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Seattle Neighborhoods: Loyal Heights, Sunset Hill, and Shilshole -- Thumbnail History
HistoryLink.org Essay 3430
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The Loyal Heights neighborhood began in 1890 as a bedroom suburb of the town of Ballard and continues the same role in the northwestern corner of contemporary Seattle. The area is situated above NW 65th Street, well north of Ballard's primary commercial district. The shores of Puget Sound and 15th Avenue NW define its western and eastern boundaries, and the former city limits at NW 85th Street define its northern extension. Loyal Heights owes its name and a large part of its existence to a migrant mid-westerner, Harry W. Treat (1865-1922), who developed and promoted a large tract of land above NW 75th Street, beginning in 1906.
On March 23, 1906, the Ballard Tribune published a large display advertisement by the E. B. Cox Investment Company, of Ballard, under the banner, "Loyal Heights," announcing the recent acquisition of 180 acres in the northwest corner of the town, overlooking "Loyal Beach." A new electric trolley line to the area, it promised, would be operational in 60 days.
Ballard City businessman, Edward B. Cox, a Tennessean and loyal Democrat who had arrived in 1901, penned this announcement. With this ad, Cox began a longterm relationship with a newcomer to the area from Illinois, H. W. Treat. Three months later, shortly before voters in the town of Ballard approved annexation to Seattle, Treat filed with King county the first plats involving his new land acquisition. The settlement of Ballard north of W 75th Street would soon begin.
Nuggets of Real Estate
Harry Whitney Treat, born in Wisconsin and a Harvard law school graduate, chose business over a career in law when he moved to Chicago in 1888 to work for Marshall Field's vast emporium. Four years later, after gaining experience and self-confidence, he started up his own real estate firm. Business interests took the entrepreneur and his family to New York in 1898, and on to London and Paris in 1903 and 1904. There the wealthy speculator learned about real estate opportunities in Seattle, which was still basking in the glitter of Klondike gold.
He arrived in the Pacific Northwest in 1905 to a metropolis he believed was "destined to become a great city," and, of course, also destined to add to his wealth. As construction commenced on the 30-room Treat home atop Queen Anne Hill, at 1 West Highland Drive, he turned to real estate ventures.
He eschewed the more popular south end tide flats for the hundreds of forested acres of uplands and waterfront still available in the northwest corner of the city. His land holdings, managed and promoted by Cox, would eventually bring new residents to this unpopulated area, and stimulate further development of parcels being promoted by others. Within five years, as expected, Treat added an additional million to his net worth.
Named for a Daughter
Treat named his new developments Loyal Heights and Loyal Beach, and his trolley line the Loyal Heights Railway. These titles were presented to the public in honor of his youngest daughter, Loyal Graef Treat, born in Seattle in the year of the land acquisition. (Unrecorded is the sibling rivalry that may have been generated with her older sister, Priscilla Grace, by this Cornucopia of adoration. Priscilla may have missed out on immortality because she was born four years earlier while the family was still living in New York.)
Like many of Seattle's streetcar suburbs, the key to development of this out-of-the-way location was the electric trolley, a private venture of Treat’s that began rolling in 1906 with the filing of his first plats. The route followed a 20-foot right of way running diagonally through one of his parcels. Today, King Country METRO bus route 48 follows this right of way, known as Loyal Way NW.
Buggy Rides to the Bluff
Through the Loyal Railway Company, Edward Cox managed the trolley line, which for a three-cent fare brought visitors from the Ballard business district to a turnaround at the corner of 32nd Avenue W and W 85th Street. At the trolley terminus, on Sundays, Harry Treat, who was an avid horseman and driver, would transport visitors in his buggy to view the bluff-top home sites along 32nd Avenue W and below to a beach pleasure resort located at Loyal Beach (Golden Gardens) north of W 85th Street. A lot could be purchased for $50 down payment, with $25 every 90 days until the $250-$250 balance was paid off.
Loyal Heights could only be populated if a demand for new homes existed. Tremendous population growth occurred in Ballard during the 1880s and early 1890s, due in part to the completion of the Northern Pacific transcontinental railroad link to Seattle in 1883 and later the Great Northern Railway to Seattle, in 1893. Between 1880 and 1890 Seattle's population grew 12-fold, from 3,533 to 42,390. By 1900, it had reached 80,671. Much of the area's growth occurred in Ballard, whose population had soared to 17,000 by 1907, and where open land existed to expand northward.
