Home Page
Link to Seattle Department of Neighborhoods home page

Seattle Historical Sites

New Search

Summary for 5900 Lake Washington BLVD / Parcel ID 2324049007 / Inv # DPR081

Historic Name: Seward Park Comfort Station #1 (1932) Common Name:
Style: Tudor Neighborhood: Seward Park
Built By: Year Built: 1932
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 brick building was one of two identical comfort stations constructed in 1932 at Seward Park. This comfort station is located along the shoreline drive at the southern end of the peninsula while the other is located along the drive at the northern end. Originally, the peninsula was known as Graham Peninsula after Walter Graham purchased it in 1863. In 1890, the real estate developer William E. Bailey purchased the land from a subsequent owner, and it became known as Bailey Peninsula. In the early 1890s, Edward O. Schwagerl, the Superintendent of Public Parks, proposed selling Volunteer Park, then known as City Park, to fund the purchase of the Bailey Peninsula for a new "Southeast Park." However, this plan was not realized partly due to the fact that the peninsula was considered to be even further out in the wilderness than Volunteer Park and fairly inaccessible. 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 first proposal on the list of the Olmsted Brothers was a recommendation to acquire the still heavily wooded Bailey Peninsula before it was developed. At the time, the peninsula was located outside the southern city limits situated well to the north at South Hanford Street. A new boulevard on the western shore of Lake Washington could connect the proposed park with the southern boundary of the city. In 1908, the Olmsted Brothers supplemented their original plan with an additional report, which included the large areas annexed by the city the previous year, including this area of the Rainier Valley. The Baileys withheld development of the peninsula in anticipation of selling it to the city. However, condemnation proceedings became necessary after the two parties could not agree on a fair price. In 1911, the city paid $322,000 for the peninsula with funds from the 1910 bond issue and named the new park after William H. Seward, who had acquired Alaska for the United States in 1867. The city also hired the Olmsted Brothers to prepare landscape plans for the new park. Seward Park was one of 37 individual parks and playgrounds for which the Olmsted Brother prepared detailed landscape plans between 1904 and 1930. As envisioned by the Olmsted Brothers, Seward Park would be designed as a water and forest oriented park with piers for boats to dock. Four miles of drives along the bluffs above the shoreline would provide scenic views of lake and mountains, however the focus of development would be on access from the water. Twelve miles of winding paths would connect various amenities, which would be clustered at the northern end for the convenience of boaters. These included picnic groves, summer houses, a dancing pavilion, bathing beaches and bathhouses, piers, and children’s play equipment. At the time, the peninsula was almost an island with only a narrow neck of land connecting it to the mainland. The Olmsted Brothers proposed construction of a land bridge to better connect the peninsula with the new lakeshore boulevard, already under development. The first improvements were made in 1913 when a path system was established through the forest. However, the lowering of Lake Washington in 1916 due to the construction of the Ship Canal changed the focus of development from the northern to the southern end as vehicular access from the mainland improved. The drained marshes at the formerly narrow neck were also filled to create a broad meadow at the park entrance. By 1919, boaters could dock at newly built piers and enjoy picnics, hiking trails, and a children’s play area. Over the next ten years, a number of additional improvements were made, including construction of picnic and stove shelters, comfort stations, a privately operated boat pavilion, and a concession stand. These wood frame structures were constructed as temporary amenities until more permanent improvements could be built. In 1927, the Seward Park Inn, a Tudor Revival refreshment building, was constructed on the circular drive at the entrance, and the beach area at the northern end of the meadow was developed, including the completion of the first phase of a masonry bathhouse. In 1930, the Parks Department began to develop a drive along the entire shoreline of the peninsula in response to public demand. The mostly dusty road was built in stages, as funds became available from periodic budget allocations until paving was completed in 1955. By this time, the southeast segment of the drive had already been closed to motor vehicle traffic. Shortly after construction of the shoreline drive had begun, two identical brick comfort stations were built along the drive at the northern and southern ends of the peninsula. These comfort stations were the first facilities built beyond the immediate area of the park entrance. With their simplified Tudor Revival detailing, the buildings were stylistically similar to the larger brick shelter houses constructed around the same time by the Parks Department at the Lower Woodland, Washington Park, Lincoln Park, Maple Leaf, Ravenna Park, Brighton and Gilman Playfields. Construction of these comfort stations followed a policy to build only structures that would be pleasing in design and permanent in nature in contrast to the earlier wood frame facilities at Seward Park. This building is significant for its design and for its association with the development of Seward Park.
Completed in 1932, this architecturally distinctive comfort station occupies a site on a slight rise above the perimeter road at the southern end of the Seward Park peninsula. Mature trees flank the walk leading from the stairs to the building and obscure the principal south elevation. The one-story brick building has a cross gable main block with a T-plan flanked by offset side gable entrance wings aligned along the rear north elevation. Overall, the footprint measures 44 feet by 18 feet. The structure retains the original clipped gable ends, however a standing seam metal roof has replaced the original wood shakes, reducing somewhat the picturesque quality of the original appearance. Featuring a variegated brick exterior, the Tudor Revival building faces south towards Lake Washington and contains a women’s restroom in the eastern end and a men’s restroom in the western end. The projecting gabled pavilion at the center of the principal south elevation has a conical roof over a wide entrance door, which provides access to a maintenance room. The side elevations to this projecting bay have large vertical window openings set with multi-paned metal sash. The lower side gable restroom wings each have two horizontal openings set high on the wall, which contain multi-paned pivot windows. Entrances to the restrooms are situated on the south elevation of the smaller end wings. Modern metal gates have replaced the original wooden doors with strap hinges. The rear north elevation has three additional multi-paned pivot windows along the upper wall of each restroom wing, including the entrance wing at the end. The gabled center bay has two large vertical window openings set with multi-paned metal sash at the ground floor level below two smaller openings in the gable end. These openings flank a chimney at the center, which extends above the roof through the peak of the gable end. Metal screens cover all of the building’s window openings. This attractive building retains very good physical integrity in spite of the alterations noted above.

Detail for 5900 Lake Washington BLVD / Parcel ID 2324049007 / Inv # DPR081

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Brick Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Gable - Clipped Roof Material(s): Metal - Standing Seam
Building Type: Other Plan: T-Shape
Structural System: Unknown No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Community Planning/Development, Entertainment/Recreation
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Windows: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Sherwood, Don. Seattle Parks Histories, c. 1970-1981, unpublished.

Photo collection for 5900 Lake Washington BLVD / Parcel ID 2324049007 / Inv # DPR081

Photo taken Oct 27, 2000

Photo taken Oct 27, 2000
App v2.0.1.0