Category Archives: History

Documents, tests show low level radioactive contamination at Manguson Park, meeting scheduled for Wednesday


Areas of low-level radioactive contamination exceeding Washington state and Federal EPA cleanup standards have been discovered at Magunson Park, a popular northeast Seattle destination. The contamination includes radioactive radium, strontium and cesium, in addition to pesticides and lead, according to State Rep. Gerry Pollet. The radioactive contamination is a remnant of the U.S. Navy’s use of radium paint for dials at the former Sand Point Naval Air Station and is concentrated around the southwest end of building 27, a building that houses Arena Sports and the Magnuson Athletic Club. No contamination has been found in Arena Sports or the Athletic Club.

In a March statement to KING5 news, the Navy said, “Areas identified during the Navy’s investigation in 2010, with elevated levels of radiological contamination were secured with signs, fencing and locks to protect the public. The public is safe and not exposed to any known areas of radiological contamination.”

The contamination comes from the “radium room,” an area used by the Navy for repair and maintenance of Navy aircraft. Radioluminescent (glow-in-the dark) paint was used in dials, gauges and markers in a radium paint shop. In a statement the Navy said during the time of its use, radioluminescent paint was not regulated by the government;. There were, however, Navy regulations on health and safety requirements.”

Today, use of radium is controlled by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and state radiation health departments. Military and commercial entities stopped using radioluminescent paint in the late 1970′s.

From a report by the Washington State Department of Ecology:

In 2009, the City of Seattle Parks and Recreation, who now owns most of the former Naval Station, contacted the Navy to inform them through the course of their development planning they uncovered documents that suggest there might be radiological contamination in two buildings; buildings 2 and 27. The Navy conducted an investigation in 2010 and confirmed the presence of low-level radiological contamination from historic maintenance of radioluminescent dials in parts of the two buildings, as well as in piping, catch basins and adjacent soils.

City Parks and Recreation, their developer and Arena Sports, currently use the main hangar of building 27 as an indoor sports facility. The area of contamination in building 27 is located in the south shed and is seperated by a structural wall.

No contamination was identified in the hangar area where Arena Sports operates. The area within building 27 containing contamination has been secured with locks to prevent unauthorized access.

In a statement Rep. Pollett said the problem hasn’t been disclosed to the public for the past four years, even though it was discovered in 2009.

A public meeting and open house with the Navy, Seattle Parks and Washington Dept. of Ecology has been scheduled for Wednesday, May 29th. The open house goes from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. and features a Q and A session at 7 p.m.

The event will be at The Mountaineers, 7700 Sand Point Way NE.

Below is a recent report by KING5 news:

Below is a follow up report by KING5:

Plants of Jackson Park Trail

Jackson Park Trail April 2013 032On Saturday, April 27, on a cloudy and cool spring morning, I walked the Jackson Park Trail with plant specialist Arthur Lee Jacobson, who is a human encyclopedia of the wild plants of greater Seattle. Although he had explored and charted the plants within the golf course years ago, this was Mr. Jacobson first time on the trail. He gave a very educational and enjoyable guided tour though our local landscape. His enthusiasm for plants is remarkable, as is his knowledge of them.

Jackson Park Trail April 2013 015Since the trail is built around the golf course it has four sides running almost north, south, east and west as the crow flies. We met at the south parking lot heading towards 15th Avenue NE, entered the woods from there, hurried along 145th Street NE, re-entered on the east side and finished going the down south path and curving back towards the parking lot. Jackson Park contains wetlands, an evergreen forest, and everything in between (it seemed.) I would not recommend taking children along 145th Street NE; the traffic is heavy and you can barely hear anything but the traffic. There is a Metro bus stop on this street which would be a good place to enter if you bused to the park. There are no bike racks that we saw.

Jackson Park Trail April 2013 008On the trail are trees, bushes, vines and ground cover. Some plants are indigenous to the area and some are transplants from European stock. The trail has a variety of native plants growing with these imports, and it may all seem a tangle of vegetation but it is actually a fascinating mixture of history, culture, taste and the resilience of plants. This information flowed out of Mr. Jacobson as he explained the many varieties of plants growing along the trail.

Jackson Park Trail April 2013 021There are at least three types of evergreen trees; firs, cedars and pines. We discovered varieties of deciduous trees or trees that lose their leaves in the fall; such as alder, cherry, dogwood, maple and willow. The bushes which are familiar to most of us, grow in abundance, and are also of the evergreen and deciduous types. Except for the grass most of the ground cover is annual and sprouts in the spring. The vines can also be annual, with the ivy growing pretty much all year long. Ivy may have a dormant period, but I’ve never observed it and I forgot to ask Mr. Jacobson about it.

