David Denny's original 1853 land claim embraced much of the area surrounding today's Seattle Center. He and his wife Louisa (1827-1916) donated use of a six-acre tract for use as a town cemetery in 1864 (some sources say 1861 and 1863; note that Seattle was not effectively incorporated until 1869). In 1884, the Dennys rededicated most of the cemetery property to become a public park once the "residents" were relocated at the City's expense. Ordinance 571, passed by the city council on July 9, 1884, and signed by Mayor H. G. Struve on July 10, 1884, accepted the land donated by Denny and "converted, dedicated, and set [it] apart as a public park."
Where the Bodies Are Buried
Most of the remains from the park site were relocated to the city's second municipal cemetery, Washelli (meaning "west wind" in Makah), which was established on the present site of Capitol Hill's Volunteer Park in 1885. When this was converted to park use in 1893, the remains were again relocated. The Lake View Cemetery immediately north of Volunteer Park (so named in 1901 for American troops in the Spanish-American War) was established in 1872 by the St. John's Lodge of the Order of Freemasonry, which still maintains it.
As the area around Denny Park grew in population, the City added new plantings and amenities. A formal garden was landscaped and a playfield added in 1903. Despite the objections of the Denny family, the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation constructed its headquarters on the park's western edge along Dexter Avenue N in 1948. The building, designed by Young and Richardson, won top honors from the American Institute of Architects and remains in use today (2005).