Saturday, July 2, 2016

Paul Byron Crane - Landscape Architect, Activist, Allied Arts Board

Today, I am talking with Paul Byron Crane about the history of the Rainier Valley. I-90 Tunnel portion of the Central Area. What would you call your neighborhood?

Paul Byron Crane. Photo: Madeline Crowley

Well, it’s affectionately known as “Garlic Gulch” (Rainier Valley roughly from south of Jackson down Rainier Ave & west Mount Baker).  It was a large, primarily Italian community with wine presses in the houses. The Napolis, the Furfaros, they still live across the street. (Former Governor) Rosellini grew up right up the street on Nineteenth  Ave.

The neighborhood also had a lot of Irish and Polish immigrants as well. Saint Mary’s is where the Irish boys would go also the Polish community went to that Church. The Italians largely went to Our Lady of Mount Virgin in the Mount Baker (neighborhood) facing west. That’s where the good Italian Catholics went. They wouldn't let their daughters go to the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) dances at Saint Mary’s because the Irish boys were there.

My neighbor down the street, Vince Furfaro, has some great pictures. He is 82 years old. He remembers when it was farms where I-90 is now. People had livestock and big Italian farms. The Desimone’s grew (produce) there, as did other Italian families. They trucked their produce to the (Pike Place) market (video of the Desimone stand and other interesting infoWe’re talking a time prior to the Jose Rizal Bridge being built, before electrification (the availability of electricity) in the area.

Paul Byron Crane, baby picture. Collection: Paul Byron Crane
So, anyway moving onto the later political scene in the area. The best example would be, well, it’s now called Jackson Place Community Council. It is sort of a newcomer. When I when moved here,
it was called the Judkins Rejected Community Council. There’s a great history on that if you want to hear it.

Okay. First, can you give me some context? You mentioned to me that you moved here
in 1975.

We raised three kids in this house.

We moved to Seattle in 1975. We bought the house and we closed on Pearl Harbor Day. We moved in February of 1979.  We bought it for the price of a used Volvo.

It had been abandoned for 15 years. The (former) owner was a displaced Polish citizen who raised his family here. I put down a nice, large down payment that he used to go back to Poland for the first time since the war (WWII).

Anyway, we moved here in 1979. I was a young student at the U (University of Washington) going to landscape architecture school and taking urban design projects and studio classes. Our neighbor down the street, Vince Furfaro, talked me into going to a community council meeting, the Judkins Rejected Community Council meeting. I was looking for an urban design studio project to do, and by God, they sucked me in. Within two years, I was president of the Judkins Rejected Community Council.

Paul Byron Crane, baby picture. Collection: Paul Byron Crane

Do you want to hear the history of why it’s called Judkins Rejected Community Council? I think you might want to. It used to be called the Atlantic Street Association. There was a guy by the name of Hilra Preston who was the father of the founder of CAYA (the Central Area Youth Association). 

Now as you may know, the RH Thomson Freeway (more info re: 520 historywas scheduled to go along Twenty-third Avenue (actually Martin Luther King Avenue, then Empire Way). That was one planning blight for this area. And the other was I-90 cutting through this neighborhood.

There were several different configurations of I-90 they wanted to build: one on the eastside; one on the westside. There also was a suggestion of a humongous one that was going to take up both sides of the I-90 corridor (and Garlic Gulch).

All that development blight was planned while we were living here. You have to remember that back then this area was like living in the country. We had no houses around us. It was empty. We had this beautiful house perched on the hill looking west over the Olympic Mountains and downtown.

Anyway. Hilra Preston was in charge of the Atlantic Street Association, a community group. At that time, Seattle (government) did not recognize community councils in the Central Area. They only went to the black churches (for community input). They considered the black Reverends the only community leaders. Whereas other areas of Seattle they also met with community groups. That’s a racist legacy in the city.

