This Way to Utopia
Beaux Arts Village began in 1909 as what a contemporary article in The Seattle Times describes as "an expedition into the realms of Utopia ... a colony of artists, appreciators and patrons of arts and in general all of those who appreciate something more than money" ("An Art Colony..."). It was the brainchild of the Northwest Beaux Arts Society, which had been established to develop art appreciation in the Northwest -- not just for traditional art, but for everyday items too. But though there was considerable hoopla in the summer of 1909 when lots went on sale in the village, the art colony never developed. Part of the problem was what was then the relative remoteness of the village. Until 1940 it was accessible only by ferry from Seattle, and in its earliest years had no electricity, telephone service, or a water system.
These problems were solved over the next dozen years, and by the early 1920s the twentieth century had come to Beaux Arts Village. By then the dream of an art colony was fading, though the community continued to gradually attract an eclectic mix of people, some affluent but others more middle class, all of whom enjoyed a quiet, bucolic life in the single-lane, tree-lined roadways of the village. Village affairs were administered by the Western Academy of Beaux Arts (more commonly known by its acronym, WABA), a non-profit incorporation established in 1908. For more than 40 years this worked well.
A Labor of Love
By the early 1950s Beaux Arts Village found itself confronting the same problems that many Eastside communities were facing -- rapid suburbanization and the issues that came with it. When its northern neighbor, Bellevue, incorporated in 1953 and began rapidly annexing surrounding territory, Beaux Arts villagers knew that unless it took action its days were numbered and its laid-back lifestyle would disappear within Bellevue's city limits. They were determined not to let that happen.
Incorporation was the answer, but there was a problem. Washington law required a town to have a population of at least 300 to incorporate, and the village was a few members shy. Word went out and soon some of the women in the community were pregnant. It became a story that not only has been proudly handed down in the town's history but which also received some press in The Seattle Times when incorporation passed in 1954:
"Incorporation was not accomplished without labor. A fourth-class town needs a minimum of 300 men, women and children. Mayor [of Beaux Arts Village] and Mrs. Dudley Burchard recently contributed twins to the cause. Others have been equally zealous ... . When the 300 figure was reached, the word went out: 'Women of Beaux Arts, you may relax.' Impetus of the drive, however, carried the population to its present 310, included in 85 families" ("Beaux Arts, Now 4th-Class Town...").
A Resounding Yes
The incorporation petition was filed in February 1954 by Story Birdseye (1906-1999), a Beaux Arts Village resident and property owner from 1933 to 1972. Though the primary goal of incorporation was to avoid being annexed by Bellevue, Birdseye diplomatically told the Bellevue American that incorporation "would make the present home rule more official, and also provide tax money for the maintenance of roads" ("Beaux Arts Petitions…").
Birdseye was a well-known attorney in Seattle's legal community. He practiced law for 25 years in the city before being appointed as a King County judge in 1955, where he served until 1972. A year after he represented Beaux Arts Village, he represented Yarrow Point in its unsuccessful 1955 attempt to incorporate, arguing that the smaller Eastside communities weren't being given a voice to respond to Bellevue's annexation drives. Still, he wasn't all work and no play. He was almost as well known for his volunteer work in the Boy Scouts as he was for his legal prowess.
There seems to have been little debate about incorporation, and the measure passed by a resounding 110 to 6 in an election held on May 4, 1954. Dudley Burchard was elected the town's first mayor, and Wallace Aiken, Alex Anderson, Gordon Durr, Billie Ray, and Morell Sharp became the town's first council members. King County certified the results on May 18, and they were filed with the Secretary of State's office on June 8, 1954.
Beaux Arts Village Today
Beaux Arts Village is one of the state's smallest municipalities in area, with a land area of only 0.09 mile, or less than 60 acres. In 2016 the northern limit of the town's rectangle-shaped boundary runs east from Lake Washington between SE 25th and SE 27th streets, then drops south on 108th Avenue NE to SE 30th Street, where it turns west and stretches to Lake Washington before turning north along the shoreline and running back to its northern border.
The town reported 299 residents living in 113 households in the 2010 U.S. Census, with nearly 78 percent of the households identifying themselves as family households. Caucasians accounted for 95 percent of the village's population while 4 percent were Asian and the remainder Hispanic. There were no African Americans recorded in Beaux Arts Village in 2010. The village has grown increasingly affluent since the 1970s, with the village's estimated median household income in 2013 reported by City-Data.com to be $156,925, more than twice the average median household income in King County.