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Cal Anderson Park
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All Over The Map: Like CHOP, Cal Anderson Park has a history of changing its name

Cal Anderson Park, near the CHOP in Seattle, was called Lincoln Park, Broadway Playfield and Bobby Morris Playfield before getting its current name in 2003; this image of what was then called Lincoln Park is circa 1914. (Public domain)

The CHOP has been known by at least a few different names in its relatively short lifespan. Cal Anderson Park, which abuts the CHOP – or, which might even be considered part of the CHOP – has also been known by multiple names, but over a much longer period.

There are numerous layers of history in the 11-acre parcel where many protesters have been camping in the past several weeks.

Prior to the 1850s, it was Native land for thousands of years. In 1897, the City of Seattle bought the land for $10,000 from the estate of John Nagle, a homesteader who arrived in Seattle in 1853. That’s why the road along the west edge of the park is called Nagle Place.

In 1900, the city built a reservoir for drinking water. It was named, along with the mostly undeveloped park, for President Lincoln. That name stuck until 1922, when the city’s current Lincoln Park was created in West Seattle at Fauntleroy Cove.

The new name in 1922 for the park on Capitol Hill was Broadway Playfield, which was appropriate, since a playground, wading pool, and ballfield had been built there as early as 1908. Also, with the old Broadway High nearby, the “playfield” was a logical place for the school’s athletes – the Tigers – to practice and play.

That connection to Broadway High was also why, in 1980, the park was renamed Bobby Morris Playfield. Bobby Morris was a star athlete at Broadway High School, where he graduated in 1914. Morris was a semi-pro baseball player, and then worked as the supervisor at Broadway Playfield for decades. He was also a respected referee for football and basketball around the region, and became deputy King County Auditor in 1937. Bobby Morris – full name Robert A. Morris – passed away in 1970.

In 1986, Seattle’s first official “Pride Festival” took place 34 years ago this week at what was then officially called Bobby Morris Playfield, but which many people still thought of as – and called – Broadway Playfield.

The current name of Cal Anderson Park was officially adopted by the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation in 2003, and the park underwent major renovation – including putting a cover over the reservoir – a few years after that.

Cal Anderson was born in 1948. He grew up in Tukwila, and was active in local politics from a young age. According to a Seattle Times profile from the 1980s, at 16, he ran his dad’s successful campaign for the Tukwila City Council. Not long after that, he was drafted and served in Vietnam where he was awarded two Bronze Stars.

In 1987, Cal Anderson became Washington’s first openly gay state legislator when he was appointed to fill a vacancy in the Washington State House of Representatives and later won election to the Washington State Senate.

Anderson was an early and vocal advocate for gay rights and for recognition of what were then called “domestic partnerships.” In 1995, he revealed that he had contracted AIDS, and was battling AIDS-related non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Washington State Senator Cal Anderson was a highly regarded figure in Democratic circles, and an estimated 2,000 people – including then-Governor Mike Lowry – attended his funeral at St. James Cathedral in Seattle in August 1995.

Though the park is named for Cal Anderson, most of the earlier names – except maybe “Broadway Playfield” – do live on. The reservoir, though hidden from view, is still called “Lincoln Reservoir,” and the playfield is still named for “Pride of the Tigers” Bobby Morris.

At least on Google Maps.

You can hear Feliks every Wednesday and Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News and read more from him here. If you have a story idea, please email Feliks here.

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