So other areas of town had community associations, community councils (to represent their interests) while the Central Area did not, then. When the RH Thomson Freeway was in the planning stage all this (federal highway and developer) money came into this area. And the city applied for and wanted that money.

Paul Byron Crane, picture from his youth. Collection: Paul Byron Crane

There was a program called Forward Thrust  (more on that program) that tore down what was a beautiful old business district at 23rd and Jackson similar to what is in Ballard and Columbia City. It was all beautiful brick buildings where they had bakeries and small retail. It was just a beautiful little business district. These under urban renewal programs promised to rebuild it. Then Forward Thrust acquired all this Federal money to rebuild when Wes Uhlman was Mayor and Paul Schell (later mayor too) who was the Head of the Department of Community Development at the time. After they had the money to rebuild 23rd and Jackson and this area (Garlic Gulch) of the Central Area what they did instead was move that money into rebuilding Leschi, Madrona, and Mount Baker. Their reasoning was that the RH Thompson Freeway, which at that point was nearly at its final gasping end, might still be built.

And so, they used this area and the fact it had a minority population to get money for development – (and then use that to) benefit wealthy folks (living) at the lake. Hilra Preston and I realized, well, I wasn’t a part of this, this is as related to me. Anyway, Hilra Preston was really, really upset (about the moving of the money meant for the primary business district Central Area to wealthier parts of that area). So he called a press conference.

The story goes that a fellow who was working for the Office of Management and Budget at the time, Jackie Rab, remembered Wes Uhlman walking into the Mayor’s office with a couple of little white pieces of paper on his chin where he cut himself shaving. He walked into his office and slammed the door. Apparently, Uhlman was shaving in the shower and heard this press conference on the radio. He was angry that people in this area of town and their community organization had gotten some time at this press conference. At the conference Hilra said, we have been rejected (from getting the monies allocated for our community and from having a voice) so we are now the Judkins Rejected Task Force Community Council. Hence, the rejected name.

Paul Byron Crane, recently. Collection: Paul Byron Crane

 Later we changed our name, the community decided in 1995 to change it to the Judkins Park Community Council because we didn’t feel rejected anymore. They were giving us money. Things were being built. Things were happening. So, as a result, they changed the name. I remember Margaret Pageler and other City Council people coming up and saying, “Paul, you guys should have never changed your name. Keep the rejected there. You got your ‘in’ there. Keep the Rejected name.” So, that’s the history of the name.

It’s interesting, too, to learn how this area has been used as a pawn. I have seen pictures of the old buildings on 23rd and Jackson in a Jewish history booklet. I wondered how all those pretty little buildings were taken down. So they just got mowed down and were replaced with big boxes and parking lots.

Well, some of it, yes. It’s interesting. Jimmy Sumler owned Promenade 23. The city was trying to wrestle that from them. The Central Area had the largest per capita African American home ownership of to any city in the United States. It was a very, very wealthy, sort of, black enclave here. These were middle class blacks and upper class blacks. This is because a lot of people had good jobs on the railroad. Seattle was the terminus. The NAAM has all that history. It (the black middle and upper class) just kept getting chipped away and chipped away.

The Promenade 23 development was the first of its kind (in this area). People were dying to have that. There was no place here to buy a pair of socks because of urban renewal (removed all the stores). There still isn’t.

Another thing. I was told by a City Planner when we first bought the house in 1979. “Paul, in five years you’re not going to recognize the area. You’re gonna have stores, you’re gonna have retail offices, this whole place is going to be renovated.”

Paul Byron Crane, recent picture. Collection: Paul Byron Crane

We’re looking at 2014 (the time of this interview), and we’re still looking for more development in the area particularly 23rd and Union, 23rd and Jackson. There’s planning studies and going on right now but it hasn’t happened yet. Not to make this neighborhood equal to other neighborhoods in the city. (Since this interview Vulcan has revealed its plans: )

Why does that persist?

