Post navigation

Prev: (10/29/08) | Next: (10/29/08)

Ed Jackson Park

Summit & John park design

You may recall that the city has been seeking proposals to name the planned Capitol Hill parks. The deadline for submitting proposals was Monday.

That is the same day Ed Jackson took his own life with one shot from a .38 revolver as the apartment building he called home for more than 40 years burned. No coincidence in the timing of the sad event. He was going to be evicted on Tuesday.

It is very likely that Ed started that fire. In his long, busy life on the Hill, it would have represented a final act of defiance against the changes happening all around him. Old buildings with inexpensive but worn places to live coming down. New buildings with expensive but shiny places to live going up. Not many choices left for Ed. Only one day more for him to be home.

Don’t know how many people there are like Ed left on Capitol Hill. Maybe he was one of the last holdouts. But his story runs in lines that pace what is happening here. You can look at the situation and feel these things:

  • Sadness that an old man couldn’t live out his last years in his home
  • Anger that he endangered his neighbors and firefighters in the way he fought back
  • Sympathy for good people getting pushed out
  • Frustration about the need for change and progress and development

I do not mind feeling all of those things at once and do not mind remembering them. The coming park at Summit and John is not far from 1605 Bellevue, just up Olive Way. It needs a name. Even though the deadline is passed, I would not mind if the city’s naming committee considered attaching this complicated memory to the new space. Why not remember that progress has a price?

Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

13 thoughts on “Ed Jackson Park

  1. the person has to be dead for at least 3 years for them to name a park after them. No kidding.

    I looked into it after thinking that it would be a nice thing to name one of the parks after Shannon, the woman murdered on 15th.

  2. Aw, come on, don’t eulogize him as if he did some act of bravery and stood up to condo development. It’s not an act of defiance – it was an act of arson and cost the city (and thereby taxpayers) probably a few hundred thousand dollars. Why should we be sad he couldn’t live out his last years in his home? He was living in an *apartment*, not a residence that he owned. One of the sacrifices you make by living in an apartment is that you can be forced to move. This is something you agree to when you sign the contract. (And yes, I live in an apartment too, and realize this).
    It’s a tragedy that no psychological support reached him in time, but there’s nothing about what he did that is noble and naming a park after him would be ludicrous.

  3. I think he was going to be evicted Monday, not Tuesday. That same day of the fire. I read somewhere he had to be out by 6pm, and there were even some type of arrangements with a moving crew which either the city or the developers (or both, not sure) had to pay for. This was settled in court.

  4. i want to say that i remember reading that the building owner paid a little over $5K to get mr. jackson moving assistance (moving crew) for the day of his eviction.

    i too have to side with jdavin on this. while it’s sad that a guy felt his only recourse was to take his own life, i’m not sure any of his actions were brave or noble. if it turns out he did set the fire, and most likely he did if it started in his unit, then he put innocent people’s lives at risk and his actions were selfish at best.

    had he been vocal about his plight, like the squirrel guy from eastlake, he may have actually gotten the help he needed in finding a place and may have even been a catalyst for change when it comes to turning every cheap apartment building into a condo. no, i don’t feel naming a park after this man is the right thing to do. feel all of the above at once if you have to, remember him if you had any personal contact but to immortalize him by naming a park after him, in my opinion, would be wrong.

  5. I understand how you feel, that he had no right to do what he did. But living somewhere for that long and then not feeling that you had anywhere else to go because of the enormous changes to your community is sad and seems to be the idea behind eulogizing someone like him in some way. Not because he was some kind of hero for setting a fire, but for his lack of perceived options in this money-driven culture where he was, in some ways, anonymous and overlooked. For someone of that age, that was his “home,” maybe not legally, but certainly he deserved a little more than he got.
    When I got kicked out of my Capitol Hill apt last year for a condo conversion I felt like the people making me move (and consequently making tons of money off converting the apts to condos) owed me something for the expense of breaking my lease and making me move, like giving me 100% of my deposit back and reimbursing me for my moving costs. Of course not, they charged me for “carpet cleaning and administrative fees” and sent me on my way, with the inconvenience and expense in my own hands. I am young-ish and could handle it, but had I lived there accumulating possessions for 30+ years and losing my partner in the past few years (as he did) I might not be so lucky, and I wouldn’t mind naming a park after someone if it made me reflect on the memory of a person that we may have overlooked who needed some assistance from his community.

  6. Dr. Homer Harris attended the dedication ceremony for Homer Harris Park on 24th, so the 3 year rule can be argued against, if you wish!

  7. The sentiments of jseattle have a lot to do with poetry and our collective passage. They touch something in addition to the political, the realistic, and go beyond the hard turn in Jim’s life. They, in fact, are right beside all of us, just waiting to play themselves out in our own little stories. There’s nothing wrong in naming a park after Jim and as a matter of fact, I’d be for burying him there.

  8. burying him there? really? what connection does ed have to THAT space? none, so why bury him there? the better idea would be to bury him in the ground under the new condo building once construction starts. i think letting ed forever stay in the place where he spent the past 40 years (although i’m sure his wishes would have been to be next to his deceased wife) is a more poetic option. i don’t see the connection between him and this park – period.

    and let’s talk about the “poetry and collective passage”. ed jackson shot himself and set his apartment on fire risking the lives of firefighters, paramedics and the safety of innocent people in the surround buildings – that’s not poetic, it’s selfish.

    i’m sorry this guy had it rough the last few years of his life but he’s not the only one. walk around the streets of capitol hill and you will see a lot of people who are ACTUALLY homeless; people who didn’t shoot themselves, people who didn’t set their buildings on fire. if we are going to name parks after ed or these homeless, i’d prefer it to be the homeless. they are the survivors, the ones that didn’t give up. it is they who are suffering on a daily basis.

    as i said above, it’s sad that ed felt his only option left was to end his life but we shouldn’t lionize and immortalize him as something he is not. feel sad if you like, use his passing as a catalyst for change in development of the neighborhood but honoring him by naming a park after him doesn’t make any sense and it is the wrong thing to do.

  9. we can talk about how the gentrification of capitol hill and the developers and new condo-buying residents caused this unlikely folk hero to go out in a blaze of glory all we want. we could eulogize him with benches or parks, or even, god forbid, bury him under the foundation of the new building.

    but really i think all of that is pretty insulting to the man.

    what happened to him is the result of a social breakdown and failure that each and every one of us is shares culpability.

    we all live our fairly self-centered lives while these people live in our neighborhoods unseen until something tragic like this happens.

    if this event really disturbed you, if you feel that having a life of 80+ years end like it did is a travesty, then don’t waste your time navel gazing thinking of ways to lionize him.

    instead, look in the neighborhood around you. if you live in an apartment building chances are there is someone else who is elderly and alone. talk to them. check in on them. offer to take their shopping list to QFC and bring their groceries home to them. take an afternoon off work to take them to a doctor appointment. give them your cell phone number and tell them to call you if they ever need any help.

    this guy was alone, and in his isolation and anxiety he not only tragically ended his life, but as others have said, he put others at risk (a firefighter was injured). if capitol hill is a community worth saving, if the “character” of the neighborhood is under perceived threat, then as a community we ought to look after our own. in ed jackson’s case, there was a breakdown and a failure to do so.