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Life and Times in Leschi: Frink Park, Part 3

A couple of bits of Frink Park history that did not survive the ages were two clay tennis courts. One was on South King Street, just below 31st Avenue. Built in 1911, it was beset by weeds and required continuous maintenance, leading to its abandonment by 1935. Perhaps due to the demands of tennis players, it was restored in 1941. But by the late 1940s, most tennis courts were asphalt or concrete. It was abandoned permanently by 1956. I have only known it as an open but shaded site that seemed like it would be a good picnic place on a hot day, except that I never saw anyone gather or even walk there. Just in the past year it has been partially filled in with some plantings.

Another clay tennis court is much less known or visible. One of the add-ons to the original Frink land donation was a triangle on the east side of Lake Washington Boulevard South, between the King Street and Lane Street stairways. Looking down from the Boulevard, one would have to strain to see a flat area through the foliage below. According to Ariel Stout, who lived nearby and played tennis there as a child in the 1920s, it had a concrete wall and “had always been there.” She honed her skill at an early age by hitting tennis balls against that wall. Searching for the wall, I was rewarded after bushwacking through the low foliage just south of King Street. I found the original wall, about three and a half feet high and a hundred feet long, holding up the steep embankment coming down from the Boulevard. The tennis court must have been carved out of the ground below. It has long since been abandoned, leaving no evidence of its former use save for the flatness, covered with soil. Alder trees, which enjoy that kind of damp, open space, have been growing for a while. A few years ago, the space was cleared of weeds and replanted with native species, including cedar trees that are now thriving.

The century-old concrete wall along the former tennis court

While we’re on Lake Washington Boulevard, what about those decaying wooden bollards along the curves just south of the intersection with Frink Place? They were visually pleasing, made of sections of what look like telephone poles, and they lasted 40-some years. Now they are mostly lying on the ground, decomposing. I reported them to the city using the Find It, Fix It app and got no response. A member of Friends of Frink Park explained why. The bollards were installed in the 1980s with Parks Department approval but private funding and labor. Now, since the city itself didn’t install them, it doesn’t want to be bothered with maintenance.

Another of the few human-made things in the park along the Boulevard is the attractive concrete bridge over the outflow of Frink Creek. Never seen by motorists, or by most pedestrians, are the engravings on the sides of the bridge walls facing away from the road. They are worth a look, while out on a leisurely stroll on a bright day.

The bridge at Frink Creek in early days

At one time there were stairs up the hill to the north of the bridge, where the rhododendron grove is now. There was a sidewalk just above the road on the west side, as shown in the old photo above. The bridge was built between 1909 and 1911.

Above the bridge is a waterfall, also created by humans. Trails from the road allow for up-close appreciation.

The organization Friends of Frink Park works to preserve the park as a natural urban forest. To get involved with the group’s preservation efforts, see

~Roger Lippman

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


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