I would say it’s planning blight. You have a lot of nonprofits that wanted an area that can be used as a permanent place for low-income, subsidized rental housing. It is an area that as it, as people term it, gentrifies, people are priced out.

The thing is what they didn’t get is, people aren’t being priced out. They own their houses here.

During the decades I was President of the Judkins Rejected that’s when everybody was wanting economic development.

Now, there’s more to this. I chaired the I-90 Advisory Development Committee so I can get to the point of the development and the big boxes (large retail chain stores). When I-90 was finally agreed upon, I would have to give kudos to Mayor Royer, who made them put up a lid. That was going to be a big V open space with 16-18 lanes of freeway traffic (going through the ridge).

For those who don’t know, the freeway lid is in Mt. Baker.

The I-90 lid (was built) instead of cutting a big swathe through the Mt. Baker Ridge. If you look at the Jose Rizal Bridge you can see they cut a notch from the hill back in the early 1900s. With I-90, they tunneled through the ridge of Mt. Baker and built a tunnel, for I-90 with a concrete lid over the top for a park.

Seattle Municipal Archives. Dearborn Ave, Jose Rizal Bridge

They specifically made that lid thin enough so that you couldn’t put housing there, to ensure it would be public open space.

That’s what Mayor Royer brokered with the federal government and the state. They had an EIS, Environmental Impact Statement that laid out specifically what the agreement was to build that highway with Bellevue, Mercer Island, and Seattle. On the Seattle side, they were going to build this lid, which they did do. They were also going to restore the neighborhoods (affected by the I-90 construction). Part of that agreement was to form a committee to oversee the restoration of 54 acres of housing to knit the communities all back together.

Paul Byron Crane, Judkins Park Spray Feature he designed and got built. Collection: Paul Byron Crane

I was asked and was elected chair of that (committee) for a couple of terms, ten years altogether. We were a tenacious group. I was the lightning rod. What we did (in committee) was everybody’s idea, not my idea. But somehow when you chair something, you become a lightning rod.

We wrote the I-90 development policies that were adopted by the City Council, and are still in effect. It’s been a long time. We oversaw these properties being developed. We oversaw the developers, the RFPs (Request for Proposal), the RFQs (Request for Quote) that went out. We also rezoned areas as well. We rezoned it as an up-zoned L2 and L3 for higher density (link shows examples). What we wanted to do in the policies, was first bring in people with expendable income, people who were homeowners, and then to look at more density: townhomes; low-rise duplexes; triplexes. Once we have that in (the community) then let’s look for high density.

Let’s go for it. Let’s go for the higher density. What we wanted was to build in a layer of urban design of urban development. We wanted to build a good basis for retail to want to come in, and that means, people with expendable income.

I was interviewed on the Compton Report with Earl Richardson and others about why this is a big idea. Well, development was under a lot of pressure. The Fremont Public Association, which is now Lehigh, did an end run around us to get the property to build in high density, low income, subsidized rental housing, similar to Cabrini Green (in Chicago). This was the old days of urban design, urban planning. Also, the high end condo people wanted to come in and they wanted to turn the place into what we now have in South Lake Union in a way. Then, there were the wannabe developers that wanted to come in, to kinda filter in, to see what they can grab to the side if they have friends in the City (government). We were under a lot of pressure, and the City stonewalled us for a number of years so we brought in HomeSight who provided money, first time homeowners assistance for first time buyers. Then we went out and we found minority contractors to build the houses. Mike McGinn did that as well, it was great.

The success rate was high, 80% of the houses that were bought were bought by minority homeowners for their first house. There was also the down payment assistance, they would get financial help for the payment, and they wouldn’t have to pay it back if they stayed in the house for more than 7 years. That was a huge boon. And it happened. And it worked. And you can drive around the area and see that there’s one over there, they’re all over this neighborhood.


Paul Byron Crane, Judkins Spray Feature. Collection: Paul Byron Crane

It covers a bit about I-90’s turmoil, the clash of visions, rents, the decaying neighborhood, as well as new sites, and everything.

