Seward Park is a neighborhood in southeast Seattle, Washington just west of the park of the same name. The park itself occupies all of Bailey Peninsula, a prominent, forested peninsula that juts into Lake Washington.
The neighborhood is bounded on the east by the lake, on the north by S Genesee Street, on the south by S Kenyon Street, and on the west by Rainier Avenue S.
What is now Seward Park neighborhood has been inhabited since the end of the last glacial period (c. 8,000 B.C.E.—10,000 years ago). The Xacuabš (hah-chu-ahbsh, Lake People or People of the Large Lake) were related to, but distinct from, the Dkhw'Duw'Absh, People of the Inside, tribe of the Lushootseed (Skagit-Nisqually) Coast Salish Nations. Both are now (c. mid 1850s) of the Duwamish tribe. The Xacuabš had a village of two longhouses (khwaac'ál'al, forerunners of cohousing condominiums, housing tens of people in each one) at xaxao'Ltc (ha-HAO-hlch, the “sacred or taboo place”), at or near what is now Brighton Beach. Villages were diffuse. Other khwaac'ál'al were on the southwest lake shore at SExti'tcb (“by means of swimming”, Bryn Mawr), at TL’Ltcus (TLEELH-chus, “little island”, Pritchard’s Island), and north at Leschi Park.
The peninsula that now forms Seward Park was skEba’kst (skuh-BAHKST, “nose”), and the isthmus was cqa'lapsEb (TSKAH-lap-suhb, “neck”). The isthmus was only a few hundred feet wide and flooded seasonally, turning the peninsula into an island (the lake level was some 9 ft (3m) higher or more). A large wetland and marsh was north of what is now the park entrance circle, at what is now Andrews Bay. The lake, bay, wetlands, and peninsula were rich in resources. Prairie or tall grassland areas (anthropogenic grasslands) were maintained at what is now Brighton–Seward Park, as well as numerous other locations in what is now Seattle.
Besides providing food, the lake was home to powerful spirits. The previously mentioned xaxao'lc ("taboo place") at Brighton Beach south of the peninsula was named for a supernatural spirit who was said to live in the lake there. The unusual sound of the babbling waters place indicated its presence. Near Colman Park lived an ?ya’hos, a horned spirit that was associated with landslides and earthquakes. Remarkably, this is the approximate location of the Seattle Fault, which moved more than 20 ft (6.1 m) vertically about 1100 years ago. This quake caused a landslide at South Point on Mercer Island, sending a large section of forest into the lake—en masse, intact and upright. Little earth beings were said to inhabit the tree stumps there and drove insane a man trying to harvest the bark from the stumps. The preserved forest was discovered and destroyed when the lake was lowered in 1916–17.
The 300 acres (121 ha) of Seward Park has about a 120 acre (48.6 ha) surviving remnant of old growth forest, providing a glimpse of what some of the lake shore looked like before the city of Seattle. With trees older than 250 years and many less than 200, the Seward Park forest is relatively young (the forests of Seattle before the city were fully mature, up through 1,000–2,000 years old).
One of the earliest White settlers, E. A. Clark, was influential in the life of Cheshiahud, a young man at the time, the mid 1850s.
Seward Park, which was first settled by Whites in great numbers in the 1880s, is built on the largest residential hill in Seattle. In a series of annexations, the neighborhood joined the town of Southeast Seattle, which then joined the City of Seattle in 1907.
Around a quarter of the residents are African American, and another quarter Asian American, most of the remainder being White. The neighborhood has been a hub of Orthodox Jewish life for nearly 90 years. The oldest synagogue in Washington state, Bikur Cholim-Machzikay Hadath, is located there, as are Sephardic Bikur Holim Congregation and Congregation Ezra Bessaroth. 90% of Orthodox Jews in Seattle are said to live within a mile of one of the synagogues, though more recent arrivals have been settling north of the Lake Washington Ship Canal in Wedgwood, Hawthorne Hills, and Ravenna and in nearby communities such as Mercer Island.
The average price of a house in the neighborhood is about $500,000. 80% of residents own their homes.
Seward Park is home to Whitworth and Graham Hill elementary schools.
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