Trees, Paths, and Trails
By 1890, when the Town of Ballard was incorporated, most of the land south of W 75th Street had been platted. Two decades later settlement was still confined to south of W 70th Street, although a few newcomers in search of solitude had reached W 75th Street (Schooner Street) by 1903. Here, only paths and trails provided the way, since streets were laid out only as far as Ship Street (W 65th Street). Before Treat’s arrival, the land above W 75th Street was still forested, remaining pretty much as the surveyors had found and recorded it in 1855, with trees described as reaching four feet in diameter.
By 1912 settlement on Treat’s land above W 80th Street had advanced, reflecting heavy promotion and the presence of the trolley line. Nevertheless, large parcels, including 150 acres east of Treat’s plats had yet to be developed. As settlement moved northward toward W 85th Street and away from the original Ballard settlements, improvements were sought from the city for paving, sewers, and water mains. Plans were presented to the City Council in 1919, with many projects that had been stalled because of the country’s participation in the recently concluded Great War (World War I). Most of the projects ended at W 75th Street, but 15th Avenue NW, a main arterial and the primary commercial strip of the Loyal Heights area, were soon to be paved north to W 85th Street.
The locations of two elementary schools in Loyal Heights reflect the pattern of population expansion northward. At the west end of the neighborhood the Webster School (Nordic Heritage Museum) opened north of W 65th Street, in 1908. The Loyal Heights School opened above NW 77th Street in 1932 on land originally donated by Treat.
Following Treat’s untimely death in a car accident, in 1922, the city purchased the future Golden Gardens from his estate for $37,000, and five years later, in late 1927, opened it as a municipal park. Early access to the park was from the bluff above, where a road wound down from 32nd Avenue W and W 85th Street. Today’s water level access, Seaview Avenue, came later.
Treat did not live to see the neighborhood that bore his daughter's name completely settled, since small pockets of undeveloped land persisted beyond his death. In 1928, the least populated area of Loyal Heights sat between 24th and 32nd Avenues W, from W 75th to W 85th Avenues. Five-acre parcels were still in existence above W 75th Street. One large holding, which now contains the Loyal Heights Playground, was platted in 1926. The last 2.5-acre parcel was not subdivided until 1940.
With development of Ballard's early industrial area conveniently located on its southern flanks along Salmon Bay, Loyal Heights remains a quiet neighborhood, set apart from the noises and crowds of the world of productivity. It shares this trait with other neighborhoods, such as West Seattle and Magnolia, that possess geographical vagaries to protect residents from the assaults of modern living. It is because of the late arrival of developers like H. W. Treat and others that Loyal Heights retains its protective solitude.
A meandering walk northward through the neighborhood with an eye to architectural archeology will reveal the pattern of settlement in the area. Many modest, turn-of-the-century pioneer "box" homes still ring Salmon Bay Park, given to the town of Ballard in 1890. In this oasis several four-foot diameter Douglas fir trees offer a hint at the natural environment that may have surrounded early occupants of these homes. Further north and to the west Tudor Revival homes, built through 1940, dot the landscape. By contrast, to the east and northeast, the more modern, 1950 Builder homes dominate, with their Roman brick walls, hipped roofs and decorative, iron-railing porch supports. Few open lots remain today, although the demand for new housing in the city continues to increase.
Harry W. Treat, developer and fawning father, would likely approve.
Passport to Ballard: The Centennial Story, ed. by Kay F. Reinartz (Seattle: Ballard News Tribune), 1988; Clinton A. Snowden, History of Washington, Vol. 5 (New York: The Century History Company, 1911), 419-421; Cornelius H. Hanford, Seattle and Environs, 1852-1924, Vol. 2 (Seattle: Pioneer Historical Publishing Co., 1904), 375-377; Seattle City Directory (Seattle: Polk's Seattle Directory Co), 1907, 1912; G.W. Baist, et al. Baist's Real Estate Atlas of Surveys of Seattle, Washington (Philadelphia: G.W. Baist, 1908), Kroll's Atlas of Seattle, Washington, (Seattle: Kroll Map Company, Inc.,1912, 1920, 1928, 1950, 1987); Seattle Mail and Herald, October 29, 1904, p. 9; Official Recorded Plat, King County, Washington, (Seattle: Microfilm & Plat Service, Inc., Seattle. 1964).
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Map showing location of Loyal Heights neighborhood of Seattle
Map by Chris Goodman, Courtesy HistoryLink
On a jaunt in one of Harry W. Treat's horsedrawn carriages, near his farm in Loyal Heights, ca. 1920
Salmon Bay Park, Loyal Heights neighborhood, Seattle, 1910
Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives
Golden Gardens beach, 1929
Golden Gardens, November 5, 1936
Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives (Image No. 29143)
When cars were considered scenic: Postcard of Golden Gardens Park, Ballard, 1950s