Another thing also happened during this whole deal of knitting the neighborhoods together. Some people on the eastside of the Mt. Baker Ridge (the lake view part of the neighborhood) wanted a freeway ramp. You see, the new I-90 configuration is a Department of Defense project. All the Interstate Highway system is under the Department of Defense by Dwight Eisenhower. Dwight Eisenhower started all of that. When they design a highway, they design it to land fighter jets and commercial aircraft in the event of an emergency and the clover leafs are designed to handle large military vehicles that they have, tanks or whatever. I don’t know if you knew that…

I did not know that!

Going through all of this, you learn a lot [laughs] also from going to school at the University of Washington in architecture, landscape architecture. Anyway, the people on the east of Mt. Baker when they saw the configuration of the new I-90 wanted the ramps to the highway like they had before, (even though) that was substandard. You see for them, coming off the existing highway (then US-10) had ramps: one by the lakefront, one by Martin Luther King, one by 23rd, and one at Rainier Ave. The new configuration meant there would be only one at Rainier Ave. So they would be delayed by a little bit.

A lot of the well-heeled along the lake wanted their own access, they wanted access right to their houses like they had (enjoyed). So because they wanted this, the State offered to build it over the water. Then, of course they said no, that would block our views; we don’t want that. They wanted it on the other side of the tracks. They wanted to put the freeway ramp at 23rd and Judkins. Right where I-90 passes 23rd. That would have taken out the entire south end of Judkins Park. It would have run an arterial all the way up Thirty-first Ave. It would have been pretty much like an English haha as they call it. These are in Britain, they build ditches that keep cows from crossing and going places. You can look at it, it looks easy (to navigate), but nobody will go past it (it’s an effective barrier). It would pretty much secure the new park for those (the affluent) who lived in Mt Baker. And anybody who lived north (a primarily minority area) would not send their kids across a 4-lane arterial to go play in the park.

Do you think that, “let’s create an arterial barricade,” was that deliberate?

Well, at the time, I worked for a large airplane company which will go unmentioned. So, I would show up at these meetings in a coat and tie. They never dreamed anyone in this neighborhood (who) was a professional wearing a coat and tie… (would not want to divide the neighborhood by socio-economics and race). They ignored the fact that those doctors, lawyers, dentists, engineers, and highly paid, blue collar professional workers lived in this neighborhood too. They just didn’t know. So, I heard things mentioned, yes. And I heard things said, yes. I’m definitely not going to mention any names, but…

Judkins Park when it was a dump. Collection: Paul Byron Crane


Yeah. It was, you know… (intended).

It was deliberate?

It was. Okay. So, anyway. So anyway. (For example) one woman who had a grocery store here moved back to South Carolina because she didn’t like the polite racism here. I mean, she wanted to move back to South Carolina, what? So, anyway, it (active racism) does exist in Seattle.


Everybody knows it. But it’s polite. It’s kinda passive aggressive Seattleite-type politeness. Like the north of ship canal vs. south of the ship canal (largely white v mixed and minority) but, not to digress too much.

Anyway, those on the east part of the Mt. Baker neighborhood wanted to put a freeway ramp in (dividing the neighborhood) and the State said no. The late Bill Southern was our best friend on that. They thought they had it (sewn up) they thought there was no voice (from the rest of the community). So, they were going to have this meeting with WSDOT officials at Seattle U that they set up with all the media. One person, a business owner from Leschi said, heads are gonna roll if WSDOT comes up with a ‘no’ again for (our ramp on) 23rd. All the cameras were whirring. They got up there and said, we need to have this happen now. And half of the room broke out, “Booooo. Noooooo. Boooooooo.” And they were turned (out).

