Ravenna Park, Seattle - ca. 1900.

Photographer George W. Kirk

“Measures 44 feet around 18 inches above the ground” states the sign on this mammoth old growth tree. As the forest was cut away, some people took intense interest in preserving areas which were left and the great trees they contained. Seattle realtor W. W. Beck acquired the half mile ravine north of the present University of Washington campus in 1887, delighting in wandering through its surviving forest and naming it Ravenna for a city in Italy renowned for its pines. In 1911 it became a city park. (Information contributed by Dr. David A. Cameron) #24 in a mounted photo series issued by Kirk Studio.

Pedestrian bridge over Ravenna (by Mordac)

What we now call the Ravenna neighborhood has been settled since the end of the last glaciation, and more recently the Duwamish had a settlement there when white settlers arrived in the 19th century. It did not become part of Seattle until 1907, after incorporating itself in 1906 for this purpose, following two decades of development based heavily on railroad expansions in the area. Much of the southern end of modern Ravenna was part of the marsh adjoining the original, much larger Union Bay; the very southern end of this land now holds University Village shopping center.

Cowen-Ravenna Park occupies a ravine largely ignored by the timber industry, such that some of the old growth trees, more than three hundred feet tall, were featured as part of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1908. Though these trees “mysteriously” disappeared over the next twenty years, their persistence helped fuel local conservation efforts and fostered Seattle’s extensive public parks program. Alas, Ravenna Park would see its natural water runs diverted and filled and would very nearly come to house a stormwater drainage project – until, in 1991, a resident-led conservation effort began restoring some of the park’s native beauty, though not without some difficulty with local property owners.

(Primary source: Wikipedia.)

Secret Garden

There is a luscious park near our place called Ravenna Park. It is one of my favorite things hear to do. Bianca and I jog here, and each time we go we find something new. There are bridges overhead and walkways that link up to quiet neighborhood streets. There are so many trails i love it! There are cute little forest animals and wild berry bushes. The running stream goes right through the park. It is a really good workout because the hills are killer in the park. We went on a sunday once and there was a group of people all dressed up like characters from Robin Hood and they were playing some “capture the flag”-like game. I must say a part of me wanted to join them, but their outfits looked really hot and sweaty.  


Ravenna Park is a small greenway surrounding the Ravenna Creek in the middle of Seattle; a park that escaped the massive logging of the city when it was founded in the mid-1800s. The old growth and steep paths make a little escape from city life. An interesting history can be found here

I took a stroll here the other day, mostly to walk off a massive meal at Wayward Vegan Cafe (proving that all vegan meals do not have to be healthy) and was pleasantly surprised at the park. 

It’s also the meeting place, if I remember correctly, for the characters in Charles Burn’s Black Hole (if you have not read it, close your laptop, go to the bookstore, and pick it up now - it is amazing).

(Ravenna Park, Seattle, WA. 2014)

Waterfalls in Ravenna Park, Seattle, ca. 1911

Caption on image: Waterfalls Ravenna Park.

Handwritten on sleeve: Ravenna Park Waterfalls.

Photographer: Webster & Stevens

Image Date: ca. 1911

Image Number: 1983.10.6551

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Original Article