Pacific Northwest | December 7, 2003Pacific Northwest MagazineDecember 7, 2003seattletimes.com home
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PREVIOUS ISSUES OF PACIFIC NW


WRITTEN BY PAUL DORPAT Winter Home Design 2003

A Cityscape Shaped
Photo
COURTESY OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS, UW LIBRARIES
A lesson in urban landscape is apparent in this view looking south on 39th Avenue between East John Street, on the left, and Viretta Park, on the right. Practically all of Seattle was first stripped of its indigenous landscape of firs and cedars in order to make a second landscape that is both more exotic and diverse than the original.
Photo
PAUL DORPAT


When filed in 1901, the Denny-Blaine Addition was a suburb easily reached from Pioneer Square by a ride on a James Street cable car with a transfer at Broadway Street to an electric trolley that completed its zigzag route at Madrona Park.

From the closest trolley stop it was a three-block walk to this intersection at East John Street (on the left) and 39th Avenue. And cutting through Viretta Park (named for the wife of pioneer Charles Denny) on the right it was a short distance to Lake Washington.

At the turn of the century, Denny Blaine was our harbinger of the beautiful-city sensitivities most famously promoted nationwide by Olmsted Brothers, the pioneering landscape-design firm. While building a home in Denny Blaine meant one was fleeing from the increasingly congested central city, such a move also hinted at the "aesthete" in the home owner. This was the city's first deliberately picturesque addition, featuring curving streets guided not by some convenient grid but by the natural topography of the hillside overlooking the lake.

In 1903, when this addition was first being filled with fine homes, many of which survive a century later, the Olmsted representatives were in town preparing their plans for the city's parks and its boulevards. By its utopian credo, the "City Beautiful Movement" worked to reform society by reforming the landscape. Such sensitivity was expected of the progressive developer Elbert Blaine, who was so responsible for nurturing the Park Department and working with the Olmsted Plan that he was officially honored as the "father of the Seattle Park System."

Paul Dorpat's and Genevieve McCoy's award-winning illustrated Washington State history, "Building Washington," is available for $50 from Tartu Publications, P.O. Box 85208, Seattle, WA 98145; 206-547-7678.

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