Judkins Park when it was a dump. Collection: Paul Byron Crane

John O’Brien, who is the longest serving state representative in the Guinness Bookof Records and a business owner who will go unmentioned, thought they had it in the bag. They didn’t realize the entire Judkins Rejected Community Council, (part of) Mt. Baker and community portions of Leschi and Atlantic Street were our allies who came to that meeting and said no, they didn’t want it.

The media wanted to interview us. Even King5 news reported on it as being a ‘no.’ Then the next day this guy who had some clout had King5 change the newscast. It got to be this big deal. They were interviewing people, and it just got to be this huge media event over the next year or so. Then there was a report in the Seattle PI (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Gold…, what was his name? Goldsmith. He was a saint. The guy was wonderful. [laughs]. He uncovered all this information that a politician who was pushing for this had property would have benefited from this ramp because he owned property that would have a higher level of service going by it. That did it. God, everybody ran from it. The ramp didn’t happen, and now we have basketball courts, bike courts, spray pools, dog run areas, we have a wonderful, wonderful, park.

And a skateboard park, too.

Yes, the skateboard park is right where it would have been directly underneath the cloverleaf. And my spray pool there would have been gone, too.

All of that would have been gone. And so the ramp didn’t happen. The longest serving person in the history of the Guinness Book of Records for the State Legislature was voted out of office immediately. He was up for election. And the other guy, the business owner, thank God, didn’t get in the State Senate. So, that was it! That was the freeway ramps battle.

Judkins Park when it was a dump. Collection: Paul Byron Crane

What a great story.

And, a lot of my professors loved it. They saved the clippings from all that.

It’s unusual to find people with knowledge who are also able to spearhead an effort with the will and the persistence to see something through over that amount of time.

Well, I made a lot of enemies too.


You know, most of them are all gone or dead but there are a few out there, especially with the rezoning.

When our committee got the rezone, a lot of speculators were planning on trying to get that property and build it up to benefit them. The committee made its recommendation that the city followed, and so, that’s where a lot of those houses came (from). We only did residential; we didn’t do commercial. A lot of those were Yesler and Atlantic (Street) properties, a lot of those have been kind of shifted around. They’re looking now at redoing Promenade 23 completely. We have met with Weingarten (in 2014) who now owns it (now owned by Vulcan Corp).

So, right now there’s a lot of pressure on this area again because of its (central) location. A lot of people have moved in and it’s really great. That was the other thing. We were in the pizza dead zone. [laughs] Nobody would deliver here (to the Central Area). Nobody.

Judkins Park when it was a dump. Collection: Paul Byron Crane

Which is funny because it was originally an Italian neighborhood.

Yes, it was. We had a beautiful Italian restaurant right where I-90 runs (now). It had a hundred-foot long oak bar and booths with the names of every little village and large city in Italy on there. Vince Furfaro when you, if you interview him will tell you all about that.

I’d love to interview him.

So anyway. We couldn’t get pizza here.

Now we have Humble Pie, then we had nothing. The only place I found that would deliver were a couple of Greeks that were operating out of Mercer Island, they would come over here and deliver from Mercer Island.

Why wouldn’t anyone else deliver here?

Because it was ‘that’ area of town.

Was it really dangerous or was it perceived as dangerous?

It was perceived as being black and…

Therefore dangerous?

Yes. I lived here. We never…  well, this is on the other side of 23rd. We never really had trouble here. The only trouble we had with gangs was that they’d come over here to try and steal things and kick down doors and take things. But we never had any problems like violence or drug dealing. No. I’m not going to say we don’t (have any problems), not anything worse than any other part of town. We don’t have dealing in the streets, no shootings or anything like that. No.

Judkins Park when it was a dump. Collection: Paul Byron Crane

Was there any of that when you moved here in the 70s?

No, my God, when we moved here it was like living in the country. We had a guy that used to fly an ultralight out of Judkins Park to his job over in the summer, in Issaquah. He’d land at the airport that used to be there by the Mormon temple. That’s all gone, it’s now a business park. This is before they built I-90.

