day 4 – walking lucile street – 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

day 3 – walking lucile street – a neighbor’s path

Childhood home of our neighbor off another segment of Lucile

You may have heard that 70% of Americans live in or near the city they were raised in. I can’t verify this statistic published by a moving company, but we do have an immediate neighbor on our street that grew up on Beacon Hill just off of Lucile!

And what an honor for us to have her lead our third day of walking Lucile Street from MLK back to her childhood home and the adjoining Dearborn Park. It is a special walk, because it follows the path that she would have made as an elementary school student from her bus stop on MLK to her home.

Lucile Street – we walked from Martin Luther King Jr Way S, north on 33rd to S Brandon, west on S Brandon St to 30th Ave S, south to Lucile, and then over to Dearborn Park.

With a curated playlist of music and each of us with a Tootsie Pop, we not only crossed Martin Luther King Jr Way, but also crossed over into another childhood.

With her Walkman and Tootsie Pop – wrapper inspected for the lucky shooting star – a young Ms C walked the four or so blocks up to her home by Dearborn Park.

Lucile Street – Crossing MLK heading East up Lucile past the mechanic shop that Caitlin recalls from childhood

We learned on the walk that although Caitlin lived across Dearborn Park from an elementary school, she went to a school in Ballard. It was the era of Seattle’s mandatory busing program intended to integrate schools. Nowadays Ballard seems an hour away, but Caitlin says the bus ride never seemed to take very long.

A living story on the sidewalk in photos and documents with snacks.

Across the street from her childhood home we sat on the sidewalk where she kindly shared with us the story of her grandparents who bought the house here due to redlining in Seattle, a practice that restricted housing access for many minority population residents.

Among the documents we discussed on the sidewalk was the title deed of the house, photos of family, grandmother’s Columbia City-based wedding dress business, grandfather’s obituary in the Seattle Times with the headline: “Boeing engineer and a gentleman-farmer”.

From here we ambled to the park, played at the playground, learned about how it changed, but also that the park has mainly remained the same all these years. We walked around Dearborn Elementary and searched the brush in vain for what appeared on the map as a potential shortcut back to Lucile Street.

Dearborn Park – The Seattle Wishing Tree

The kids gave their wishes to the wishing tree and cracked open fortune cookies which Caitlin pasted into our Lucile Street notebooks. Soon and very soon read the fortunes. For now though, our warmest gratitude to our neighbor for leading us up her path from past to present.

Reflections

Lucile - photos by Ms A
Lucile – photos by Ms A

Hard to know what kids will pick up from our stories from the past, but I do know they value stories and I’m often surprised by the ones from my childhood that they will recall. Why that one? What made it memorable to you?

Walk reflection by Ms A with an illustration of the wishing tree.

Ms A knows this park from our prior visits to it as the wishing tree park – that’s the defining feature of it to her, so no surprise that’s still the defining feature of this segment of Lucile.

I’m not sure when the wishing tree started, perhaps during the pandemic as the first comments on Google Maps about it appear in 2021.

In her reflection, Ms A describes the image Caitlin shared of her grandfather proudly standing with the corn stalks growing out of the basketball court pavement behind their house. It is a memorable picture. The Seattle Times described him as breaking ground “in the literal sense” with his backyard farming. This photograph adds another layer of meaning to carry and consider.

Walk reflection by Ms M – “I liked [this] walk the most”

Ms M drew the tree we sat under on the sidewalk. Her reflection notes how different the street and home appears to her from the photos that were shared.

How to discuss redlining with kids? Caitlin explained the idea and how that history affected her family, but I wonder if the kids seeing this as a nice neighborhood and hearing about how high housing prices are here now, couldn’t quite see the problem.

I tried the question: how would you feel if someone told you that you can’t buy a house in a neighborhood that you want to live in? Upon reflection, I wonder if the “I don’t know” responses I received is premised on a mutual expectation of belonging – would I want to live somewhere where other people don’t feel like I belong?

Communicating this history will take some time and patience – and it encourages me to deepen my own understanding of it.

Only one other family has lived in the home since her family lived there. In a way this shows how little has changed in this neighborhood since she grew up here. The playground in Dearborn Park is not the same one she grew up with, but the Parks Department will soon be replacing it with a new structure. As we sat in the park, two dads brought their kids to the playground to play together. A picture of the kind of neighborhood friendships that are lived still today across Lucile Street.

Playlist

Compiled by Ms C with contributions from our participants

  • Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles
  • Cardboard Box Adventure by Purrple Cat
  • Chances by Fox and Bones
  • deja vu by Olivia Rodrigo
  • Unconditional I (Lookout Kid) by Arcade Fire
  • I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For by Scarlett Johansson and Bono
  • Don’t Look Back in Anger by Oasis
  • … I know a Place (The Creek Song) by Bluey, Helena Czajka, and Jazz D’Arcy
  • Gymnopédie No. 1 by Erik Satie, Philippe Entremont

Measurements

Date of walk: Friday, July 22nd, 2022

Start time: 12:51
End time: 13:47

Partly cloudy, 68℉

Elevation plot generated by Garmin Connect App. I started the recording a bit late. Should be over by Vu Auto Repair on MLK.

Max elevation: 275ft
Min elevation: 150ft