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A Very Short History of Leschi Park

The Leschi Park area was known as “Changes its Face” by the indigenous residents of our area before contact. It was felt that a powerful spirit available to shamans existed here. After urban expansion, it disappeared.

Yesler Way was known as “little crossing over place” where freshwater Indians could connect with saltwater populations. Later it was called Mill Street by newcomers because it connected to Yesler’s Mill.

Chief Leschi of the Nisqually tribe brought his people to this area for fishing and berry picking. He is buried in the Puyallup Tribal Cemetery in Tacoma.

The Yesler Street cable car connected “Seattle” to the lake ferries, which took passengers to Mercer Island, Bellevue and other lake destinations from the Leschi Dock at the South Marina.

Leschi Park was initially established as a zoo and amusement park to help sell real estate and draw people “out of the city’ in the 1900’s.

In 1890, a big casino was built on the SE side of the park. It was a popular spot for vaudeville acts and concerts. Sarah Bernhardt performed here in 1906. The story goes that they rustled a bear for her to shoot!

The circle in the center of the park was once a fishpond. The Park was a gathering place on weekends for ladies to stroll in their long gowns and big hats accompanied by men in suit and tie.

Leschi Park was purchased by the City of Seattle from Seattle Electric Company who owned the Yesler Way cable car line. This established Leschi Park as the second oldest park in the city; Denny Park was the first.

In 1903, the Olmstead Brothers were hired to design boulevards and parks for the residents of Seattle to experience nature on Sundays using their bicycles and Model T’s.

Jacob Umlauff was heard gardener in 1894 and planted the giant sequoia in the center of the park. He became Seattle’s first parks superintendent until he retired in 1940.

~Sally Wagner

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