All Over The Map: Old and new perspectives from Seattle’s most scenic lookout spots
It’s a cliché that sometimes gets lost in all the debate about traffic, homelessness, the cost of living and all the other challenges of life in Seattle in the 21st century, but we really do live in a beautiful city.
And so, with a new year and a new decade underway, it’s the perfect occasion to visit two scenic Seattle viewpoints: One more than a century old, and one that isn’t even open to the public yet. Each provides reminders of the past and perhaps even a look to the future.
The first is the Louisa Boren Denny Lookout on Capitol Hill. This is a small park with giant views, located off of 15th Avenue, just northeast of Volunteer Park and across the street from Lakeview Cemetery.
Vistas of Lake Washington and the Cascades, when conditions are right, can be surprising, even for someone who’s lived here a long time. You can see Mount Baker on a clear day, and you can also see the University of Washington campus, the new 520 Bridge, and Portage Bay pretty much anytime.
The lookout park is named for Louisa Boren Denny. She arrived in Seattle on November 13, 1851 when she was just Louisa Boren. She married David Denny, also a member of that long-ago pioneer party.
The two settlers were one of the first non-Native couples to be married in Seattle when they exchanged vows in 1853. Their old homestead – along Denny Way, stretching from the waterfront to Lake Union – includes what’s now Seattle Center.
Louisa Boren Denny was 86 years old when she was on-hand in June 1914, when the park was dedicated in her name. She didn’t speak, but she listened attentively to all the speeches given during the ceremony, including a recounting of her dramatic life story as a pioneer of the 1850s. She passed away just two years later.
Seattle park historian Don Sherwood wrote of Louisa Boren Denny:
[S]he spent much time trying to beautify the town. But she also typified the rugged pioneer spirit; made her own moccasins, shot game, chopped wood and raised eight children while she was feeding horses, milking cows and trading with the Indians. It was, for those pioneers, a life of privation, inconveniences, anxieties, fears and dangers.
The second lookout is just a few miles north of Louisa Boren Denny Park.
This ground-level spot is the so-new-it’s-not-even-open-yet Portage Bay Park along the north side of Portage Bay on the south edge of the UW Campus. The new park is along Boat Street, and is the former site of the UW Police Station and the UW surplus sales area. The City of Seattle purchased the land with 520 mitigation funds, and it’s been under construction for the past several months.
Already, though, even from outside the fence, visitors can get a sense of how amazing this park will be. It’s right along the water, and there are views of Capitol Hill, the I-5 Ship Canal Bridge, the University drawbridge, and a variety of commercial and private boats going past just several yards away across the water.
Portage Bay Park is only one name for the new park. According to the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department website:
The new park in Portage Bay will be named Fritz Hedges Waterway Park. Fredrick ‘Fritz’ Hedges was a long-term Seattle Parks and Recreation professional, last serving as the Director of Policy, Planning and Evaluation. Fritz dedicated his life to the idea that parks and recreation are vital components of urban life for all residents.
Whatever its official name – or whatever it will come to be informally known as – the new park on Portage Bay will open to the public sometime later this year.
In the meantime, either lookout point is worth a visit for residents and out-of-town guests. You’re sure to see something old and something new, and maybe even gain some new perspective, too.