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Life and Times in Leschi: Frink Park, Part 2

Frink Park was created as, and remains, a natural, wooded park in the urban surrounding. It retains the Olmsted vision of a forest setting and rustic feel, with narrow, winding trails and dense foliage, without the formalized development to be found in places like Leschi and Volunteer parks.


Former caretaker’s residence in Frink Park

Originally known as Washington Park, Frink Park was platted as park space in 1883 by Judge Thomas Burke and intended as privately owned land. When it was acquired by the Frink family and donated to the city, it was renamed because Seattle already had a Washington Park.


Seattle was extensively logged by 1920, and it is likely that the future Frink Park had the same fate. If it was not completely logged, at least it was relieved of its largest, highest-quality trees. Sawmills that existed along the Leschi shoreline would have been happy to receive the product.


The native forest consisted of cedar, hemlock, and fir. A survey conducted around 2000 found the largest trees to be about 100 to 125 years old. There remains a variety of evergreens, along with bigleaf maples. A study noted that the dominance of maples has crowded out the establishment of conifer seedlings, slowing the transition to a forest dominated by longer-lived conifers. This raised the concern that the forest would not be able to grow replacements for overstory trees that die. Targeted planting of conifer seedlings was recommended by the study. Since then, over a thousand conifer starts have been planted in the park, with good success rates. Most of the conifers now seen in the park were planted by volunteers in the past 30 years.


There are other, less welcome things growing in the park. One of them is English ivy, control of which occupies the efforts of many a park volunteer. Where did that come from? Photos from 1913 show new plantings that appear to be ivy. Olmsted planting lists for Frink Park have not been found, if they ever existed. However, Olmsted did recommend ivy for Interlaken Park, which is similarly steep and wooded. “Invasive species” was not a concept in Olmsted’s time.

A survey, reported in 2000, listed 78 varieties of birds actually observed in the park, from American Crow to Yellow-rumped Warbler. Less rigorous surveys noted eight types of mammals (from bats to rats), three amphibians, and two reptiles.


In addition to the plant and animal life described here, there are remnants of human habitation in the park as well. In 1910, a house with garage and storage shed was built as a rent-free residence for the person variously known as the foreman or caretaker of Frink Park and perhaps Leschi Park as well. The location remained in use until 1964, when the resident maintenance supervisor died. A couple years later, a cooperative pre-school asked to use the structure for the children. After an inspection by the building department, however, it was found to be unsafe and was demolished immediately. What little remains had once been used for picnicking but now is just a curiosity.


The site of the former residence, which was given the address 322 34th Avenue South, can be found by following the trail up the hill from the intersection of Frink Place, Jackson Street, and Lake Washington Boulevard. County records show the one-story structure as having been 20 feet by 44 feet, but you wouldn’t know it from what’s left. The house had an 8’ 6” ceiling, one 4’ dormer, and no attic.


After the remains of the residence – not much more than a chimney – the path leads through the woods back to a small meadow and the upper end of Frink Place, where the block-long Washington Street used to dead-end from the hilltop. A century ago, the path was an old wagon road, wider in those days, used by motor vehicles for access to the caretaker’s home.

Until 1927, Frink Place did not exist. That connection between Washington Street and Lake Washington Boulevard was recommended by the Olmsted Brothers consulting firm as early as 1912. It was not created, however, until an act of the City Council. Frink Place is not to be confused with what was once called Frink Boulevard, from King Street to Colman Park—now known as Lake Washington Boulevard South.


Continued next month.


~Roger Lippman

The author writes monthly about Leschi history and his experiences over his 48 years in the neighborhood.

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Victor Rice
Victor Rice
19 Ιουν

Can anyone provide insight into the old (but still modern) guardrail that sits just inside the trail entrance (due ~West) at the intersection of 35th Ave South and Lake Washington Blvd S? Clearly part of an older road, but any details on when the modification was put in and why?

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