It was like living in the country. We had a guy across the street who had a horse for about 4 years in his backyard. It was an entirely different world.

What happened (in the Central Area, Central District) was the Bloods and Crips discovered sleepy little Central District here back in the late 80s and late 90s. They were gangs from Los Angeles.


The Bloods and the Crips; Gang History Seattle) and the Black Gangsters’ Disciples. They came up here because it was new territory. They infected the Central District. The city really at first did a lot under Mayor Rice. Mayor Rice was another savior. Wonderful guy. And it was the Weed and Seed program. (Op-Ed on effects of Weed and Seed; (Academic view of Weed & Seed: Academic view:

Judkins Park when it was a dump. Collection: Paul Byron Crane

Then, the new Mayor who took over after him, Schell, everything died.

So he did nothing?

Well, he got hit in the face by Omari (Tahiri-Garrett), who I know. I know Omari quite well.

I don’t know him well.

Omari’s an interesting person. I don’t hang out with him, no, no no no. I know him, he knows me; we get along.

He’s a very intelligent guy.

Yes, he is. Incredibly, incredibly intelligent, but vilified. I know about his background, he founded Africatown and his father founded the community Liberty Bank). Let’s leave that at that.

Fine. Going back to what I was going to say with the Bloods and Crips was at that time, the Central Area had a large middle class population. And when the police started not doing anything, containing the crime here in a containment zone, they (the middle class) moved (out of the neighborhood). Because you’re looking at a black middle class kid who might go to O’Dea (High School) or Bush (School) or Garfield (High) walking home from playing basketball or walking home with his friends. He gets rousted by the police because they think he’s a gang member. He walks a couple more blocks, and the gang members come up and roust him up because they’re not in the gang. So their parents didn’t want to raise him in a neighborhood like that where they'd be stereotyped.

Yes, Michelle Purnell-Hepburn, DeCharlene Williams and Carver Gayton talked about that, that there was black flight, the middle class from this neighborhood.

Judkins Park when it was a dump. Collection: Paul Byron Crane

Yeah. Black flight. It was big. They moved, anywhere they wanted to move.

Was it simultaneous with the Jewish flight?

No. Jewish flight was earlier. That was way before my time. I’m not an expert on that.

That must have been in the early 60s.

That was in the early 60s. A lot of that was Mercer Island when they cleaned it up, when they cleaned up Lake Washington, a lot of people bought there and left the Central Area. The Japanese, of course, they owned a lot of this area. They were taken and moved (incarcerated/internment). I think you saw the map I sent you from the 30s.

Anyway, there was a huge black flight out of the area at the time. It wasn’t because of high prices and gentrification or white people moving in.

We had African American neighbors. I served on (the Judkins Rejected Council), I was the first white president of the Judkins Rejected Community Council. We all got along really well. This had nothing to do with race or education and economic status; we all got along. Race didn’t matter.

Right. That’s a hidden secret of America. It’s often about class as much as race.

Exactly. Exactly. It’s a class structure thing. And an education thing.

So then at the same time the black middle class was moving, I imagine the white middle class was also leaving.

Judkins Park when it was a dump. Collection: Paul Byron Crane

Uh… no? The black middle class had not really moved here (Garlic Gulch) that much.
There were a few pioneers. You got to realize, we didn’t have the big, big problem here. We had a larger white influx here.

There was a period of time there that the Bloods and Crips took over, but as things sort of settled down, and (Mayor) Rice got out and (Mayor) Nickels came in after (Mayor) Schell, Nickels began to put more police involved in the issues here.

And, then white people came in and bought houses and this area began to get uplifted again… You got to look at the economic conditions change.

When did the, when did the Bloods and the Crips get driven out roughly?

