Canary in the Coal Mine
Hunts Point is a narrow finger of land not quite one mile long, and less than a quarter-mile wide, which juts into Lake Washington between Evergreen Point and Yarrow Point in Seattle's Eastside, the area east of Lake Washington. It's named after Leigh S. J. Hunt (1855-1933), owner and publisher of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer between 1886 and 1894, even though Hunt actually lived on Yarrow Point. The first houses began to appear on Hunts Point around 1900, but given its then-remote location, these early homes were small cabins and simple vacation houses that the owners typically occupied just in the summer months. By 1910 more permanent settlement was coming to Hunts Point, and a very pleasant, prosperous community of a few hundred souls sprang up.
The opening of the Lake Washington floating bridge from Seattle to near Bellevue in 1940 changed everything. Suddenly the Eastside was ripe for development, and development came after World War II ended in 1945. By the early 1950s it was arriving in Hunts Point, and the community was worried. Hunts Point was known for its large, quiet, wooded, almost pastoral lots, but the growing trend in the 1950s was for smaller lots crowded together in subdivisions. An example arrived in the community when the new Hunts Point Park addition (located just south of the point) opened in 1951. It was the canary in the coal mine.
To Incorporate or Not to Incorporate
In 1953 the City of Bellevue incorporated and began rapidly annexing surrounding territory. Hunts Point's neighbor, Clyde Hill, incorporated in 1954, leaving the surrounding communities with their own decisions to make. Incorporate on their own? Annex to Bellevue? Do nothing and stay within unincorporated King County? The problem with the last option was that many didn't think the county would be responsive to their needs. Hunts Point in particular didn't expect that the county would adequately address its concerns about lot sizes or the proposed route of State Route 520, which would cut through the southern end of the community.
In December 1954 Medina-area residents, including representatives from the Three Points (Evergreen, Hunts, and Yarrow) came together at a meeting of the Medina Improvement Club to discuss what to do. They voted overwhelmingly against annexing to either Clyde Hill or Bellevue. However, they were divided over whether they wanted to remain part of the county or form a new city. A majority wanted Medina and the Three Points to incorporate together, but a substantial minority wanted to remain part of the county. The club decided to take another vote, this time of as many in the community as it could.
In January 1955 straw ballots went out with a simple question: "Do you favor taking steps toward incorporation with the Three Points?" By mid-February the vote was in. The anti-incorporation vote won by a margin of 10 percent, but this didn't settle the matter. The next month Bellevue city officials scheduled a meeting with community members at the Medina Improvement Club to extol the virtues of annexation. It was obvious what was coming next.
Again there was talk of Medina incorporating with all three points. But Hunts Point had its own improvement club, which carried more clout in Hunts Point, and it favored incorporation as a separate town with its own identity. In April Hunts Point residents voted by an overwhelming margin to approve a resolution drafted by the club calling for an election to vote on incorporation, and a petition to incorporate was filed with the county on April 25. Soon after, Medina filed a petition that included Evergreen Point, while Yarrow Point filed its own separate petition. Elections were scheduled for July 26 on all of the incorporation measures. Not to be outdone, the City of Bellevue proceeded with its efforts to annex Medina, Evergreen Point, and Yarrow Point, and an election to vote on annexation -- contingent on the outcome of the incorporation vote -- was scheduled for August 19. Though the annexation measure didn't include Hunts Point, one wonders what would have happened if incorporation hadn't passed.
But it did pass. On July 26 Hunts Point voters approved incorporation by a comfortable margin, 78 to 49. (Medina also voted to incorporate. Yarrow Point did not, but subsequently did in 1959.) Sterling Stapp was elected as Hunts Point's first 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 later became the Wetherill Nature Preserve to Cozy Cove.
On August 22, 1955, Hunts Point officially incorporated as a fourth class town. Three weeks after incorporation, the town approved a set of development codes that set minimum lot sizes and regulated subdivisions. The first formal development codes were written by resident and attorney John Ehrlichman (1925-1999), who served as the town attorney for Hunts Point for the rest of the 1950s and well into the 1960s. In 1969 he moved to Washington, D.C., and worked in the administration of President Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994), first as White House counsel and then as chief of domestic policy.