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Summary for 5801 20th AVE / Parcel ID 7172700040 / Inv # DPR075

Historic Name: Ravenna Park Maintenance Shop Common Name:
Style: Vernacular Neighborhood: Roosevelt
Built By: Year Built: 1947
This one-story wood frame building was completed in 1947 to serve as a Parks Department grounds maintenance facility for the northeast district of the city. 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. Later park improvements included a 1926 comfort station and a 1932 shelter house. In 1947, the Parks Department constructed a grounds maintenance facility on an unused parcel of land near the park’s original entrance on 20th Avenue NE. This included a one-story building housing an office, a garage and storage space. Many of the city’s largest parks originally featured their own grounds maintenance facilities. As the park system expanded, these facilities began to serve both the parks in which they were located as well as other parks in the district. This building is similar in design to other park maintenance buildings constructed in the late 1940s and early 1950s, including facilities located at Washington Park, Carkeek Park, Atlantic Nursery, and Colman Park. Currently, this building serves as the grounds maintenance facility for the Northeast Park District. This building is significant for its association with the development of Ravenna Park and the Parks Department.
Completed in 1947, this one-story wood frame building occupies the eastern end of a large service area along NE 58th Street and the southern margin of Ravenna Park to the west of 20th Avenue NE. The long, low-slung structure faces west towards an open graveled yard and has a mostly rectangular plan. The low-pitch side gable roof overhangs the exterior walls clad with board and batten siding on all elevations. A skirting of wide cedar siding lines the base of the principal west elevation and extends across the base of the south elevation. The west elevation has a recessed area across the center flanked by a garage at the northern end and an office at the southern end. A large opening at the center of the recessed area contains a board and batten sliding door and adjoins an entrance door and single pane window at the southern end. The garage has a paneled overhead door within a recessed opening on the south elevation and an entrance door on the north wall of the recessed area. The office at the southern end projects slightly beyond the rest of the façade and has three multi-paned pivot windows set in a pair and singly. The north elevation has three identical windows set in a band at the center and separated by wide wood mullions, while the south elevation has four windows in a similar configuration. The rear east elevation has three bands with three windows and one with two windows. Narrow horizontal boards cover the windows at the midpoint in order to prevent unauthorized entry. A lack of maintenance and some wood deterioration has reduced the physical integrity of this otherwise intact building.

Detail for 5801 20th AVE / Parcel ID 7172700040 / Inv # DPR075

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Vertical - Board and Batten, Wood - Clapboard Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Gable Roof Material(s): Metal - Corrugated
Building Type: Other Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Balloon Frame/Platform Frame No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Community Planning/Development, Conservation
Changes to Windows: Intact
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: 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 5801 20th AVE / Parcel ID 7172700040 / Inv # DPR075

Photo taken Nov 03, 2000
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