Hunts Point -- Thumbnail History

  • By Phil Dougherty
  • Posted 10/27/2015
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 11125
Hunts Point (King County) is a tiny, affluent community located on a tree-covered peninsula that juts into Lake Washington between Evergreen Point and Yarrow Point a few miles east of Seattle. First settled in the early 1900s and incorporated as a fourth-class town in 1955, Hunts Point in 2015 has a population of about 425. The town has a quiet, pleasant history and a strong sense of community, which it strives to maintain today.  

Beginnings

Newly arriving settlers encountered Hunts Point, a finger of land nearly a mile long but less than a quarter-mile wide, soon after they began to spread out to Seattle's Eastside (the area east of Lake Washington) during the 1860s. Since the point wasn't suitable for farming, the earliest settlers passed it by, until three men obtained "patents" to the land from the U.S. government in 1869. Henry Nathan Jr. bought almost all of the point (except for a thin slice on its eastern side) and about half of Evergreen Point in May 1869. That same month James Brackett bought land south of Fairweather Bay, which included the area now known as the Fairweather Yacht Basin and Hunts Point Circle. And in 1869 Neils Anderson obtained a patent along the eastern edge of Hunts Point. His holdings extended along the shoreline of Cozy Cove (originally known as Anderson Bay) into part of Yarrow Point and south to what is now Clyde Hill.  

There was little development of Hunts Point during the nineteenth century. By the 1890s the area was informally known as "Boddy" after Francis Boddy, who had a dairy farm and a greenhouse near present-day Medina Circle south of the point. On the point itself land was being sold and parceled out, which would soon trigger settlement. One early buyer was Jacob Furth (1840-1914), an influential Seattle banker, who bought most of Hunts Point in the 1880s. However, with the exception of a 16-acre parcel of land along the southern shoreline of Cozy Cove (the site of his summer home), he gradually sold off most of his holdings. This included a piece of land on the tip of Hunts Point, which he sold to Leigh S. J. Hunt (1855-1933) in 1888. Hunt is said to have bought the property so he could cut down trees on it that blocked the view from his home on Yarrow Point. 

Hunts Point bears Hunt's name even though he never lived there. He was a gregarious, larger-than-life figure whose ventures included a stint as owner and publisher of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer from 1886 to 1894. He also bought thousands of acres of Eastside land in an attempt to create, along with Peter Kirk (1840-1916) and other men, a bustling steel operation intended to make Kirkland the "Pittsburgh of the West." They built a brickworks and dozens of houses, and made plans for a bank, a hotel, and other businesses. But as the steel mill neared completion in 1893 a financial panic triggered a severe four-year nationwide depression that forced Hunt to sell everything at a loss, including his land on Hunts Point. 

Community Clubs and Ferries 

Around 1900 the first houses began appearing on Hunts Point. These were small cabins and simple vacation cottages typically occupied only in the summer months, but by 1910 more permanent settlement was beginning to arrive. Electricity was put in that year and telephone service a few years later, but an even more significant event that cemented the community's creation came in 1909 when Bay School was built at the base of the point. The building was located where the town hall is today at 3000 Hunts Point Road, and it was originally a classic one-room school. By 1940 the building had grown to six classrooms and a lunchroom that ably served elementary students from all three points (Hunts, Evergreen, and Yarrow) and Clyde Hill until it burned down in May 1950. (Hunts Point students went to high school in Kirkland until 1942, and in Bellevue thereafter.) 

Community clubs were integral to Hunts Point's development in its earliest years. The Hunts Point Tennis Club was founded in 1908 and wasted little time building a clubhouse, located at what today is 3655 Hunts Point Road. The clubhouse was the nexus of the little community during the 1910s and 1920s, fading away only when the Overlake Golf and Country Club opened in nearby Medina in 1927. The Hunts Point Improvement Committee was also established in the community's early days and played a vital role in its affairs into the 1950s.

Until the Lake Washington Floating Bridge opened in 1940, the ferry was the only direct way from Seattle across the lake to Hunts Point. Most of the lakefront homes faced the lake and had their own dock, and residents would run out and try to flag down a steamer as it passed by. During the early decades of the twentieth century, King County built docks on Hunts Point for more dependable steamer stops, and by 1934 there were at least four docks on Hunts Point, two on Fairweather Bay, and two on Cozy Cove, served by the steamer Ariel. 

