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Summary for 5520 Ravenna AVE / Parcel ID 7172700040 / Inv # DPR074

Historic Name: Ravenna Park Comfort Station Common Name:
Style: Spanish - Mission Neighborhood: Roosevelt
Built By: Year Built: 1926
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the National Register of Historic Places.
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.
This architecturally distinctive comfort station was completed in 1926, the first to be constructed by the city in Ravenna Park. Originally developed as a private park, the city had acquired Ravenna Park in 1911 through condemnation proceedings when negotiations with the park’s owners failed to settle on a suitable price. Five years earlier, Seattle realtor and developer Charles Cowen had donated a large parcel of land located immediately west of and contiguous with Ravenna Park. This land was developed into Cowen Park with 15th Avenue NE as the invisible boundary. In 1889, the Reverend William W. Beck, a Presbyterian minister, and his wife Louise had purchased a large tract of land adjacent to the right of way of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway. Since 1887, the railway had provided access to this area, then considered far from the center of town in Pioneer Square. The enterprising Becks platted most of their land as the town of Ravenna, after the Italian city of that name, loved for both its culture and woods. A deep and picturesque ravine filled with enormous old growth trees ran through a portion of the Becks’ property. A stream at the bottom of the ravine flowed east from nearby Green Lake before emptying into Lake Washington at Union Bay. In the early 1890s, the Becks, who also founded the nearby Seattle Female College, decided to develop the ravine as a private park to be known as Ravenna Park. After installing a fence, the Becks began to bring in exotic plants from Italy and England, and built a large roofed picnic shelter. They also developed paths through the park and to a sulfur spring they called the "Wood Nymph’s Well." However, Ravenna Park’s most sublime attractions were its big trees. Despite its distance from center of town, the park was easily accessible by the railway, which stopped at the Ravenna Station near the park’s lower eastern end. In 1892, the park became even more accessible when David Denny completed his streetcar line from downtown to its northern terminus near the park’s original entrance at present-day 20th Avenue NE along the southern lip of the ravine. Denny had also speculated on nearby property and built the streetcar line to stimulate residential development. At that time, streetcar lines often terminated at a popular attraction so as to encourage real estate development along the length of the line and to increase ridership outside of regular commuting hours, especially on weekends. Over the next twenty years, there were periodic calls for public ownership of Ravenna Park. In 1903, the Olmsted Brothers landscape firm had recommended this site as a city park in their report outlining a comprehensive park and boulevard system. The Olmsteds proposed an extension of the park’s boundaries and the preservation of the park largely in its natural state. The Reverend Beck made several offers to sell the park to the city, however the price was always considered too high. During the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, both Ravenna and Cowen Parks were popular destinations, considered an essential side trip by visitors to the fair, which was held nearby on the campus of the University of Washington. Travelling by streetcar service available every eight minutes, visitors paid a 25 cents admission to view the park’s enormous trees, which had been christened for famous persons. After the city acquired the park in 1911, the fences were taken down, and unfortunately, so were most of the largest trees, including the President Teddy Roosevelt tree, which had stood more than 250 feet high. For a period of time between the early 1910s and the late 1920s, the park was known as Roosevelt Park until the original name was restored by community petition in 1930. In keeping with public demands at the time, this comfort station was constructed in 1926 adjacent to the old picnic grounds near the park’s original entrance. Designed in a simple Mission Revival style, this comfort station was the first of a series of new comfort stations constructed in Seattle parks in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Located in prominent parks in fashionable residential neighborhoods, these comfort stations were notable for their attractive designs in various period revival as well as modern styles. Construction of these comfort stations at Leschi, Kinnear, Mount Baker, Magnolia, Woodland and Ravenna Parks followed a policy to build only structures that would be pleasing in design and permanent in nature. This building is significant for its design and for its association with the development of Ravenna Park.
Completed in 1926, this small one-story comfort station occupies a site at the western end of a large grassy picnic area off of 20th Avenue NE at NE 58th Street. The side gable main block has shed roof entrance porches, which extend from the north and south elevations and create a mostly rectangular plan. The Mission Revival style building faces east and contains a women’s restroom in the northern end and a men’s restroom in the southern end. The light stucco exterior is a characteristic feature of this style of architecture. Single door entrances to the restrooms are situated within the arcaded porches accessed by shallow arched openings on each side. The restrooms’ original doors have been replaced within the openings on the inner walls of the main block. On the principal east elevation, long narrow horizontal window openings with concrete sills line the upper wall below the roofline and flank a smaller opening at the center. The end openings each contain two multi-paned pivot windows separated by a metal mullion while the center opening contains a single multi-paned pivot window. The rear west elevation has the same smaller window opening set high on the wall at either end with a narrow arched entrance at the center, which contains the original wood door. With the exception of some graffiti, this architecturally distinctive structure remains intact with excellent physical integrity.

Detail for 5520 Ravenna AVE / Parcel ID 7172700040 / Inv # DPR074

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Stucco Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Gable, Shed Roof Material(s): Asphalt/Composition
Building Type: Other Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Community Planning/Development, Entertainment/Recreation
Changes to Windows: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Plan: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
Sherwood, Don. Seattle Parks Histories, c. 1970-1981, unpublished.
Seattle Department of Parks. Annual report/Department of Parks. Seattle, WA: 1909-1955.
HistoryLink Website (

Photo collection for 5520 Ravenna AVE / Parcel ID 7172700040 / Inv # DPR074

Photo taken Nov 02, 2000
App v2.0.1.0