Home Page
Link to Seattle Department of Neighborhoods home page

Seattle Historical Sites

New Search

Summary for 5900 W Green Lake WAY W / Parcel ID 0725049002 / Inv # DPR033

Historic Name: Green Lake Park Shellhouse/Concession & Comfort Station Common Name:
Style: Modern Neighborhood: Green Lake
Built By: Year Built: 1951
In 1950, the contractor of the adjacent Aqua Theater built this reinforced concrete shellhouse without cost to city while constructing the larger structure. In 1959, the building was enlarged with the addition of a concession and comfort station. Within thirty years of the first settlement at Green Lake in 1869, the area had been transformed from dense forests to an attractive residential neighborhood served by a streetcar line, which connected it with downtown Seattle. In the late 1880s, entrepreneur William D. Wood acquired more than 600 acres of real estate around Green Lake and then platted and promoted his holdings. In order to stimulate development, Wood convinced Dr. Edward C. Kilbourne, one of the founders of Fremont, to extend his streetcar line from Fremont to Green Lake in 1891. Together, they organized the Green Lake Electric Railway, which Wood managed, and developed a ten-acre amusement park at its terminus on the northwestern corner of Green Lake. The same year, the City of Seattle annexed the Green Lake area along with other northern suburbs. In 1903, the city hired the Olmsted Brothers landscape firm to prepare plans for a comprehensive park and boulevard system, including suggestions for improvements to existing parks. This move was largely brought on by the public interest generated for the planned Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition and through the purchase of Woodland Park and the acquisition of Washington Park, two large tracts of mostly undeveloped land. The Olmsted Brothers recommended the acquisition of Green Lake and the creation of a park and boulevard surrounding the lake. Unfortunately, settlement had reached to the shoreline by this time, providing little opportunity to create the park economically. As a solution, the Olmsted Brothers recommended lowering the level of the lake and filling in the wetlands to create more usable parkland. In 1905, the State of Washington deeded ownership of the lake bottom to the city, which proceeded to acquire the remainder of the shoreline through purchase and condemnation, including the former amusement park site. Beginning in 1911, the level of the lake was lowered seven feet, which added 100 acres of dry land once it had been graded and filled. Before the lake was lowered, the shoreline extended south to North 54th Street. Much of this marshy area was filled to create additional space for athletic fields at Lower Woodland. A swampy area north of the boulevard remained largely under water until the early 1930s. The next great physical change came in 1932 with the construction of Aurora Avenue, a six-lane north-south highway, through the center of Woodland Park. Additional land at the south end of Green Lake was filled with material excavated from the trench through Woodland Park. Up until this time, the Parks Department had made extensive improvements to Green Lake Park. However, the financial difficulties of the depression in the 1930s and the shortages of labor and materials during the Second World War halted the construction of most park buildings until the later 1940s with the exception of those built by state and federal relief agencies. One of the first major improvements after the war was the construction of the Aqua Theater in 1950 to serve as an open-air venue for summertime entertainment productions, including Seafair’s Aqua Follies. In addition to the 5200-seat fan shaped grandstand, the contractors, Strand & Sons, built a smaller concrete building to house the Junior Crew Program. The following year, the Parks Department made improvements to the existing structure. After the failure of several earlier efforts, a youth rowing program was organized by a group of community leaders and neighborhood supporters in 1947, with the first crew beginning rowing in the summer of 1948. Before the construction of the small shellhouse in 1950, the rowing program used an older boathouse located on the eastern shoreline of Green Lake near the field house. Guided by the Seattle Junior Crew Rowing Commission under the leadership of Alex L. Shults, the crew received equipment, and travel and operational support. By the mid-1950s, the involvement of the Parks Department had increased, and the program was able to grow and develop continuity between seasons. The facility was improved in 1959 with the addition of a comfort station and concession. After his election to the City Council in 1950, Clarence F. Massart was instrumental in garnering support for the program during its early years. Upon his retirement in 1967, the shellhouse was named in his honor. In the Seattle earthquake of 1965, the shellhouse received extensive damage. Rather than just conduct repairs, the Parks Department decided to expand the boathouse to accommodate additional shell storage and improve the launching areas. At the same time, a new building for the Green Lake Small Craft Center was constructed after a large portion of the Aqua Theater was demolished. Canoeing and sailing had come to the lake in the late 1960s with the introduction of two public clubs, the Seattle Canoe Club and the Seattle Sailing Association. Both of these groups allowed for the expansion of small craft program opportunities without impacting the Department budget. The 1968 Forward Thrust Bond Issue allowed for the construction of a new small craft center to accommodate rowing, sailing, and canoeing on Green Lake. This facility was completed in 1980 and included the remodeling of the Massart Shellhouse, the partial demolition of the Aqua Theater, and the addition of a building to house sailing and canoeing. The Green Lake Small Craft Center was dedicated on September 27, 1980. Although extensively altered, this building is significant for its association with the growth of the Parks Department rowing program and with the development of Green Lake Park.
Located at the southwest corner of Green Lake, this mostly rectangular one-story building features a shellhouse and boathouse at the lake level on the east and a combination concession and comfort station at the path level on the west. Four concrete columns along both the east and west elevations of the shellhouse support four metal roof trusses connected to each other by diagonal bracing. The flat overhanging roof suspended from these trusses allows for uninterrupted interior storage spaces. Large overhead doors on the north and south elevations provide access to the shellhouse interior. Bands of plexiglass windows below the roof light the spacious interior. Two overhead doors on the east elevation of the boathouse open onto the lake. The concrete block comfort station on the west exhibits a T-plan with entrances to the bathrooms in the recessed corners. Contractors for the adjacent Aqua Theater constructed the earliest portion in 1950. The following year, the Parks Department made improvements to the existing structure used as a shellhouse by the Junior Crew Program. In 1959, the combination concession and comfort station was added to the west elevation to improve the amenities available in the southwest corner of the lake. After the 1965 earthquake extensively damaged the building, substantial repairs were delayed until the later 1970s when the shellhouse was remodeled with Forward Thrust funds. The current appearance is largely the result of that project, which also included the partial demolition of the Aqua Theater and the construction of the adjacent Small Craft Center.

Detail for 5900 W Green Lake WAY W / Parcel ID 0725049002 / Inv # DPR033

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Concrete, Concrete - Block, Metal Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat Roof Material(s): Other
Building Type: Other Plan: Irregular
Structural System: Concrete - Block No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Community Planning/Development, Entertainment/Recreation
Changes to Original Cladding: Slight
Changes to Windows: Slight
Changes to Plan: Moderate
Major Bibliographic References
Sherwood, Don. Seattle Parks Histories, c. 1970-1981, unpublished.
Fiset, Louis. "Green Lake -- Thumbnail History," The Green Lake News, July-August 2000, p. 4-5.
"$50,000 Orchid Gift Accepted By Park Dept." Seattle Times, May 24, 1951, p. 21.

Photo collection for 5900 W Green Lake WAY W / Parcel ID 0725049002 / Inv # DPR033

Photo taken Jul 18, 2000
App v2.0.1.0