From the start nearly 100 years ago, Lake Forest Park was based on the notion of escape from urban life.

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Quick, think of a city in the Seattle area that has three nouns in its name and for nearly a century has prided itself for not looking at all like Seattle.

Give up? Look to the northwestern edge of Lake Washington, that place on the map where the tight grid of city streets loosens into spaced-out, curvy roads.

That spot is Lake Forest Park, and it’s no accident those meandering roads have a bit more land — and a lot more towering trees — between them than most places.

From the start nearly 100 years ago, Lake Forest Park was based on the notion of escape from urban life.

Its first developers were keen on preserving the forests and streams, with a 1912 promotional brochure stating Lake Forest Park’s “boulevards are now laid out before a home is built, according to the contour of the ground.”

The ad goes on to poetically describe the development method of Lake Forest Park and concludes with a jab at the big city to the south:

“No straight lines are tolerated. The whole scheme contemplates no deep fills or cuts. Knolls and hills, beautifully rounded by the imperceptible, century creeping of glaciers, will not be ruthlessly destroyed by the Seattle leveling madness.”

Today, single-family homes are scattered among forested hills and squeezed along the lakefront in the neighborhoods of Sheridan Beach and Sheridan Heights.

Nearly 13,000 people dwell in this suburb, where people tend to buy and put down roots, according to real-estate agent and Lake Forest Park resident Henry Goss.

“They raise families here and then stay and grow old here,” says Goss, a Windermere Real Estate agent.

Apart from the obvious appeal of the lake, Goss cites accessibility as another selling point.

“It’s close-in to the city. You can get into town or to the Eastside fairly easily, but we have larger lots, tall trees and a real small-town feel,” Goss says.

The small-town feel extends to the Lake Forest Park Towne Centre, one of the few commercial areas in a city that has no industry.

Though essentially a shopping mall, the Towne Centre is also home to City Hall, a branch of the King County Public Library, the post office, a branch campus of Shoreline Community College and Third Place Books, an independent bookstore that aims to be a “third place” for residents, after home and work or school.

“Everyone comes down to the Towne Centre,” says Goss. “It’s the only place in town.”

Fortunately, the center offers plenty of space to congregate in the Third Place Commons, an eclectic space surrounded by the bookstore, restaurants, a meeting room and a stage.

A typical day finds the common tables filled with a mix of diners, folks tapping away on laptops and groups huddled around game boards.

Message boards are filled with handmade fliers advertising sockeye salmon, Scottish Country Dancing and a drawing of an antique dresser for sale alongside city announcements.

Eventually, people may one day even call the Towne Centre home.

Long-range plans call for the center to add housing to the upper level. Meanwhile, the owners intend to update the facade of the center by the end of the year, according to Sarah Phillips, the city’s community and government-affairs manager.

It’s an effort to continue to offer what the original developers had in mind back in 1912: “This Park is not to be just a playground for the excessively rich,” the ads touted.

But it helps to have some money if you want the lake to be your front yard. Some Sheridan Beach homes on land sandwiched between the Burke-Gilman Trail and Lake Washington fetch prices in excess of $2 million.

Modern-day house hunters won’t find 1912-era prices, when a four-room bungalow could be had for $1,400 and a 1-acre lot commanded $500.

However, a few Lake Forest Park condos were recently listed in the $180,000s, and updated 1970s-era, three-bedroom, two-bathroom homes can be found up the hill in the Horizon View neighborhood for less than $400,000.

In any case, real-estate agents could easily look to the 1912 ad for inspiration when describing life in Lake Forest Park: “Here for years and years, the business man, wearied by the sordid scenes of commercial and industrial life, will find surcease from worry and care in the magnificent sweeps of forest green and in the vista of beautiful Lake Washington sparkling in the sunshine before him.”