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Summary for Dexter Ave N, John St,9th Ave N, Denny Way / Parcel ID 1991201077 / Inv #

Historic Name: Seattle Park/ Denny Park Common Name: Denny Park
Style: Beaux Arts - Neoclassical Neighborhood: South Lake Union
Built By: Year Built: 1930
In the opinion of the survey, this property is located in a potential historic districe (National and/or local).
Denny Park was the first official public park within the city of Seattle. It is named after founding father David Denny and his wife Louisa Boren Denny, who originally donated a portion of their Donation Land claim for the purpose of creating a public cemetery at this site in 1864. At this time and for almost the next twenty years, the cemetery site was considered far from the center of town in what is now Pioneer Square and could only be reached with some difficulty via wagon roads. To maintain the “Seattle Cemetery” and to keep records concerning the people who were buried there, the position of “Sexton” was created. By 1883, with the city of Seattle’s annexation of the area from Howell to McGraw streets, north of the cemetery, the site was, by now, considered somewhat less removed from the city center. In the same year, the Dennys drew up a new deed, which rededicated most of the cemetery site as a public park. It also stipulated that the interred bodies would be moved at the expense of the City of Seattle, although apparently several Native American graves remained until the Denny Regrade forced major earth removal in 1930. The site was officially “converted, dedicated and set apart as Public Park” by Ordinance 571, signed by Mayor Struve and the Common Council on July 10, 1884. A Council Committee, consisting of three commissioners, including David T. Denny, was created to administer the park, which was initially known as Seattle Park, but renamed Denny Park around 1887. In 1894-1895, Denny Park was completed according to the designs of Edward O. Schwagerl, who had been appointed Superintendent of Public Parks in 1892. It appears that the park was also redesigned and replanted in 1903. This design included a combination shelter and tool house, credited with being the first of its kind in Seattle, in addition to swings, seesaws, a sandcourt and a playfield. The shelter and tool house was designed by James H. Schack, (later of Schack Young and Myers), who won the competition to design the structure. Students from the neighboring Denny School, which opened in 1884 and closed in 1928, often made use of the play area. By 1910, the Denny Regrade threatened the park. The Denny Family, in particular, protested that the park should remain as a landmark to Seattle’s early days. These protests were somewhat successful for a time. By the late 1920s, the original Denny Park was an island some sixty feet above the rest of the regraded area surrounding it. It was finally flattened in 1930 and, shortly thereafter, redesigned by landscape architect, L. Glenn Hall from the Seattle Parks Department. Its present design is the one produced by L. Glenn Hall, although a comfort station, located in the general location of the present administration building or of its parking lot, has since been demolished. In 1948, the Seattle Parks Department built it own administration building, after a City charter amendment established the position of Parks Department Superintendent as a permanent one. The building, located on the western side of the park, was erected, also despite the protests of the Denny family. It was designed by the architecture firm of Young and Richardson, which was descended from the earlier firm of Schack Young and Myers. It won an AIA Grand Honor Award. The bronze bust of Reverend Matthews by sculptor Alonzo Lewis, a famous Seattle sculptor in his day, dates from 1941. Donated by Matthews' daughter, Mrs. A. S. Kerry, it was erected in the park in 1942. Reverend Matthews, a Presbyterian minister, waged a not completely successful battle for the “forces of decency” in Seattle city government in the 1900s and 1910s and ran a Sunday school credited with quelling juvenile delinquency in the “Bell Town District.” The sculptor Alonzo Lewis, according to C. H. Hanford (Vol.III, p 621), had a studio on Eastlake Avenue and was also responsible for such works as the gargoyles on Education Hall at the University of Washington and for the bas-reliefs representing dance and music on the Cornish School building on Capitol Hill. (Please see entry on the Parks Department Headquarters for more complete information on that building).
This park is designed according to a formal symmetrical arrangement, but with green lawn and randomly planted trees and shrubbery. Four major diagonal paths radiate from a central paved and landscaped center to the four corners of a rectangular lot , formed by Dexter Avenue North, John Street, 9th Avenue North and Denny Way (naming them in clockwise order). There is also a thinner, paved pathway that runs along the perimeter of the rectangle. From north to south, perpendicular to the pathways parallel to John Streets and Denny Way, are two additional parallel pathways, separated by landscaped “parterres”. In plan, at the north and south sides of the central east-west axis, what look like designed parterres are terminated by wider curved, symmetrical designed paths, set closer to the outer pathways along the edge of the rectangle. In fact, the parterre shapes are informally planted with grass lawn and randomly planted trees and shrubs, as is the rest of the park. A bronze bust of the Reverend Mark Matthews, erected in 1942, is set just north of the curved path at the south of the park, close to Denny Way. To the west of the park, slightly offset from the edge of the lot, but centrally sited, is the Parks Department Headquarters Building by Young and Richardson from the late 1940s. There is a path right behind this building, to the east of it, and then a parking lot. According to notes by Don Sherwood, also of note is the George Washington Bicentennial 1932 Sequoia Giganta set to the north and slightly to the east of the Parks Building. A Parks Bicentennial time capsule was also apparently set in the ground toward the eastern edge of the park in 1984, along the east-west axis. Not surprisingly for a formally designed park, there is a noted combination of curved and angled lines and shapes. For the visitor to the park, particularly noticeable is a repeated landscape detail at the outer entry of the diagonal paths, which each begin with two symmetrically placed arcs to each side of the rectilinear portion of the path. Large landscaped areas are often edged by a thin concrete curb consisting in plan of a flat arc shape flanked by two smaller angled lines.

Detail for Dexter Ave N, John St,9th Ave N, Denny Way / Parcel ID 1991201077 / Inv #

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: District Status: INV
Cladding(s): Concrete, Other Foundation(s):
Roof Type(s): Roof Material(s):
Building Type: Landscape - Park Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: No. of Stories:
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Community Planning/Development, Politics/Government/Law, Science & Engineering
Changes to Plan: Slight
Major Bibliographic References
Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, ed. Shaping Seattle Architecture, A Historical Guide to the Architects. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994.
King County Tax Assessor Records, ca. 1932-1972.
Hanford, C. H. Seattle and Environs. Chicago: Pioneer Historical Publication Company, 1924.
Sherwood History Files, Seattle Parks and Recreation, 1972-77. Database on-line. Available from

Photo collection for Dexter Ave N, John St,9th Ave N, Denny Way / Parcel ID 1991201077 / Inv #

Photo taken Feb 17, 2005

Photo taken Feb 17, 2005

Photo taken Feb 17, 2005
App v2.0.1.0