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Speaking of Capitol Hill walls, here’s how this Lake View Cemetery construction project gave new life to a row of Seattle’s ‘exceptional trees’

As far as new Capitol Hill walls go, it will be easier to miss this one. There’s a big change on the backside of the neighborhood’s Lake View Cemetery near 11th and E Howe and it comes with some good news for some old Seattle trees. This cemetery improvement didn’t end up costing the lives of a row of Bigleaf Maples, American Elms, and Copper Beeches that have rooted into the cemetery’s soil for decades.

The construction project “for replacement of an existing and failing retaining wall” for the cemetery on the backside of Lake View started its permitting process about two years ago. According to city records, as the process proceeded last year, it became clear that the planned removal of 14 “exceptional trees” and the possible removal of a dozen more to make way for a new wall faced too many barriers to proceed.

The trees are variously exceptional individually by species and size and/or as a part of a grove,” a city update from May of 2019 reads.

The cemetery’s contractors were told they would need to coordinate with the Seattle Department of Transportation and federal rules for removing the trees. And — perhaps the ultimate threat — the city started asking about neighborhood outreach to the cemeteries North Capitol Hill neighbors.

By December, a new plan was born that would give the cemetery’s exceptional trees new life. But the plan had a new wrinkle — the new wall would need to be placed in the public right of way to avoid damaging the old trees. It was a compromise the city seemed happy to make on a quiet street dividing two places of rest with Lake View to the south and the Civil War veteran-era Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery, appropriately, to the north.

Construction on the project began earlier this month.

Inside the cemetery, another project is underway to upgrade the much-visited area around the grave site where Bruce and Brandon Lee rest. Meanwhile, Lake View’s toppled monument to the Confederacy remains toppled. The nonprofit that operates the cemetery did not respond to our inquiries about the construction projects.

Want to know what it takes to be an “exception tree” in Seattle? Here’s the table of requirements:


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Ariel
7 months ago

I’ve been obsessed with the trees by this retaining wall — there are super old jars and vases embedded in the soil, some of them wrapped up in tree roots! I wrote a thing about it: offbeathome.com/exhuming-love

This is to say, I’m so happy that the trees can stay. It’s so interesting back there. Truly one of my fave spots in the hood to poke around.

Carl Funk
Carl Funk
6 months ago
Reply to  Ariel

I originally shared this article when it came out. I just came back to it today and saw your comment. Read your blog, enjoyed your writing. Very much relate. I had just been out on my porch looking at the brick I salvaged from the Lake View Wall. My favorite Seattle wall I used to call it. I have lived on the hill for over thirty years, but, like you had a late awakening to Lake View Cemetery. That changed to walking to and through it many times a week.
I even shot a short movie based on the experience of being asked if I knew where “Bruce and Brandon” were. I became a tour guide practically. Very strange. But, the way you describe your walks, the connection with the neighborhood, the trees, walls, park, everything about the area, yes, I get that. And you might get that I even named my salvaged brick “Lakes.” And yes, I thought very much about the energy it would bring to my house. And I know it was nothing but good. Thanks for sharing your writing.

Alocal
Alocal
7 months ago

Seems like the ugliest possible answer. They could surely have built a concrete wall and tied it back with micro piling to keep a similar height and aesthetic. This looks like they are getting ready to build a row of town houses….

Toodles Noodles
Toodles Noodles
7 months ago
Reply to  Alocal

When the dead rise from their graves you’ll be glad to have this sturdy wall, friend.

CD Neighbor
CD Neighbor
7 months ago

I’m pretty sure that what you are seeing is only temporary to hold the hillside back while the old wall is being demolished and the new one constructed…. (google and you’ll see many examples that look like that).

The legend above even mentions salvaging bricks from the old wall to be included in the replacement, so never fear… they have given a thought to the aesthetics.

HTS3
HTS3
7 months ago

Because boy there’s nothing more attractive than a concrete wall.

Ariel
7 months ago

Cemetery update from today’s walk:

The fallen confederate monument is gone!

The fence how has another layer of something else over the wood, and it looks like maybe they’re gonna brick over that? Unclear, but it’s not staying what you see in these pictures.

Alocal
Alocal
7 months ago
Reply to  Ariel

That wood retaining wall is certainly permanent since those I beams are pile driven in. Maybe they plan to build another wall in front of that, but it seems all out of scale and badly done compared to what it was previously like…

Ariel
7 months ago
Reply to  Alocal

Absolutely agreed that the wood wall isn’t going anywhere, but now it’s covered with some black surface material, and posts sticking out of it horizontally? I’m not quite sure what they’re doing, but it’s definitely not just a blank wood wall.

I’m just happy they didn’t tear those trees down… although I am quietly bummed that they finally patched the hole in the back fence where I used to sneak in when I didn’t want to walk around to the entrance on 15th.

CD Neighbor
CD Neighbor
7 months ago
Reply to  Alocal

Temporary solder wall shoring retaining walls are constructed this way too…. they can be removed or left in place – but I have dug a bit further in and it would appear that this retaining wall will remain *but* the wood and piles will be the internal structure, not the final finish.

There are no design documents filed, so I cannot say exactly what it will look like, but the documents available do indicate that it will be faced with something- it could be concrete, masonry or a combination of both. “The proposal now under consideration is for a “soldier pile” wall, constructed of vertical stabilizing columns made of “H-pile” steel girders reinforced with grout and wooden lagging. The structure is then “faced” with a layer of concrete or other similar material.”

As the documents above call out salvage of bricks, I’d hazard a guess that at least some of it will utilize the original brick. The black substance that the wood has been painted with is likely waterproofing/preservative.

Steve
Steve
7 months ago

I live down the street. The process is…Steel beams, pressure treated wood, concrete, and then red brick like it used to be. The old wall was leaning due to tree root growth. Lake View took the initiative and financial obligation to bring the wall up to modern construction standards. It was noisy initially but the contractor told me the brick work will be quiet.