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Seattle Neighborhoods: Denny-Blaine -- Thumbnail History

HistoryLink.org Essay 2996 : Printer-Friendly Format

The Denny-Blaine neighborhood of Seattle is located on Lake Washington between Madison Park and Madrona. It was developed just after the turn of the century by Elbert F. Blaine, an attorney and former Seattle Parks Commissioner, and by Charles L. Denny, son of Seattle founders Arthur Denny and Mary (Boren) Denny. They designed the neighborhood to follow the contours of the land, and included a series of hillside parks. The lots intermingle with streets, lanes, parks, fountains, and cul-de-sacs, virtually all of which have views of Lake Washington.

First People

Denny-Blaine's hillsides overlooking Lake Washington were formed by the remnants of the 40,000-year-old Vashon Glacier, its ice flows and floods. The first human inhabitants were the "Inside People" or Hah-Tshu-Ab'sh, also known as the Lake People. They were Duwamish hunters, gatherers, and fishers whose people roamed the area for thousands of years. The entire rim of Lake Washington, known as It-how-chug or Large Lake, was their domain.

In 1901, the city of Seattle was 50 years old. That year, Viretta (Chambers) Denny and Charles L. Denny, along with their partner Elbert F. Blaine, formed the Denny-Blaine Land Company and began buying property adjacent to and to the east and north of the Madrona trolley line. They filed their Denny-Blaine Lake Park subdivision with the city and began seeking lot buyers. The adjacent Madrona subdivision was also newly available. Prospective buyers rode the trolley from downtown to the new lakeside subdivisions.

Gems in a Necklace

Perhaps the most obvious legacy of Denny-Blaine are its parks, strung like a necklace across the hillside. Beginning at the lake is Whitman Place, also known as Denny-Blaine Place, a charming beachside turnaround with esplanade and seawall. Directly uphill is Viretta Park, named for Viretta Denny. Just above that is tiny Stevens Park, or Triangle, named for Isaac Stevens, Washington Territory's first governor.

Other parks include a jewel, Minerva Fountain and Park, one of the city's quaint Metro stops. The sign above that shelter -- believed by some to have been designed by the architect Ellsworth Storey (1879-1960) -- boldly states: "Denny-Blaine Lake Park." At one time the shelter served as the office of the real estate firm.

Finally, an odd, virtually hidden little Children's Park, dedicated by Charles and Viretta Denny in 1901, lies on the lakeshore at the east end of Howell Street.

Elbert Blaine's wife Minerva (Stone) Blaine sold the Epiphany Episcopal Church its site on Denny Way in 1909. Its Ellsworth Storey Swiss chalet design makes it a fitting partner to the Minerva Fountain, park, and Metro station across the street.

Staid and Stylish

Denny-Blaine grew in the 1920s and 1930s, with many fine homes built in its hills, many occupied by Seattle's wealthy families. The community's staid and stylish maturation was helped by the nearby trolley line, which encouraged low key commercial activities along its route.

Today's Denny-Blaine retains its stable, relatively affluent atmosphere. It is close enough to downtown, the University of Washington, and the Lake Washington bridges to the Eastside to make it one of Seattle's more pleasant and convenient neighborhoods.

Junius Rochester, The Last Electric Trolley: Madrona and Denny Blaine (Seattle: Tommie Press, 2002); Also see: Brandt Morgan, Enjoying Seattle's Parks (Seattle: Greenwood Publications, 1979).

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Denny-Blaine Park on Lake Washington Boulevard, October 2001
Photo by Priscilla Long

Map showing location of Denny-Blaine neighborhood in Seattle
Courtesy History Ink

Canoes at Denny-Blaine Park, 1920s

Retaining wall, Denny-Blaine Park, October 2001
Photo by Priscilla Long

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