Jackson Park Trail April 2013 036Many of the plants flower, seed and fruit. Some are edible and some are poisonous. The variety of trees in Jackson Park is staggering. We examined three types of maple trees on the trail. There are large leaf maples, another smaller leaf maple and a species of dwarf maple that is the only one of its kind in Seattle. That dwarf maple grows along 145th Street NE. There is a chain link fence which separates the walkers from the park on this street and the damage from the heavy traffic can be observed as a dark, sticky film that clings to the plants. Jackson Park has many firs, cedars and pines. We saw one variety of cedar which had variegated colors; it was green and yellow. We learned how to tell the differences between pine trees by their needles and cones.

Jackson Park Trail April 2013 018Mr. Jacobson pointed out hemlocks, willows and found a Yew tree. He explained how the plants grow together with each struggling or thriving in its environment. He explained patterns of growth from year to year and seasonal expectations. The park is part of the Thornton Creek Watershed and creeks and holding ponds are within its boundary. Shrubs, underbrush or bushes, as they are called, inhabit our urban forest. There are plenty to see: huckleberry, roses, laurel, elderberry and broadleaf evergreen. We are familiar with their flowers and scents and have grown accustomed to seeing their berries in the fall.

Jackson Park Trail April 2013 034What most of us call sticker bushes, Mr. Jacobson, or Arthur, as we came to call him, refers to as brambles. Blackberry bushes, the Himalaya Blackberry, is not native to the northwest, but thrives in Seattle and at Jackson Park. The Blackcap Raspberry is a native bramble. The trail needs to be tended to keep it clear. I am not a fan of shear cutting shrubs and Arthur suggested ways of pruning and planting that could enhance the trail.

Jackson Park Trail April 2013 042Ground covers include everything from grasses to ferns to wild flowers and weeds. Thornton Creek adds to the diversity of plants in Jackson Park, so wetland plants are possible to see here. Although we didn’t see any Cattail, Typha latifolia, we did see Horsetail, Equisetum arvense, starting to pop out of the ground. Arthur used both the common name and the scientific names of plants as he lectured us. There is Hemlock growing along the east bank. This is a little confusing because there is also a variety of Hemlock tree that grows in Jackson Park. Poison Hemlock is in the Carrot Family and has leaves resembling carrot tops or parsley. It is deadly poison. Also, in the Carrot Family is Queen’s Anne’s Lace, which is common in flower arrangements. The park is starting to flower and in the next few weeks should come into full bloom.

Jackson Park Trail April 2013 035By tour’s end, I was able to identify many of the trees, bushes, vines and ground cover by their common names and learned some very interesting facts about plants. I asked our tour guide if he ever just “enjoyed the experience” of a nature walk or if he was “always studying” the plants. He admitted that he was usually studying and since this was his first time on the Jackson Park Trail, he was especially interested in what he might find here. Arthur’s enthusiasm, plus his mixture of knowledge and humor, made the walk both instructional and entertaining. I intend to learn more about the plants in Jackson Park, but will also enjoy the simple pleasure of the sights, sounds and smells as things change from season to season. Arthur is something of a “guru of plants” and the pleasure of his company and the experience was invaluable. I bought his book, Wild Plants of Greater Seattle, 2nd Edition, by Arthur Lee Jacobson, because there was no way I was going to remember a fraction of the information that poured out of him. I will be using it as a field guide for my weekly walks on the trail. It has rounded corners and will fit easily into my bag and it is illustrated.

Legends of Lake City: Homer Kelly

Homer Kelly

Homer Kelly pictured with a golf club.

Legend of Lake City: Homer Kelly

If you walk the new Jackson Park Trail you will see and hear golfers on the course, refining their swing. While researching the history of Jackson Park Golf Course, I ran across some information about a local golfer by the name of Homer Kelly who wrote a book in 1969, called, “The Golfing Machine: Geometric Golf: The Computer Age Approach to Golfing Perfection.”

Homer Kelly taught golf lessons at Jackson Park Golf Course starting in the early 1960’s. He lived in a modest little house in the nearby Wedgewood neighborhood, which is just south of Lake City. The golf course was just 10 minutes away from their house.

I read, “Homer Kelley’s Golfing Machine: The Curious Quest That Solved Golf” written by Scott Gummer, and discovered that Homer was something of a local character with a dogged, relentless pursuit of trying to understand the physics of golf. According to the book, he was one of the first persons to apply scientific principles to golf.

