoods (1801 Fairview Ave. E). This company purchased the property in xx . In the first half of the 20th century, the shoreline was occupied by houseboats. A ship base was first established here in 1962 for the Coast and Geodetic Survey, later merged into the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It was home base for ships of NOAA’s Pacific fleet which gather information on the oceans, atmosphere, space, and sun. The base provided fuel, spare parts, and crew needs, and technical staff compile hydrographic and photogrammetric survey of the Pacific and Arctic oceans.
  6. Terry Pettus Park (Newton street end). Built in 1970-71 by volunteers and businesses and named after the late Terry Pettus, labor journalist and longtime secretary of the Floating Homes Association. In 1976, the park was redone by the Parks and Recreation Department, which is responsible for its maintenance under Ordinance 111551. The park includes picnic tables, a beach and floating dock. One of the cherry trees was planted in memory of Doris Shanley, a founder of the Eastlake Community Council. The floating dock and some of the pilings have deteriorated and need repair, and overgrown shrubbery now blocks the park’s original open feeling. If you would like to get involved in renewing this park, call 322-5463.
  7. Boston Streetend. Fairview Avenue is unusually narrow at this undeveloped street end; pedestrian passage is unsafe, and there is little or no view of the lake. A cantilevered pedestrian walkway would improve public access while preserving the streetend’s greenery.
  8. Lynn Street Park. Located in the Lynn streetend and State Waterway 10, this park was built in 1971 by local volunteers led (and fed) by Pete Omalanz, founder of Pete’s Super, a grocery located across the street. Design was by Dick Wagner, now of the Center for Wooden Boats. After construction, the community applied for and received a permit for the project. In 1976, the park was redone by the City Parks and Recreation Department, which under Ordinance 111551 is responsible for maintaining it. The park has a picnic table, a floating dock popular for swimming, and a shallow beach.
  9. Union Harbor public access dock. The present five-story over-water condominium was constructed in 1969 on the site of the Fairview Boat Works. Similarover-waterr buildings on Lake Union have since been prohibited by the state Shoreline Management Act (1972) and city policies. In 1986, a City-required floating wooden public access dock popular for swimmers disappeared under mysterious circumstances. With City approval, it was replaced by a higher fixed metal-mesh dock uncomfortable to lie or sit on, and with no ladder for swimmers or boaters. A sign at the street discourages visitors after sundown.
  10. Louisa Streetend. [this description to be updated] Most of the streetend is used by Marine Service Center under a City permit. On the north side of the streetend, plans are for a public access dock and landscaping, to be paid for by the adjacent owner, Cadranell Yacht Landing, to compensate for earlier unpermitted construction in the Roanoke Streetend. Extensive public parking is available just north of this site.
  11. Roanoke Street Park. This park has two sections (both with benches), one on either side of Roanoke Street. Begun by volunteers in 1971, it was expanded in 1976 by the Parks and Recreation Department, which is responsible for its maintenance under Ordinance 111551. The southern section has a small, somewhat steep beach. The bank is steep for hauling boats by hand, but a floating dock is accessible from Azteca. Heavy fencing protects the large willow trees from hungry beavers. The northern section of the park has an excellent view of a block-long submerged segment of Fairview Avenue; look down and to the left to view bass spawning beds. Volunteers who reside near the park on Roanoke Street have adopted the park and are working to control the ivy. At Azteca restaurant and Cadranell boat moorage, most of the parking is on City right-of-way and is free for anyone.
    In between the two sections of the park is the entrance to the Roanoke Reef houseboats and boat moorage; these docks use the pilings originally installed for a much larger proposal, a block-long 60-foot high over-water condominium complex. A court challenge by the Eastlake Community Council and the Floating Homes Association stopped the over-water project, but not before the historic 188-foot long Boeing hangar on the site had been demolished its footprint is now occupied by the Roanoke Reef houseboats). The first Boeing airplanes were assembled and painted here, and William Boeing himself piloted the company’s first test flight in 1916 (his next words: “Gentlemen, we are in the airplane business”). The world’s first international mail flight originated here in 1919, as did the birth of United Airlines.
