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This week in Duwamps

Welcome to my semi-regular blog column. As a longtime Seattleite, history buff and chronicler of city life, I will combine civic activities with current topics and experiences, along with recollections from the past and some favorite anecdotes. As for the name of the column, it comes from Seattle’s original address: Duwamps.

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Early Pioneer Square

In November, 1851, the first white settlers landed on the West Seattle peninsula, naming the settlement “New York, Alki,” meaning “New York, by and by.” Later, in search of a deeper harbor, they moved the settlement to the shores of Elliott Bay. Its first post office address was Duwamps, echoing a Native American designation.

In 1852, David S. Maynard, better known to us as “Doc” Maynard, renamed the settlement “Seattle.” Maynard thought it a classier name. And, besides it helped Doc and his business partner Chief Sealth (aka Seattle), market their wares, an early-day brand of smoked salmon.

Now on to this week in Duwamps-Alki-Seattle:

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Getting a little help with the ribbon cutting

Kinnear Park: Speakers and neighborhood children cut a wide red ribbon Saturday, at Lower Kinnear Park to help celebrate completion of major renovations as the Ballard Sedentary Sousa Band played on. Dozens from the community raved about the improvement that transformed the hillside from a scary, mostly deserted relic into a lively people place.

Heirs of George Kinnear were also on hand to help celebrate the re-opening and see to see what had become of their heir’s long-ago grant of land. The woodland park takes its name from Kinnear, who first visited Seattle in 1874.  He was so impressed that he sold his Illinois farmlands and bought property on the southern slope of Queen Anne Hill. Later he promoted the first wagon road through Snoqualmie Pass and organized the Immigration Board that helped quell the ugly anti-Chinese riots in 1886. Kinnear’s neighbors, who enjoyed the wooded slopes of his land, asked him to sell a portion to the city, which he did in 1889. The price: $1.

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Deputy Mayor Andrea Riniker makes opening remarks

Saturday’s celebrants recalled Kinnear’s generosity and reported on how taken the Olmsted Brothers were with the Queen Anne locale when they conducted their 1909 analysis of Seattle parks.  The Olmsteds said, “The park is pleasing in detail and extremely valuable, owing to the fine views it commands over the Sound.”

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The Ballard Sedentary Sousa Band playing festive tunes

Renovation of lower Kinnear Park didn’t happen overnight. A makeover was first proposed a decade ago. In 2001, the park was designated a Seattle Landmark. And in 2009, FOLKpark was created, a project that received funding from the Department of Neighborhoods and the Parks Levy Opportunity Fund. Backers pieced together additional funds from neighbors and local sponsors. Volunteers were the backbone of the project, donating time, money and effort.

Their hard work paid off, resulting in the smashing major renovation. Today there are new accessible walks, a popular dog off-leash area, ADA access to the updated tennis court and a makeover of the urban forest. Lower Kinnear is a shining example of what neighborhood determination can accomplish.

To conclude festivities, Photographer Jean Sherrard of the Seattle Times “Now and Then” feature, photographed some of the principals (volunteers, workers and speakers) reclining on a reforested bank. It replicates a picture, taken of the Seattle City Council, reclining in the exact same setting back in 19th Century days when the park was first dedicated.

There is, however, one glaring difference. The “then” picture of the council shows the dozen or so participants were all male. Saturday’s recreation was far more coeducational. But, true to history, the “now” crew all donned hats.

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Councilmembers, Parks staff, volunteers, band members and a pup, all wearing purple hats pose for a “Now” photo

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