by Kirby Lindsay
This column was originally published in the North Seattle Herald-Outlook November 16, 2007.
“Fremont Ave. reflects name of pioneer townsite just south of here, settled by homesteaders (1885+) from Fremont, Neb., led by Edward Blewett; platted [and] developed by L.H. Griffith. (Capt. John Chas. Fremont came across wagon trail to arrive in 1884.) Early community depended upon agriculture, fishing [and] logging… Railroad service began in 1887, trolley car to Seattle in 1900, Ship Canal in 1917: brought prosperity. Natural resources began to decline [and] the 1932 Aurora bridge shifted potential business over [and] away from community.”This is one note made by Donald N. Sherwood (1916-1981) on a drawing of the B.F. Day Playground. Sherwood, a Parks engineer from 1955 to ’77, took responsibility for preservation and restoration of information on Parks’ resources. The Seattle Parks & Recreation website provides access to this wealth of information.
While the Fremont that Sherwood describes only had two parks, Fremont has five to date. What follows is the historical information on all of them – and more proof of Fremont’s continued prosperity.
B.F. Day Playground
‘The Day Playground,’ as Sherwood referred to it, at Fremont Avenue North and North 41st Street, consisted of 1.2 acres purchased in 1907 from C.E. Ramsburg. Shortly thereafter, the city vacated North 40th Street, which once separated the park from its namesake, B.F. Day Elementary School.
Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin F. Day, who Sherwood refers to as “Fremont Realtor,” originally donated the site where the school was built in 1892.
In 1883, according to Sherwood, the Days also donated 5 acres on Queen Anne to the Parks Department, which became David Rodgers Park.
A shelter house was built on the B.F. Day Playground in 1909, and Sherwood cites it, in 1976, as one of the oldest buildings remaining in the Parks system. He noted then that the play equipment consisted of three tire swings, ladder, climber and a slide, and a ‘tennis wall’ possibly built in 1910.
Ross Playground (325 NW 44th St) he noted as being 2.3 acres. The original land purchase took place in 1909. In 1939 the adjacent Ross School was closed, and the school site was acquired in 1940 on a 99-year lease from ‘Schools,’ according to Sherwood.
The playground included a shelter house built in 1925 for $1,741, and play ‘apparatus’ installed in 1910. In 1972 this equipment was reinstalled and relocated and included a fort/bridge, log climber and slide.
Sherwood also noted the park took its name from the school, named in honor of the John D. Ross family. The Rosses settled the area around the school and opened the first school in the area.
Fremont Canal Park
In 1981, Seattle Parks dedicated Fremont’s third park. An official drawing and documentation for Fremont Canal Park (199 N Canal St) is included in the Sherwood files, but dated 1986.
It also has an ADA-accessible viewing platform and shelter at the water’s edge.
It once included an illegal rope swing out over the canal and a fire pit, under consideration for redesign and reinstallation through a community/Seattle Parks partnership.
The park also includes several artistic benches and elements, although the topiary dinosaurs and a bench donated by Starbucks actually sit alongside the park, on private land.
A.B. Ernst Park
In September 2004, A.B. Ernst Park (723 N 35th St) was officially dedicated. Our smallest park, at 0.17 acres, fulfilled a specific goal of the Fremont Neighborhood Plan. Seattle Parks bought the land in 1998, and an extensive community design process identified several needs.
Lynn Thompson designed the final park, which incorporates creative plantings, seating for 175 people, performance space, wheelchair access to the neighboring Fremont Public Library and a staircase down to the alley behind the park.
Named after Ambrose Ernst, known as the “father of city playfields,” the Parks’ website notes he was once a Fremont resident. However, much of the community still refers to this property as ‘the Slippery Slope’ from the way locals always climbed up it (before the staircase installation) to cut through the block and reach the library.
Fremont Peak Park
Built by the community, the park includes art and views and, given time, hopefully a history as notable as that of its neighboring parks in the community.
One large, open space is near but not part of Fremont, officially. Woodland Park land borders Fremont and, at one time, a sign that straddled 50th Street welcomed visitors to Fremont, “The Gateway to Woodland Park.”
A Protected History
Parks contribute much to visitors and the community in general. We need parks, and knowing where they came from helps build our connections, and appreciation, for them.
Thanks to Sherwood, Seattle Parks & Recreation, and volunteers who have protected this history for us. It is hoped, as Fremont thrives, we continue to love and care for our parks, expand their number and preserve their histories for future generations.
- An Ambitious Plan To Fix the Troll’s Knoll
- by Kirby Lindsay, February 12, 2010
- Stockerbroker By Day, Fremont Artist the Rest of the Time
- by Kirby Lindsay, May 31, 2000
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.