There were few roads in Hunts Point in its early years, but this changed as the twentieth century progressed. Hunts Point Road, the community's main artery, was built as a simple gravel road in 1905. (It was originally named F. F. French Road after the property owner who petitioned the county for the road.) In 1920 the road was widened and paved with a 16-foot-wide ribbon of concrete, but at that time the road ended at 4204 Hunts Point Road. In 1937 and 1938 King County road crews extended the road 750 feet to its current end. The work took place during the late autumn and winter and of course it rained, infuriating residents who lived at the end of the point, who found the way to their homes blocked by a lane of deep mud hundreds of feet long. For more than six weeks they had to pack in their supplies by foot, at one point climbing a ladder to continue on to their property. County officials blamed the residents for the problem, claiming they'd insisted that construction take place right away, which the residents vehemently denied. 

Development and Incorporation 

The 1940 opening of the Lake Washington Floating Bridge opened the Eastside to development, which began in earnest after the end of World War II in 1945. By the early 1950s suburbia was edging toward Hunts Point, and residents were worried. They loved their large, quiet, wooded lots, but there was a growing trend toward smaller lots crowded together in subdivisions. One example of this arrived in the community when the new Hunts Point Park addition (located just south of the point) opened in 1951.  Residents saw it as the canary in the coalmine. 

In 1953 the City of Bellevue was incorporated and quickly began annexing surrounding territory, but many in the nearby points area weren't interested in joining the new city.  At the same time, residents were becoming less convinced that King County could adequately meet their needs, particularly since it had no comprehensive land-use plan in place to address the trend of smaller home lots. Residents feared that allowing smaller lots into Hunts Point would completely change the community's character, and they were determined not to let that happen. The looming prospect of the construction of a new freeway (State Route 520, which opened in 1963) through the southern end of the community was also a big issue in which residents wanted more of a voice than they felt they had with the county. 

As Bellevue began preparing to try to annex Medina and the points in the spring of 1955, there was a concerted push by area residents to incorporate their individual communities, not just in Hunts Point but in Medina and Yarrow Point too. Though there was some early talk of Medina incorporating with all three points, only Evergreen Point ultimately incorporated with Medina. Hunts Point was the first to make a move to break away on its own, filing a petition for incorporation as a fourth-class town with the Board of King County Commissioners on April 25, 1955. Medina and Yarrow Point each filed their own petitions the following month. 

All went to a vote on July 26, 1955. Medina voted to incorporate, while Yarrow Point did not (it subsequently voted to incorporate in 1959). Hunts Point voters approved incorporation by a comfortable margin, 78 to 49. Sterling Stapp was elected the new town's mayor, and Gordon Anderson, Robert Bowden, William Madden, Chester Ries, and James Warrack were elected as the town's first councilmembers.

The new town's boundaries were the lake on the north, and Fairweather Bay on its west with a dogleg in the boundary line that traced the head of the bay to 80th Avenue NE before dropping south to NE 28th Street. This enabled the town to obtain the land along the entire head of Fairweather Bay, which in turn led to the creation the Fairweather Yacht Basin subdivision in 1957. From NE 28th Street the town boundary stretched east to 88th Avenue NE, then turned north and ran just east of Hunts Point Lane through what in 1988 became the Wetherill Nature Preserve to Cozy Cove. 

Three weeks after incorporation became official on August 22, 1955, the town approved a set of development codes, which set minimum lot sizes (in 2015 the minimum residential lot size is 12,000 square feet) and regulated subdivisions in the new town. The first formal development codes were written by resident and attorney John Ehrlichman (1925-1999) and are mostly the same today. Ehrlichman served as the town attorney for Hunts Point for the rest of the 1950s and well into the 1960s. He moved to Washington, D.C., after Richard Nixon (1913-1994) was elected president in 1968 and worked in the Nixon administration, first as White House counsel and then as chief of domestic policy. He was instrumental in helping create the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 and he promoted other progressive legislation, but it all unraveled in 1973 when he was implicated in the Watergate break-in, the political scandal that ultimately drove Nixon from office. Ehrlichman was forced to resign and briefly returned to Medina, where most of his neighbors welcomed him.  