Well, they’re still here. They have never really left and we still have a small gang problem. Nickels tried to stay on top of it, and so did (Mayor) Mike McGinn. It’s not as a bad as it was. Weed and Seed, took care of a lot. They took a lot of drug houses out. We haven’t had any shootings in a long while, but there’s a couple of areas… they call them the ‘grandma’s houses.’ These are around Garfield (High). There’s one up by 26th and Judkins, that area. That are kind of hotspots. There are two, maybe three hotspots.

That’s where your main activity is coming from. Then with weed and seed, a lot of people left, gangbangers left when there was a lot of pressure on them. They come up from Federal Way. They come up from Kent where they’re living or Tacoma and try to reclaim the area as their turf. So that’s it now. But it was really, really bad for a long time in the Central Area.

Judkins Park when it was a dump. Collection: Paul Byron Crane

Especially during those years of the Schell administration Just, it was an ugly, ugly place to live. And very, very unsafe. I’m talking primarily from Jackson (Street) north to Union (Street) and from 20th to 27th, 28th Avenues, that area [around MLK Avenue]. So, there's been a lot of people who’ve come in (there now) and bought. And yes, they’re Caucasians. And, you’re now beginning to see a few middle-class African Americans move back into the area. Which is great. And mixed families. So. We’ll see. There’s still a lot of history to be written.

There is! The new arrivals I have seen include a lot of foreign nationals, who work for technology companies.

Oh, Somalis have moved in.

And Somalis.

I just got done interviewing and looking at settlements in Stockholm on. I’ll tell you about that. We are doing a presentation on that (settlements) in Rosengard, Malmo Sweden. At a conference in spring. It’s about settling political refugees in Sweden.

But anyway going back to the neighborhoods, a lot of Somalis have come in and opened up restaurants. It’s becoming now really a neat multicultural area.

I don’t use the term gentrification because that, I mean, what's gentrification? Because you don’t have shootings on the street anymore? I mean, it’s, it’s…

It’s like most things, it’s way more complicated than…

…far more complicated than just a word.

Judkins Park when it was a dump. Collection: Paul Byron Crane


The other thing is, I guess, one of my swan songs, or what I thought was gonna be my swan song, but it isn’t. I’m still involved in stuff in the neighborhood… Mainly, I’m on the board of Allied Arts. Mainly. My whole focus for the last…

What do they do?

We used to call it the Beer and Culture Society. It was started in the 1950s, we’re coming up to our 60th anniversary. We led the Waterfront for All. I led a couple of waterfront charettes and Open Space 2100, I led one of the charette groups. We’re involved in city-wide issues. We were the ones that rallied for the King Dome north lot development and kicked it off on King Street by the stadiums. A lot of my time has been spent on that.

I’m now kinda dabbling back a little bit into politics, but what I did locally was I designed the spray pool up in Judkins Park. And the community built it.

Those pictures are terrific.

It is a great amenity. It was pro bono.

Thank you!

The only way anything works is to work for free sometimes. And my time, there was a match. I charged them the going rate for landscape architect, $165 an hour. I charged that, but used it as leverage to get that matched 50% for the materials for the community to build it. Nobody got paid. But it was placed in the park.

That’s when the, the council renamed itself the Judkins Park Community Council.
Instead of the Judkins Rejected, but you know? Yeah, Margaret Pageler was probably right, we never should have lost that name.

Judkins Park when it was a dump. Collection: Paul Byron Crane

It’s pretty terrific.

Yeah. So. That’s my history here.

You gave me those great things from the 1930s. I wanted to ask you…

Oh, that was the dump. Oh, the history of Judkins Park!



People who lived around the park who, I guess, they fixed their basements. (The Judkins area) used to connect to Lake Washington. Lake Washington is part of what is known as a sockeye salmon system.


Sockeye salmon go into lake areas and they come out as part of the smeltation process. Judkins Park had a creek that flowed from there into Lake Washington and you can look at the topography and you can see exactly kind of where it went. They used to have trout in there and fish in there.

So it probably, it probably at least had depending on the season, Duwamish (Native Americans) there, too, then?

