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Summary for 5900 Lake Washington BLVD / Parcel ID 2324049007 / Inv # DPR084

Historic Name: Seward Park Comfort Station #4 (1959) Common Name:
Style: Modern Neighborhood: Seward Park
Built By: Year Built: 1959
This concrete block comfort station was constructed in 1959 on the circular entrance drive at Seward Park. 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. Two years later, two identical brick comfort stations were constructed along the drive at the northern and southern ends of the peninsula. However, the construction of additional improvements largely came to an end until the later 1940s with the exception of those projects completed by state and federal unemployment relief agencies, such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA). After the financial difficulties of the 1930s, the Second World War brought shortages of labor and materials. By the later 1940s, the Parks Department was able to resume construction of new buildings. Designed by Parks Department architect Donald N. Sherwood, this comfort station was completed in 1959 to serve the area adjacent to the circular entrance drive. During his career with the Parks Department, Sherwood designed a total of fourteen buildings. The modern design of the post-war comfort stations contrasted with the earlier buildings, which generally exhibited Craftsman or period revival stylistic features. The materials also eventually changed from brick to the less expensive and more durable concrete block. This building is distinctive for its design and for its association with the development of Seward Park.
Completed in 1959, this concrete block comfort station occupies a site on the eastern side of Seward Park’s circular entrance drive. The one-story structure has a T-shaped footprint, which measures approximately 38 feet by 18 feet. On the north and south side elevations, the exposed rafters of the overhanging front gable roof have screens covering the openings between them. These rafters rest on beams lining the tops of the end walls, which, in turn, rest on beams lining the tops of the lower front and rear walls. These beams extend beyond the walls and cross at the northwest and southwest recessed corners. An additional overhanging beam supports the peak of the roof. Board and batten cladding covers the gable ends. The Modern building faces west and contains a women’s restroom at the northern end and a men’s restroom at the southern end. At either end of the principal west elevation, single entrance doors to the restrooms are situated below covered transoms on the rear walls of the recessed corners. Double entrance doors at the center of the west elevation provide access to a maintenance room. An art project completed in 1993 embellished this formerly plain concrete block wall with terra cotta ornamentation. Artist Kathryn Allen designed a door surround with a seashell and sea grass motif, "MEN" and "WOMEN" restroom signs, and adjoining terra cotta birds in relief. Although there is evidence of rising damp, this building still retains good physical integrity.

Detail for 5900 Lake Washington BLVD / Parcel ID 2324049007 / Inv # DPR084

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Concrete - Block, Terra cotta, Vertical - Board and Batten Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Gable Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Other Plan: T-Shape
Structural System: Concrete - Block No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Community Planning/Development, Entertainment/Recreation
Changes to Windows: Intact
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Slight
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 # DPR084

Photo taken Oct 27, 2000
App v2.0.1.0