  12. Edgar Streetend. As seen from Edgar, this streetend is almost completely obscured by blackberries; best viewed from the water or from the Fairview streetend. The Edgar right-of-way intersects with the Fairview right-of-way just offshore, but they are not currently connected.
  13. Fairview Streetend. A tiny park south of Hamlin Street where Fairview Avenue meets the water; planted and maintained by residents. The waterway between the Mallard Cove houseboats and the Roanoke Reef houseboats is a submerged portion of Fairview Avenue.
  14. Hamlin Street Park. This beautiful park is maintained by residents of nearby Hamlin Shores condominium, who spearheaded its 1992 construction in cooperation with the Eastlake Community Council and with the help of a City Neighborhood Matching Fund grant and local donations. Shallow beach. Parking north of the park is public (contrary to the signs).
  15. Fairview Park. When the wooded, rural area between Eastlake and Fairview Avenues near Shelby Street was threatened by development, the Olmsted-Fairview Park Commission worked with volunteers, businesses, and City officials. A combination of state, county, and city funds led to purchase of the land. Planning is now in progress for the future park, which is likely to include an expanded P-Patch, native plants, public access to the docks in State Waterway 11, and possibly a partial closure of Fairview Avenue. A park at this site was proposed in the Olmsted Brothers’ 1903 citywide plan.
  16. 3123 Fairview Avenue E. The 1976 shoreline permit for this office building required signs indicating public access to a court yard and dock, and a public toilet facility; the toilet facility has apparently never been available for public use, and there are none of the required signs.
  17. Allison Streetend. Although mostly paved, this public street end has some wetland vegetation along the bulkhead.
  18. Good Turn Park. Located at the Martin Streetend, this park was designed by Tom Zachary; the materials used are indigenous to the locale. Built in 1993, the park was funded entirely by abutting property owners Homer Bergren and the late Jim Nordstrom. Its name honors the Boy Scout pledge to do a good turn for someone every day. The beach is sandy and shallow; ample parking is available nearby. The Olmsted-Fairview Park Commission and Eastlake Community Council are now applying for City Neighborhood Matching Funds to expand the park toward Fairview Avenue, based on a design by Tom Zachary in cooperation with Richard Haag Associates.
  19. South Passage Park. Directly under the I-5 bridge on the south shore of the ship canal, this park was built in 1973 on a design by Richard Haag. Recently the abutting Pocock Memorial Rowing Foundation has removed a fence on the park’s eastern edge and invited public use of the Foundation’s dock.
  20. University Bridge. Later named the University Bridge, but opened in 1919 as the Eastlake Avenue Bridge, it is a registered City historic landmark. Abutting residents are planting native wetland vegetation, which is attracting muskrats and waterfowl.
  21. Portage Bay. The extreme south end of Portage Bay (south of SR-520) is a wonderland of wetland habitat and wildlife. Beavers, herons and other waterfowl, and fish abound.
  22. North Passage Park. North shore twin of South Passage Park.
  23. 5th Avenue Streetend. Thickly wooded area between world-famous Chihuly glass studio and the traditional native architecture of Ivars Salmon House.
  24. State Waterway 15 viewpoint. King County Metro built this park in 1993 as mitigation for building pipes to bring into Lake Union millions of gallons of storm water from the Green Lake and Ravenna areas. Special features include a curved wooden bench built by the Center for Wooden Boats; native rocks, bricks, and cobbles; ceramics with historic images; and a manhole cover cast with a nautical chart. The beach is shallowly sloping.
  25. Latona Streetend. This steep state-owned waterway would benefit from additional plantings.
  26. State Waterway 16 (2nd avenue street end). Information not available.
  27. Eastern Avenue street end (State Waterway 17). Just west of the Lakeside restaurant is a small streetend park. The beach is shallowly sloping.
  28. Sunnyside Avenue Streetend. The first street end around Lake Union developed for recreation, this boat launch is designed for power craft. It is also usable for hand launching of boats.
  29. Sea Scouts park. State Waterway 18 is a shady protected cove affording excellent waterside views of wildlife habitat. The Sea Scouts have a dock and several motorized and non-motorized boats. The gradual beach is suitable for picnics, wading, swimming, and launching and landing of small craft.
