Just don’t call it Yesler Park

yeslersiteplan12th Ave SquareBroadway Hill. Seven Hills. Summit Slope.

The results of the most recent naming of Capitol Hill-area parks haven’t resulted in the most interesting collection of public space branding.

Seattle Parks has announced an extension to the process to name a new park coming to the area where Broadway meets Yesler in the midst of neighborhoods undergoing massive redevelopment. The First Hill Streetcar and Broadway bikeway pass through the area. The city is now collecting nominations for what to call the planned 1.7-acre neighborhood park:

The scope of this project is to develop a 1.7-acre neighborhood park that is part of the Yesler Terrace Master Planned Community. The intent of the park is to serve as a gathering place for current and future residents of Yesler Terrace as well as people who live and work in the surrounding community. The 2008 Parks and Green Spaces Levy provides $3,000,000 for a new park at Yesler Terrace. Additional funding has been secured from the Seattle Housing Authority, State of Washington Recreation Conservation Office Recreation Grant, RAVE Foundation, Stim Bullitt Park Excellence Fund, Wyncote Foundation, and Pendleton and Elisabeth Carey Miller Foundation.

The $4.3 million park isn’t planned to open until spring of 2018. By that time, massive Yessler Terrace redevelopment projects from developers including Vulcan will be in the midst of construction creating hundreds of apartments in a mix of affordable and market-rate housing.

The deadline for submitting name ideas to the Parks Naming Committee is February 1, 2017:

The Parks Naming Committee is comprised of one representative designated by the Board of Park Commissioners, one by the Chair of the City Council Parks, Seattle Center, Libraries and Waterfront Committee, and one by the Parks Superintendent. Criteria the committee considers in naming parks include: geographical location, historical or cultural significance, and natural or geological features. The Park Naming Policy, clarifying the criteria applied when naming a park, can be found here
The Parks Naming Committee will consider all suggestions and make a recommendation to Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent Jesús Aguirre, who makes the final decision. Please submit suggestions for park names for Yesler Neighborhood Park in writing by Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2016, and include an explanation of how your suggestion matches the naming criteria. Send to Seattle Parks and Recreation, Parks Naming Committee, 100 Dexter Ave. N, Seattle, WA 98109, or by e-mail to paula.hoff@seattle.gov.

As you can see in the most recent Hill-area park names, the process tends to favor geography. Here’s hoping the Yesler park might end up with something more interesting — and, maybe, just maybe, make somebody besides Henry Yesler the subject of some kid’s future 5th grade essay. If you’re looking for ideas, here are some discussions from the CHS archives about the naming of Seven Hills Park (we still don’t like it), and a bad idea that fortunately went nowhere for naming what is now known as Summit Slope Park.

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7 thoughts on “Just don’t call it Yesler Park

  1. It would be cool to see them reference the jazz/blues roots of the area or name it after one of the famous musicians from the neighborhood. Seattle needs to build legacies and embrace its history so people have something to be proud of.

  2. Nomination Suggestion: Yamasaki Terrace

    I’d like to nominate Minoru Yamasaki as the namesake for the developing Yesler Terrace Park and this important public space.

    There are numerous reasons to consider this important individual. Here are a few:

    • Though rarely acknowledged in his hometown of Seattle, he is without question, Seattle’s greatest historical architect and there exists no significant honor in Seattle to reflect being one of the 20th Century’s greatest American architects (see the Wikipedia entry that details some of his achievements)
    • Detroit has a lovely memorial website dedicated to Mr. Yamasaki. Please take a second to read some facts about his Seattle roots. HistoricDetroit.org
    • He grew up about 4 blocks from this proposed park site in a tenement house at 510 Terrace St – approximately where the i-5 freeway displaced his Japan-town community.
    • He likely attended Bailey Gatzert elementary school at 12th and King (no longer extant, but see photograph attached showing the school in 1921. Minoru is likely in this photo and would be 9 years old) and is confirmed to have attended Garfield and later the UW school of Architecture.
    • He was on the cover of Time magazine in 1963! (an rare honor by any architect but shared by no other architect minority… alongside other notables- Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Bucky Fuller and Phillip Johnson)
    • He had an illustrious career and left Seattle for NY and finally Detroit. He managed to save money and thus his parents from internment during WWII – while also starting his own firm in Detroit.
    • The majority of residents (40%) in Yesler Terrace were Asian and though separated now by i-5, the neighborhood has a historical connection to Japan Town. Many of the residents of this neighborhood never made it back after internment. At the time of internment 45% of Bailey Gatzert Elementary school classroom seats were empty with forced removal of Japanese Americans.
    • The architect of several Seattle masterworks, including Rainier Tower and Pacific Science Center (which has a stunning park at its core). Beyond the Twin Towers, he designed numerous beautiful park and plaza landscapes – including my favorite at Oberlin College music school.

    In short, Minoru Yamasaki should be a household Seattle name and because there is no public remembrance of his person, his Seattle roots are all but forgotten. A park, within sight of his childhood home and elementary school, would be an appropriate public reminder and inspiration to citizens and children of Seattle.

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