Hunts Point Today 

By the late 1970s nearly all of Hunts Point had been developed, and there's been little significant physical change in the community since. This is hardly surprising, given that the town's land area is only 205 acres, or about three-tenths of a square mile. Within this area is a spot that remains as it was more than a century ago: the Wetherill Nature Preserve. It consists of 16 acres of well-maintained trails that snake through woods of big-leaf maples, willows, and even an apple tree or two. Originally the site of the summer home of Jacob Furth, in 1988 his descendants donated the land to Hunts Point and Yarrow Point (the preserve lies in both towns). It's a peaceful spot that feels bigger than it is, and it has great views of Cozy Cove from the shoreline. 

Hunts Point's population in the 2010 United States Census was 394. Just over 80 percent of its residents were Caucasian, while 11 percent were Asian. African-Americans and Hispanics combined made up 2 percent of the town's residents. The town's population has drifted down from 513 in 1990, primarily because there are fewer houses; according to historian Michael Luis, this is because some older properties on the point have been sold and combined into single properties.  

These properties come at a price. A casual glance in September 2015 at realtor websites showed home prices ranging from just under $1 million to nearly $12 million. Median price estimates also varied widely, with most coming in between $2 million and $4 million. The median household income in Hunts Point, estimated at $136,919 in 2013, was nearly double the median in King County. Likewise the median age of Hunts Point residents, estimated at 52.4 years in 2013 by CityData.com, was about 15 years older than the county median. 

One argument made in 1955 against incorporation in Hunts Point was that the town government would be too small to be efficient, but the town has managed quite nicely by contracting out virtually all of its services. For example, police protection in Hunts Point is provided by neighbor Medina, while nearby Bellevue provides fire protection. The town's schoolchildren are similarly served by the Bellevue School District. 

Hunts Point has always had a strong sense of community, which it maintains today. One yearly tradition the community is especially proud of is Clean Up Day. It started in 1920 when the Hunts Point Improvement Committee called on its residents to trim the foliage along the newly widened Hunts Point Road. It's now evolved into a yearly tradition that's held every third Sunday in May. Many of Hunts Point's residents pitch in to clean up brush and trash, trim shrubs, maybe even plant a few trees. It's a festive occasion that ends with a cocktail party usually hosted by the town's newest residents. Hunts Point also teams up with its neighbor Yarrow Point every year for a gala July 4 celebration that lasts for several days.


Sources: Michael Luis, Hunts Point (Medina, Washington: Fairweather Publishing, 2011);  "Elections Stand Despite Absentee Ballot Count," The Bellevue American, August 4, 1955, p. 1;  "Hunts Point Lane, Lately Mud, Is Open," The Seattle Times, December 25, 1937, p. 10;  "Residents Rap Road Officials," Ibid., January 8, 1938, p. 2;  "Incorporation Asked for Hunts Point," Ibid., April 25, 1955, p. 9;  Paul Andrews, "Neighbors Glad of Ehrlichmans' Plans to Return," Ibid., July 4, 1973, p. 14; HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Ehrlichman, John D." (by Cassandra Tate), "Kirkland -- Thumbnail History" (by Alan Stein), "Medina -- Thumbnail History" (by Phil Dougherty), and "Seattle Post-Intelligencer (1863-2009)" (by Cassandra Tate), http://www.historylink.org (accessed September 13, 2015);  "Hunts Point, Washington," City-Data.com website accessed September 19, 2015 (http://www.city-data.com/city/Hunts-Point-Washington.html); "Comprehensive Plan Update," Town of Hunts Point website accessed September 29, 2015 (http://huntspoint-wa.gov/files/documents/HP%202014%20Comp%20Plan%20Draft%20August%202014%20web%20version.pdf); "2010 Census Interactive Population Search, WA -- Hunts Point Town" United States Census 2010 website accessed September 27, 2015 (http://www.census.gov/2010census/popmap/ipmtext.php?fl=53).

Related Topics:   Cities & Towns

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