Like Leschi Park, Madison Park was developed as an attraction at the end of a cable railway line. Both featured exotic landscapes, waterside promenades, gazebos...

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Like Leschi Park, Madison Park was developed as an attraction at the end of a cable railway line. Both featured exotic landscapes, waterside promenades, gazebos, greenhouses, refreshment stands, garden-lined paths, bandstands and boat rentals, even lodging. Leschi’s early novelty was its zoo. Madison Park’s was the baseball diamond. (The roof of the bleachers can be seen on the far left of the historical scene.)

Both parks featured monumental-sized pavilions with towers on top and great ballrooms within. The theater-sized room in this landmark could also seat 1,400 for melodramas, minstrel shows, musicals, farce, vaudeville and legitimate theater. For many years, members of the ever-dwindling mass of the Pioneer Association chose the Madison Park Pavilion for its annual meetings and posed for group portraits on the front steps.

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Here the grand eastern face of the pavilion looks out at Lake Washington. The pleasurable variety of its lines, with gables, towers, porticos and the symmetrically placed and exposed stairways to its high central tower, surely got the attention of those approaching it from the lake. (For many years, beginning about 1880, Madison Park was the busiest port on Lake Washington.)

However, most visitors came from the city, and the real crush was on the weekends for ballgames, dances, band concerts (most often with Dad Wagner’s Band), theater and moon-lit serenading on the lake — ideally with a mandolin and receptive ingénue looking for pointers on how to navigate a rented canoe.

The pavilion stood for a quarter century until destroyed by fire on March 25, 1914.


Paul Dorpat specializes in historical photography and has published several books on early Seattle.