This was the closest location between the Sound where my house is, between the sound and the lake, and there were Native American trails all through the year.

Judkins Park when it was a dump. Collection: Paul Byron Crane


They did come there to fish, I’m sure.

I’m sure of it too

What the city did, to a lot the places (the Natives lived), Genesee is another example, I’m sure there are some up north, too, they decided to make those areas (Native Longhouse Sites) city dumps. I gave you the pictures of that. A city dump. They dumped garbage in this river system, but it didn’t change the hydrology.

Now, since people live over it when they get a lot of heavy rains still have geysers in their basements shooting up from the hydrology. We have a system that comes here right by that fence line that goes down. When they redid the street, they had to do a big pit going, it’s (the streams) are underground. It flows there, and there's another one further down here on Hiawatha (Place) that gets flooded. These are coastal beginnings of coastal drainages. Rainier Valley was like that as well. I mean, if you look at the topography, you can tell, pre-European settlement, Rainier Valley had water running through it. It was wetlands. Swamp area, and fen.

Interesting. Is there a book on that? The topology prior?

Yes. You can get that all through the University of Washington. Paul Dorpat has a lot of great information on that, he’s got the shot of the horses here and Dearborn street. Right up here at the corner of Davis and Dearborn looking west in one of his books. That’s all available at the University of Washington. It’s really easy to get a hold of.

Seattle Vice Map, 1940. Collection: Paul Byron Crane

Okay. I’ll look at that, it’s fascinating. I love that stuff.

Then they fill it (the wetlands and dump) in with this, and now there’s a geo-membrane in Judkins Park.

What’s a geo-membrane?

It’s used to encapsulate methane gas.

So it’s a clay lid?

It’s rubberized material. That’s down there. There’s a methane issue, I know when we did the spray pool, I had to stay above a certain level to make sure…

Former Bordello, Davis Place. Photo: Madeline Crowley

That methane comes because it used to be a swamp?

No, the methane is coming because they buried garbage down there and they didn’t take all of it out.

They never took it out?

They didn’t take a lot of it out.

They built over it?

Yup, yup, yup, yup. Cheap way to do it. And so, that was an issue when they were siting the Thurgood Marshall School. That was one of the areas we were looking at. So Judkins Park is going to be impossible to build on that unless you want to do extreme restoration. Dig all that out down. You’ve got the pictures.

Seattle Suicide Map, 1938-42. Collection: Paul Byron Crane

That’s all owned by the school district. Judkins Park is leased by the Seattle Parks Department but the Seattle School District owns it. There's a street platted through the middle of there but they’ll never build the street. When they plan things then they might. It’s still platted through; it hasn’t been abandoned.

And so, that’s the history of Judkins Park. It used to be a trout stream, and maybe sockeye got up that far. I don’t know.

Definitely if there were sockeye and trout, there were Native Americans, the Duwamish Lake peoples (about the Duwamish Lake Peoples)

Oh, definitely.

There were people in this area for 10,000 years.

Yes there were. Definitely.

Terrific. Thank you.

Did I forget anything else?  No, I think I got it all, pretty much.

Thanks to the elegant, incomparable Andrea Lai for this transcription!

©  Madeline Crowley People of the Central Area 2016   All material is covered by copyright. Express written permission must be given for any copyrighted material on this page. Email to request permission to copy or paste materials

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About Me

Seattle, WA, United States
I am not a professional photographer nor a trained journalist. At community meetings, it became clear that many of us don’t know each other. We haven’t heard each other’s stories and don't know each other’s circumstances. This is my attempt to give a few people the chance to tell their story, to talk about our community, to say their piece in peace. As such, comments have been disabled. The views and opinions expressed here are those of each narrator and do not necessarily reflect the position of views of the CentralAreaComm.blogspot blog site itself. The is not responsible for the accuracy of any information supplied by narrators of this project. All interviews have been edited and in places condensed.

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