The Green Lake Neighborhood

Seattle, WA

The vibrant Green Lake neighborhood boasts elegant restaurants, outdoor cafes, shops, and other businesses. Green Lake is known for summer swimming, and one of the best walking destinations in Seattle. Green Lake Park is a popular area for recreation and relaxation throughout the year. The most popular feature of the park is the bike path, which is used year-round for jogging, running, cycling, skating, or simply strolling around the lake. Green Lake is also a popular place for boating, and sunbathing on the expansive, grassy lawns.

The Green Lake neighborhood is bounded on the west by the east slope of Phinney Ridge, on the north by North 85th Street, on the east by the I-5 corridor, and with a southern extension to North 50th Street, many of its 16,000 residents occupy 1920s-era houses.

The area had humble beginnings. In September 1855, surveyor David Phillips hacked his way through bushes to the muddy banks of a small lake north of Seattle's Lake Union, and found a tired, postglacial lake. His team entered the name Green Lake into their field logs, which eventually reached their employer, the Surveyor General of the United States.

In 1869, Erhart Seifried, a bachelor German immigrant, paddled across the Lake to the northeast shore and sank his shovel into a 132-acre homestead claim, becoming the first white settler in the area. He became known as Green Lake John. "Green Lake John" and later his wife Eltien mingled with Indians who had known the area for generations. The couple cleared a dense stand of trees and planted an orchard.

Other homesteaders arrived to claim and to prove up on the free land made available by the Homestead Act of 1862. Speculators, took up much of the land. An eastern businessman, Charles Waters, for example, held a 179 acre stand of timber at the southwest corner of the lake, which Guy Phinney would purchase in 1889 and transform into a menagerie he called Woodlands, or Woodland Park (in 2000, Woodland Park Zoo).

Although the original land grab was over by the mid-1870s, population growth did not start until Seattle's population boom in the late 1880s forced a northward and southward expansion beyond the city limits. Green Lake owes its start to the cross-town trolley that enabled people to easily get to the area. Display advertising appeared in Seattle newspapers promising, "Green Lake will be Seattle's choicest suburb." The Green Lake neighborhood had become a place in which to live, to work, and to play.

For many today, Green Lake represents the soul of the surrounding neighborhood. Densmore Gardens offers quick access to I-5, and to other unique neighborhoods of Fremont, Ballard, Wallingford and the University District. The PCC Natural Market is just blocks away.