THESE CORONAVIRAL DAYS, when distant travel is discouraged, the elements defining our neighborhoods assume extra meaning. We more deeply value our collective, super-local identity even as it undergoes constant, if incremental, change. No exception is Miller Park.
The name might be unfamiliar to some. On the eastern side of Capitol Hill, the neighborhood embodies a trapezoid, bounded north-to-south by East Aloha and Madison streets and west-to-east by 19th and 23rd avenues. Its outskirts include business strips and high-profile hubs of health care (Kaiser Permanente, formerly Group Health), religion and education (St. Joseph Catholic Church and School, Holy Names Academy).
In the glen at its core lies a playground, the initial acreage for which came to the city in 1906 from namesake Mary M. Miller, whose descendants became major local landowners and conservation philanthropists. Next door is Edmund Meany Middle School, named for the University of Washington historian.
In our “Then” photo, taken May 2, 1955, looking west to the Capitol Hill crest, at right we see land recently cleared to augment the park before construction of a nearby community center. Sparse trees punctuate clusters of homes. In the distant center, the John/Thomas street arterial rises to pass a two-story brick building on 19th Avenue that nearly four decades later gained national fame.
Fronted by a communal courtyard, the Coryell Court Apartments, built in 1928, hosted Matt Dillon, Bridget Fonda and other actors playing 20-something love-seekers in Cameron Crowe’s 1992 film “Singles.” While the film widened Seattle’s reputation for grunge music, it also is known for a breathtaking visual finale. Shot from a helicopter, it starts tight on the Coryell building and pulls up to reveal the neighborhood and city.
Nearly 30 years hence, encased by the heavy foliage of mature trees, Miller Park is a mix of single- and multifamily housing. Its residents have reckoned with drug dealing, broadcast towers and today’s influx of transient tents in the park.
Such topics drew Andrew Taylor into the role of nerve center. The now-retired Fred Hutch scientist has lived in the house at the left edge of our “Then” photo since 1983. Known as the neighborhood’s informal mayor, he launched its newsletter (later a blog) in 1990.
For family reasons, he will move 5 miles north this fall, but despite the challenges of his eclectic soon-to-be former neighborhood, he cheerfully salutes it.
“It’s a quiet, modest oasis,” he says. “It’s ethnically and economically diverse, close to everything, with much activity but still peaceful enough for quiet contemplation.” In other words, an apt model for our time.