Lake Union Park

800 Terry Avenue N

South Lake Union
Lake Union Park, Seattle, August 13, 2019, HistoryLink photo by David Koch
Lake Union Park with Space Needle in background, Seattle, August 13, 2019, HistoryLink photo by David Koch
Docked ships, Lake Union Park, Seattle, August 13, 2019, HistoryLink photo by David Koch
Lake Union Park Bridge, August 13, 2019, HistoryLink photo by David Koch
Western Mill Company plant, South Lake Union, Seattle, ca. 1891, Photo by Frank La Roche, Courtesy UW Special Collections (LAR301)

Lake Union is a place that has long required patience for visionaries. At a July 4 picnic in 1854, Thomas Mercer, who had recently claimed land on the south shore of a small lake known in the Chinook trading jargon as Tenas Chuck, or “small water,” proposed renaming it Lake Union. His vision was that the lake would someday link the fresh water of Lake Washington and the salt water of Puget Sound. When Mercer spoke, Lake Union’s southern shoreline was south of modern-day Mercer Street and its western shoreline reached almost to Eighth Avenue North. Mercer’s vision finally came to fruition in 1916 with the construction of the locks and ship canal, which officially opened on July 4, 1917.

In 1903, after Lake Union’s south end had been filled, mostly with sawdust from a sawmill located at this location, landscape architect John Charles Olmsted proposed to include the area as a small park in his grand park system across Seattle. Olmsted’s vision finally began to be realized in the 1980s after the City of Seattle acquired five acres of the site. In 2000, the United States Navy deeded the five acres of land on which the Naval Reserve Building (now The Museum of History & Industry) stands to Seattle Parks and Recreation. The full park came together when the new Lake Union Park opened on September 25, 2010.

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