Bordering the western side of Lake Washington, Madison Park is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Seattle. First home to the Duwamish tribe, who hunted deer, otter and bear among inlets, swamps and forested banks, Madison Park Seattle was one of the first areas to be developed.
In its early days, the land of the shores around Lake Washington Seattle were being sold to raise funds for the University of Washington. This began when 420 Acres of land were first acquired in the 1860s by a man from Illinois named John J. McGilvra. A road was cut into the forest to connect his property to downtown Seattle. This road is now Madison Street.
The large plot must have proved too much to manage—or perhaps Mr. McGilvra was lonely. Either way, in 1880, he put up most of his land for sale, on the condition that only cottages are to be built. Then he reserved another 24 acres for a public park, and this is how the Madison Park neighborhood got its name. The home he built is now one of the oldest Madison Park homes, and is now a local landmark.
The park area is home to the first baseball diamond in Seattle. As the years went one, the boathouse, piers, bandstand, and a wooden boardwalk was put in. The waterfront seating was put in place for the Vaudeville acts that were popular at the time. A cable car was another addition to the neighborhood, bringing more visitors to this part of Seattle. This car ran every two minutes, bringing more and more crowds to the area. When the city began to develop its public park system in the first part of the last century, the Madison Park Seattle was overlooked because its lack of park-like features. At the time it was more of an amusement park.
When the Lake Washington Seattle canal in Ballard opened in 1917, the level of the lake fell by nine feet, and more shoreline was available for recreational use. Tennis courts, and the shops nearby came soon afterward, creating the modern look that the shore area still has today. Madison Park homes are highly sought after, in part to the scenic beauty of this park.
Today, the area around Madison Park is a well-to-do residential area with prime lake views and is home to upscale shops and boutiques. Owners of Madison park homes and visitors vie for parking on the side streets, so you might want to give yourself extra time to find a place to park. You can find free one and two hour parking spots on Madison Street. Play at the playground overlooking Lake Washington Seattle, wander over to the old pile of beams that was once the historic dock for the ferry to Kirkland, and enjoy stunning views of Mount Rainier from Madison Park Seattle.