This report covers one of the walks featured in the book “Seattle Walks: Discovering History and Nature in the City” by David B. Williams. I committed to walking all of the walks in the book as part of a fundraiser for Mountaineers youth programs (this link will remain active during the summer 2017 fundraiser).
This walk begins and ends at Gasworks Park at the north end of Lake Union. Realistically though, since it circumnavigates the lake, you could start just about anywhere along the route. In itself, I wouldn’t say this is one of the most exciting walks you can do in the city. You may find yourself contending with a lot of traffic (particularly speedy bicyclists angry about having to share a trail with pedestrians). There are also parts where you may have to walk by or through homeless encampments. However, it does have great views from certain locations and the additional historical narrative from the Seattle Walks book adds a certain interest.
Originally a gasification plant (mostly to create fuel for lighting in the city), Gasworks did not open as a park until 1975. The park retains much of the original gasification facilities. There is one part that acts as a play area where people can climb on gasworks machinery. However, some areas are extremely dangerous for climbing and should be avoided. In particular, I am thinking about the large gasworks structures in the center of the park. A friend of mine fell off the tallest tower when we were teens. He lost nearly all of his teeth and broke several bones in the process. This area is fenced off from the public. You are forewarned.
The walk takes you down the Burke Gilman trail and past a couple pocket parks on your way to the University Bridge. These include “Waterway 15” and Peace Park.
Wallingford Waterways: http://www.wallyhood.org/2015/09/wcc-agenda/#gsc.tab=0
Wikipedia on Peace Park: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_Park_(Seattle)
Crossing the bridge takes you into the Eastlake neighborhood. This area was cut off from neighboring Capitol Hill when Interstate 5 was constructed. It lingered as a mostly single family home neighborhood without much development for a while but over the last few decades grew rapidly, with new multifamily complexes taking over much of that space (especially now, in the 2010’s). Along the water, however, houseboats prevail as the primary type of abode.
The walk takes you past the neighborhood P-patch garden, then to the original Boeing site (the location where the founder of Boeing built his first plane). The Boeing site is a pocket park at the end of Roanoke Street (if you blink you will miss it).
Walking from here, down Fairview Ave N., you will pass a market (Pete’s) where you can stop for refreshments if needed. This unassuming mini mart is actually known locally for their wine selection. Note the duplex in the parking lot. Here’s a little me history: I lived there for a year between college and graduate school. Across the street is the only multifamily complex you will find on the water. Subsequent covenants banned this type of construction on the water in this neighborhood.
As you keep going, you will cross Lynn Street, with another pocket park to the right. This is where my roommate and I would put in the two-person kayak that we were “letting” her dad store in our garage. 🙂
The next big site is the Zymogenetics building. This is another legacy of power generation in Seattle on this trip, the former Seattle City Light Steam Plant. Note: word is that Zymogenetics did not renew their lease so I’m not sure what the name on the building will be in the future.
The only other major stops I would want to point out on this walk are the Center for Wooden Boats and MOHAI. These are right next to each other just north of Valley Street. The Center for Wooden Boats is dedicated to preserving and documenting the maritime history of the region while MOHAI (Museum of History and Industry) is a museum dedicated to the overall history of the region. If you are like me and get lost in the content at museums, save MOHAI for when you can dedicate a full day to explore.
Also of note: you may at this point have noticed a streetcar track. This is the 1.3-mile South Lake Union Streetcar. As this neighborhood has grown in the 21st century (currently it is the fastest growing in the city for both employee and resident populations), the city has started to invest more in transit and infrastructure here. However, at the time the streetcar was built, there was no transit serving the core of this neighborhood along Westlake Avenue. Due to that lack of transit in the area at the time, the streetcar was privately developed (though is now run by the county transit authority, Metro). The original name for this streetcar line was the “South Lake Union Trolley”. Apparently, it was changed due to some concerns about the acronym.
From here, you can walk along Westlake Ave to get back to the start. If you have time, stop by the quirky and artsy Fremont neighborhood just on the other side of the Fremont bridge before heading back along the trail to Gasworks. There’s a lot of note to share about Fremont, but that might be enough for another post.
Keep calm and walk on.