day 4 – walking lucile street – the lucile street stairs

The Lucile Street Stairs
The Lucile Street Stairs - a 450ft long staircase that descends about 150ft in elevation through the Maple School Ravine, a 15 acre natural area that extends about a half a mile along the west side of Beacon Hill. A school photo and a large roly-poly found along the stairs.

Rain poured as we drove to the first segment of the walk, but we were not deterred. The rain relented respectfully and we made this walk without rain, but perhaps a little weary as our notes and photos were a bit light.

We walked a short segment of Lucile east of Beacon Ave and then hopped back in the car over to Lucile and 23rd Ave S for the walk down to 15th Ave S and back.

Lucile Street – we walked from 25th Ave S to 15th Ave S

Reflections

Walk reflection by Ms M – Illustrates and notes the hideout, a stump circle at the base of the Lucile Stairs, and Cafe Flora at 15th.
Walk reflection by Ms N – Illustrates the hideout and Cafe Flora’s facade on profile.
Walk reflection by Ms A – Illustration from a birds eye of the hideout.

The short segment East of Beacon Ave S reminded me that even on today’s walk we are encountering a memory connecting me to this part of my street.

Years ago, maybe in 2016 or 2017, I spent a day helping our then new friends Dave, Minda and their daughter Ms F move from a house near the corner of Lucile and 25th to their newly built home in Columbia City. There was a lot of heavy lifting that day, but I felt motivated to help see as much of it through as possible. As is with a move across town, stuff doesn’t have to be very organized and packed, which in some ways makes it harder, but Dave’s optimism and humour gave me an encouragement that maybe I hoped would help me earn a friendship.

Lucile Street - the short segment between 25th and 26th
Lucile Street – the short segment between 25th and 26th. A dead tree adds a sculptural quality against the towering electricity pylons.

Apart from this memory, I noticed that every home had security cameras, many sliding security grilles over windows, and a few “no trespass” signs. A “Slow Down – This is a neighborhood not a racetrack” sign added to the sense of insecurity which didn’t exist on any other segment we walked.


The following, longer segment of Lucile Street is a few residential blocks of mostly older homes with maintained lots. A noticeable number of windows and gardens on this stretch are adorned with small ornaments such as painted rocks and colorful trinkets and figurines.

Suddenly Lucile hits a wall of tall trees which it stubbornly cuts through with a 450ft long set of stairs. As we descend, all we see in either direction is dense and unrelenting thicket of brush and woods. There’s nothing to see in here or any discernible features or trails apart from the stairs, which appear to be losing the battle against the incursion of overgrowth.

Google Maps calls this forest the Maple School Natural Area, but the City of Seattle calls it the Maple School Ravine. Either name is odd, because there is no school adjoining this 15 acre forlorn forest. Maple Elementary is half a mile northwest of the Maple School Ravine, so what’s that about?

From what I could find a school used to be on Lucile St. Maple Elementary has a history as old as Seattle. It was founded in 1862 along the Duwamish River on today’s Boeing Field with land donated by Samuel Mapel and his brother John Westley Mapel as one of the first teachers. The school moved slowly up the hill, known then as Roosevelt Hill (or was it Maple Hill?), from the Duwamish river to its current location today.

Lucile Street – Maple School pictured on Roosevelt Hill, known today as South Beacon Hill, in 1907 and moved to 17th & Lucile to make way for Grover Cleveland High School. Photo: MOHAI (1983.10.7872.1)

The location of the Maple School at Lucile & 17th from 1909 to 1972 explains how this greenbelt gained the name. How did it look and how was it used back then? Today it is very overgrown and feels impenetrable apart from the hideout carved by an anonymous effort. The history of the stairway, however, is less obscure.


Lucile Street – Girl Scouts Troop 413 petitioning for the improvement of the muddy trail through the Maple School Ravine. Images courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, 74058 and 74060

As I register Ms A and Ms M for Girl Scouts this year, I came across records in the Seattle Municipal Archives of Girl Scouts Troop 413. These photos of girls with muddy shoes from June 1952 are of the troop petitioning for the improvement of the muddy trail between 18th and 20th Ave S. Once a muddy trail, thanks in part to the Troop 413, it is now a slip free neighborhood stairway walk.

Did these girls from Troop 413 live east of the ravine and trekked to school everyday at Maple on 17th and Lucile? Did their troop meet at Maple?


From the Lucile Street Stairs hideout we walked the flat few blocks to the Flora Bakehouse. My friend, Mike Kaiser, had a hand in drafting the plans for the Bakehouse when he was working for Atelier Drome.

The Bakehouse is beautiful and has a nice, welcoming rooftop patio with an area view across South Beacon Hill and Georgetown. The girls ordered a couple of warm chocolate chip cookies to share, hibiscus lemonades for Ms N and Ms A, and a caramel Italian soda for Ms M.

Dossier

Lucile Street - Ms A notes potted flowers and the little ornamental touches found at quite a few homes along this segment
Lucile Street – Ms A notes potted flowers and the little ornamental touches found at quite a few homes along this segment, west of Beacon Ave.
Lucile Street – At the base of the Lucile street stairs, Ms A finds and photographs a hideout crafted out of the overgrowth of the Maple School Ravine
Lucile Street – West of the stairs feels distinct with a church that has an impeccably manicured landscaping. The girls were intrigued by the mismatched handles on the front doors. Climbable trees and balance beam utility pole added to the fun of this segment.
Lucile Street - The Flora Bakehouse
Lucile Street – The Flora Bakehouse. A fine bakery with a good-sized rooftop patio for taking in a view of the area.
Sound recording on Lucile Street, east of the stairs. Sounds of birds, a comment about a dancing window ornament, and a plane.

Measurements

Date of walk: Wednesday, Aug 10th, 2022
Start time: 10:28
End time: 12:20

Cloudy, 64℉

Lucile Street from 25th Ave S to 15th Ave S. Elevation plot generated by Garmin Connect App.
Elevation plot generated by Garmin Connect App.

Max elevation: 318ft
Min elevation: 148ft

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