Magnuson Park History

Courtesy of Friends of Magnuson Park:

"For much of the twentieth century, a Naval Air Base occupied the land at Sand Point, on the shores of Lake Washington. It is now home to Warren G. Magnuson Park, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and U.S.G.S. Western Fisheries Research Center.

"As Seattle’s first municipal airport, Sand Point was the launch site of the first Around the World Flight in 1924, three years before Charles Lindbergh landed his Spirit of St. Louis on the runway to promote early airmail use. A young Boeing Company assembled and flew planes here.

"During WWII, as Headquarters for the 13 District, the Naval Station Puget Sound led the fight in the Pacific Theater. After Pearl Harbor was bombed, NAS Seattle was one of only three Naval Air Stations on the west coast.

"Magnuson Park is named for longtime Senator Warren G. Magnuson, who helped the City of Seattle acquire this property after it was 347 acres of the base was surplused in the early 1970s. NOAA and USGS received land at this time. The base reuse planning began in 1991 for the closure of Sand Point which was no longer needed by the Navy due to the transfer of functions to the new Naval Station Everett. By 1998 the remaining land and buildings were formally transferred to the City with 10 acres and 5 buildings to the University of Washington."

Please also visit HistoryLink for an overview of the competing interests for use of the land at Sand Point, including that of the Muckelshoot tribe in the early 1990s.

Warren G. Magnuson and Sand Point Development

Warren Grant "Maggie" Magnuson (April 12, 1905–May 20, 1989) represented the state of Washington in the United States Senate from 1944 until 1981. When he left the Senate he was the most senior member of the body.

His connections to the City of Seattle included roles as secretary of the Seattle Municipal League from 1930-31 and special prosecuting attorney for King County in 1931. His political career began as a member of the Washington State House of Representatives from 1933-1934. This was followed by serving as a United States district attorney in 1934 and then again as a prosecuting attorney for King County from 1934-1936. During the Second World War, he served in the United States Navy and attained the rank of lieutenant commander and served for almost one year on the USS Enterprise. Magnuson served as a member of the United States House of Representatives, representing the Washington's 1st congressional district from 1937 to 1944.

Senator Magnuson introduced several bills to the U.S. Congress that would have increased the significance of naval activities on the Sand Point peninsula. In 1938, he unsuccessfully backed a bill to establish a second Naval Academy on Puget Sound. In 1940 and 1945 he attempted to make NAS Seattle an upper division academy for the west coast. These proposals were also not carried forward. In May 1950, it was reported that Senator Magnuson along with Representative Henry M. Jackson, met with the Naval Air Station Civic Development Association to discuss ways to keep the station open. However, it was also reported that Senator Magnuson was “quietly working with the University of Washington” to develop the framework for transferring the station to the university for an expanded campus

In 1976, the City Council authorized the initial development of Sand Point Park (CB 97246) in the eastern portion of former Naval Air Station, Seattle. In May 1977, Sand Point Park was renamed for Senator Magnuson, who helped to secure federal funding for developing the park.

Historic Park Features

The Freedom Tree – This tree, a now 60-foot deodar cedar, is located at the northwest corner of N.E. 74th Street and 62nd Avenue N.E. It was dedicated in 1972 "to the sons of Washington and all prisoners of war and missing in action."

Historic District – History and architecture buffs will be interested in the historic, former Navy buildings in Warren G. Magnuson Park’s Community Campus. This historic district is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The property is historically significant based on the role it played in the U.S. Navy’s expansion and development in the Puget Sound region, and on the architecture of many of its buildings. The buildings include brick and metal structures from the 1930s and 1940s in Art Deco and Colonial Revival styles. These structures were the core of Navy activities at Sand Point. A complementary horticultural plan was defined in and around these historic structures.

Art Deco - The Art Deco style began in Europe and became very popular in the United States between World War I and World War II. Art Deco is characterized by streamlined, rhythmic machine forms, exotic imagery, and the use of materials to give a feeling of motion. Ornamentation usually consists of low-relief geometrical design, which could be parallel straight lines, zigzags, chevrons and stylized floral patterns. Another common element is the decorative treatment of building entrances.

Good examples of Art Deco at Warren G. Magnuson Park are the Recreation Center (Building 47), Building 30 (6310 N.E. 74th Street), the nearby Building 25 (owned by the University of Washington) and Building 29 (just north of the N.E. 74th Street entrance to the park).

Colonial Revival - The Colonial Revival architectural style first became common at the end of the 19th Century and became very popular in the first decades of the 20th. The style is based on colonial-era architecture in the eastern United States. Buildings of this style generally have a symmetrical look, sash windows, and gabled dormers projecting from the sloped roof. A typical color scheme is red with white trim.

The finest example of Colonial Revival style at Warren G. Magnuson Park is Building 9 (owned by the University of Washington). It is located on 62nd Ave. N.E., and is south of the N.E. 74th Street entrance to the park. The building is composed of a series of large pavilions connected by smaller links, and is in red brick with white trim. The windows have decorative keystones of cast concrete. The north and south wings have gabled dormers on the third floor.

To see the Historic Properties Reuse and Protection Plan (1998) and other park planning documents, consult the collection at the Seattle Public Library’s North East Branch, 6801 35th Ave. N.E., (206) 684-7539.

World Flight Monument – The World Flight Monument commemorates the first around-the-world flight in 1924. This flight originated and ended at Sand Point. The 30,000-mile flight took five months to complete—from April to September. This monument is located at the N.E. 74th Street entrance to Warren G. Magnuson Park and includes sculptures by Alonzo Victor Lewis. He was known at one time as "Washington’s Sculptor Laureate."

Parks and Recreation

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Mailing Address: 100 Dexter Ave N, Seattle, WA, 98109
Phone: (206) 684-4075
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