ON CHRISTMAS Day 1894, a landslide dropped a 150-foot swath off the bluff between the lower and upper parts of Kinnear Park into Elliott Bay. Seattle’s third park sits on the southwest brow of Queen Anne Hill. From its northern border on West Olympic Place, it plunges nearly 250 feet to the waterfront.
For the Seattle Park Board, the slide of ’94 was the encore to a swan dive taken a year earlier by the city treasury with the economic Panic of 1893. The board decreed that “the limited funds at disposal” be used only on the “upper portion of this park, which is upon the solid bluff.”
When Angie and George Kinnear gave the park to the city for one dollar in the fall of 1887, the beach, backed by ancient Douglas firs, was already a popular retreat for those who could reach it. Its open view to the Olympic Mountains was blocked earlier that summer by the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern Railroad, the first of three trestles to run between the beach and the bay.
From the upper park, the views across Puget Sound were transcendent (still are), and it was there that the Seattle City Council relaxed on the afternoon of its May 1, 1900, “official inspection tour.” City engineer Reginald Thomson, sitting here behind the councilman on the far left, led the tour that was primarily of the reservoirs and standpipes being completed for the anticipated delivery of pure Cedar River water. For his “repeat,” Jean Sherrard took the freshly restored but still steep path down the bluff to record the Park Department’s and FOLKpark’s grand opening of the revitalized park April 26.
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FOLKpark stands for Friends of Lower Kinnear Park. Among them is Marga Rose Hancock. A neighbor of the park, she suggested this “now and then,” and, out of respect for the dress code of the City Council in 1900, pulled from her large collection of purple hats, head covers for those posing now. Marga Rose is found, all in purple, behind the man with the trombone. (For the full list of names and positions of the posers, visit the blog listed below.)
Check out Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard’s blog at www.pauldorpat.com.