  30. Waterway 19. In the cove just east of Gasworks Park, a collaboration between the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department and the State Wildlife Department is enhancing wildlife habitat with native plants. Temporary parking is available close to the water for loading and unloading of watercraft. Shallowly sloping beach.
  31. Gasworks Park. This unique and award-winning 20-acre park is one of the world’s few industrial reclamation parks, a tribute to the imagination and courage of designer Richard Haag. Although recommended as a park site by the Olmsted Brothers, the site was acquired for coal gasification beginning in 1906, and last used to produce methane gas in 1956, when pipelines brought natural gas to the Seattle area. The imposing industrial relic, with its large towers, is the sole survivor of 1400 gasification plants that once dotted the United States.
    Current park features include Kite Hill with its large sundial, the Play Barn, and a paved shoreline viewpoint. The beach is suitable for handlaunched watercraft; a rule prohibiting boat-launching in City parks is frequently (and justifiably) ignored. However, it is a long portage to the parking area, and most boats reach the beach from the lake. An effort is underway to establish an interpretive center and install a camera obscure in one of the towers; contact Friends of Gas Works Park, 325-8119.
  32. Harbor Patrol (1717 N. Northlake Place, 684-4071). Located at State Waterway 20, this Seattle Police Department office is responsible for all waters within city limits. An important resource in emergencies, the Harbor Patrol also enforces a speed limit of 7 knots (7 miles per hour) in most parts of the lake.
  33. State Waterway 21. A public access viewpoint has been built for viewing the operations of nearby Northlake Shipyard, which also leases some of the waterway for its operations. The State Department of Ecology reached a consent decree with the company to compensate the public for the future cost of cleaning up toxic sediments at this site.
  34. Stone Way Streetend (State Waterway 22). Sailboats are available for rental nearby from Yacht Charters, Inc. 1301 N. Northlake Way (632-3302).
  35. Aurora and Fremont bridges. The city rights of way under these bridges have potential for recreational and wildlife development.
  36. State Waterway 1. A public viewpoint has been proposed for this site, near Rainbow Recycling.
  37. Northwest Outdoor Center (2100 Westlake Ave. N., 281-9694). Sea kayaks rented and sold; classes and individual instruction also available. Public launch dock.
  38. AGC Building (1200 Westlake Ave. N). The Associated General Contractors’ office building was built in 1970. The ten-story structure extends 80 feet into the lake on the north side. Such over-water construction is now prohibited by the state Shoreline Management Act (1972) and City policies.
  39. South Lake Union Park. Established in 1993 on a site originally proposed by the Olmsted Brothers in 1903. Located just northwest of the park is “Parcel C,” which is owned by billionaire Paul Allen, whom many hope will donate or sell it for addition to South lake Union Park.
  40. U.S. Naval Reserve Armory. The City of Seattle gave this land to the Navy during World War II. In 1991, the City Council approved in concept the establishment of a Maritime Heritage Center that could include this property, for the display and preservation of historic boats.
  41. Northwest Seaport. This nonprofit organization is working to preserve the lumber schooner Wawona and tug Arthur Foss, dories, a pilot house, and other relics of the marine era. Gift shop. Phone: 447-9800.
  42. Center for Wooden Boats. Rowboats, canoes, sailboats, and other wooden boats are available for rent. Lessons, memberships, and volunteer opportunities also available. Phone: 382-2628. Public launching facilities for small boats.
  43. Chandler’s Cove, 901 Fairview Ave. N. Built on a former industrial site, this development includes many public walkways and a shallow beach.
  44. Yale Street Landing, 1001 Fairview Ave. N. Long the site of a St. Vincent de Paul store and social service office, this site became a restaurant and retail complex in 1991. Moss Bay Rowing Club (682-4031) provides rentals.
  45. Duke’s. This restaurant has a small public boat launch dock for hand-carried boats.

Other Parks

In the future, background will be provided here about Rogers Playfield and other parks and open spaces not already discussed here. Suggestions are welcome, to

Regarding the I-5 Colonnade Open Space and ongoing efforts to improve it, see page in column at right.