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Washelli and Lake View Cemeteries
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Washelli Cemetery, located on the land that is now Volunteer Park (in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood) served as Seattle's municipal cemetery from 1884 to 1887. The name Washelli came from the Makah Indian word for west wind. Many of the burials in this Washelli cemetery had been removed from the Seattle Cemetery, a previous municipal cemetery located on the site of Denny Park (just east of the Space Needle). When Washelli was closed, all the burials were removed to other cemeteries.
In 1884, Seattle dedicated 40 acres on Capitol Hill as a municipal cemetery. The city had bought this land in 1876 to serve as a site for the state capital, but Seattle was not chosen for the capital, and the land went unused. The city required a new cemetery because the existing city cemetery (the Seattle Cemetery), was being converted to a park (Denny Park), its original intended use.
The Seattle Cemetery Commission, established to oversee the removal of bodies from the old Seattle cemetery, also came to be responsible for naming the new cemetery. Names suggested for the new cemetery by the Commission included Wildwood, Evergreen, Interlake, Forest Hill, Cedar Grove, Fir Hill, and Ridgewood. In the end, none of these typical names was chosen.
The name that was finally used for the new cemetery came through the Mayor's wife, Mrs. Leary, and a friend of hers, James Gilchrist Swan. In his diary entry for November 30, 1884, Swan writes: "Recd letter from Mrs. Mary B Leary Seattle requesting me to give her an Indian word suited for the new City Cemetery I suggested 'Washelli' the Makah word for west wind, and quoted from 'Hiawatha' to show that the west is the 'region of the hereafter,' and that 'Washelli Cemetery' would mean the 'Cemetery of the land of the hereafter'"(Swan Diary).
The Seattle Cemetery Commission oversaw the creation of a plat which followed the natural contours of the lend where the cemetery was to be located. The Commission also oversaw the clearing of the land, marking of lots, and preparation for burials.
Early in 1885, an ordinance (Number 642) was passed that officially created Washelli Cemetery and dedicated the grounds as such. This was some time after the first burials were made in 1884. The price of a lot was set at $30 and the city sexton was assigned to sell them and to keep records of all transactions and burials. Because this was a municipal cemetery, part of the grounds were set apart to be a potters field (for the burial of the poor).
The municipal cemetery on Capitol Hill did not last long. At the end of 1887, Ordinance No. 877, "An ordinance converting Washelli Cemetery in the City of Seattle into a public park, and providing for the removal of the bodies of persons buried therein and for the purchase by the city of the burial lots therein owned by private persons" did just that. Just as the Seattle Cemetery was converted into a park, so was the Washelli Cemetery.
Dead But Still Not Buried
For some of the bodies removed from the cemetery, this would be the fourth interment: from one of the first Seattle cemeteries, to the Seattle Cemetery, to Washelli, and finally to one of the other cemeteries in the city.
The new park made from the Washelli Cemetery was named Lake View Park, but when the adjacent Masonic Cemetery also changed its name to Lake View in 1890 (it had been alternatively known as Lake View for most of its existence) the name became confusing, and so the park's name was changed to City Park. The adjacent Lake View Cemetery, which is still in use, was established by the Masons and is the final resting place of many Seattle pioneers. The name Washelli was retained for a new cemetery in north Seattle.
In 1901, the park was again renamed as Volunteer Park, in honor of the volunteers who served in the Spanish-American War. In Volunteer Park, a reservoir now sits where the old cemetery used to be. The Seattle Asian Art Museum presides over the beautiful view.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 7, 1983; Seattle City Ordinance No. 642; Seattle City Ordinance No. 877; Reports of the Seattle Cemetery Commission; James Gilchrest Swan Diary, November 30, 1884, James Gilchrest Swan Papers, Box 3, Special Collections, Archives and University Manuscripts, University of Washington Libraries, Seattle.
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