Heart This Place – Madison Park Beach
By Brady Begin
To celebrate Preservation Month from home, we have launched Heart This Place – a new blog series from Historic Seattle staff. Each post will feature a different place that is significant to a member of our staff. In this installment, Engagement & Administration Coordinator Brady Begin celebrates Madison Park Beach.
I first visited Madison Park during the summer after I graduated from UW. I said the neighborhood was “honestly too cute for words,” but that didn’t stop me from coming up with cheesy Instagram captions like “city beach vibes” and nailing far too many hashtags to my posts like some sort of millenial Martin Luther.
I had taken a photo of a trio of surfboards near the bathhouse, which, in retrospect, cracks me up. Who surfs on Lake Washington? They were more for decoration than anything, an escapist aesthetic that inspired the collages you see below. Look, I’m no artist, but I wanted to do something creative for my contribution to Heart This Place.
While I’m lucky enough to actually live in Madison Park now, I’m quarantined at my family’s home in the suburbs because my apartment doesn’t get enough natural light to work from home (if the neighborhood is one big beach, then my apartment is a sea cave). I cut out images and text from old magazines that my parents were throwing out and mashed them up with two different photos of the shoreline.
The first is a recent photo of me walking along the beach, backed by a waterfront condo building. The second is a historic photo of the boardwalk and pavilions that once adorned the shore, before development of the Lake Washington Ship Canal lowered the lake’s water level and before a 1914 fire burned down the main structure – Beede’s Madison Street Pavilion. The historic images came from Pavilion days on Lake Washington, a post from the now-defunct Madison Park Blogger, which details the structures’ centrality to the burgeoning beachfront community between the late 1800s and early 1900s.
I’ll admit that I’m torn as to whether or not I think the beach would be better with the boardwalk and pavilions that once lined the shore. On the one hand, there’s obviously a lot of recreational and amusement value there. On the other, the beach we have know is more laid-back and its modesty generally reflects the slower, quieter character of the neighborhood. Regardless, Madison Park Beach is still a great in-city retreat for Seattleites in search of their own Margaritaville or Kokomo.
In a few months I’ll be leaving Seattle to attend graduate school at the University of Georgia. I’ll miss a lot of things, including this little slice of paradise here in Madison Park. I’m holding out hope that we’ll be able to gather safely before then so we can go out and enjoy Seattle’s many public shores.
Cheers to you, little beach village!