Now I know that golfers are sensitive and they take their game very seriously (my father-in-law was a golfer and I still have his clubs sitting under the stairs in my basement) so I have a great respect for the game and the players. (I only golfed once at Jackson Park – golf is hard.) Homer Kelly took the “stroke” very seriously and, starting from our little neighborhood, this very down-to-earth guy, started a golfing system that encircled the world.

Here are some quotes about his book from “The Golfing Machine”, by the late Homer Kelley, is one of the most fascinating and thorough books ever written about the game of golf.  It also has become something of a cult classic, with both devotees and detractors praising and debating its merits in every corner of the world.  As controversial as it is interesting, Kelley’s book was first published in 1969 after 28 years of diligent research, observation and testing, often by hitting balls into a small net he set up in his studio in Seattle, Washington. He continued his research for another 12 years, (a total of 40 years) until he died addressing the Georgia Section PGA.” Another quote: “This is a must read for all golfers with IQ’s over 120.  Below 120, you’re too dumb.”

With the help of the Friends of Jackson Park Trail, we now have a perimeter trail around the golf course. On Saturday April 27th at 10:30 a.m., Arthur Lee Jacobson, will be leading a guided tour along the trail.  He is a plant specialist. Although, I may never try golf again, we can all appreciate the beauty of Jackson Park and I hope to see many of you along the trail or on the course. Please be respectful of the birds and the golfers. Listen and you will hear the sound of the clubs hitting the golf balls: Crack!  Swoosh; and you will hear the sounds of the birds chirping in the trees.  It is a beautiful course and trail.

Legends of Lake City: Will Rogers

Will Rogers radio broadcast

Will Roger talking on the radio, circa 1930

Polo Grounds

Olympic Hills Polo Grounds





Legends of Lake City: Will Rogers

On Saturday my friend Long Ears and I took a stroll on the new Jackson Park Trail. We started going west towards 15th Avenue N.E. and then paused to give a nod; for across that avenue is hallowed ground; where lingers one of Lake City’s most endearing legends.

A monument in Lake City honors that legend, and is a tribute to a man who changed the world with his candid and honest humor.

His name was Will Rogers and our memorial to him is in the heart of Lake City’s historical district. It stands in a park behind the library on NE 125th Street. Nearby is the beautifully restored Lake City School and down the street are the old, abandoned Fire Station 39 and a small empty church. In many ways Will Rogers is a symbol of the people of Lake City. We share with him a pioneer spirit and a neighborly humility.

Our connection to Will Rogers begins on a sunny day in August of 1935 when the most popular and well-known personality in the world came to Lake City to play a polo match. We had the honor of hosting a polo match for him at the new field. There are still a few poplar trees growing in stately rows where the horses and riders once played and on quiet August nights, Olympic Hills neighbors say they can hear the ghost of horses’ hooves galloping over the ground. Some neighbors over the years have found horseshoes when digging in their yards.

In memory of Will Rogers

On this field Will Rogers took his last ride.  Shrines erected by the world will commemorate his passing but none could be more hallowed than this little patch of ground where the kindly, chuckling, hard-riding cow-boy played his last game of polo before he went roaring to his last round-up.  We still hear his cheery halloo as with broad grin on weather-lined face he urged his pony into the thick of play.  To the spirit of a mighty adventure hail and farewell.

Will Rogers 1879 – 1935.

Will Rogers, born in Cherokee Nation Territory (Oklahoma), became a cowboy in Argentina. It didn’t pay him much and was hard work, so he took his riding and roping skills to the circus and theater stages of Vaudeville. While doing his roping tricks, Will told stories that made people laugh. He went to Hollywood, made some silent movies, and when sound was added to the movies, Will Rogers became a great star. He continued to appear on theater stages, talk on radio shows and would write over 4000 newspaper columns and six books.

He died in a plane crash near Barrow, Alaska, only days after he had visited Lake City. Will Rogers listened and heard the words of great men and women and turned those words into something so pure and simple to understand that great men and women started listening to him.

Quotes of Will Rogers from the Will Rogers Museum

“We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others.”

“I never met a man I didn’t like.”

“People don’t change under governments. Governments change. People remain the same.”

Lake City: A View through a Global Lens from a Local Resident

Lake City is located at the north end of the city of Seattle. I have lived here from time immemorial, so I know the district fairly well. Nancy Catone, Lake City of Seattle History

One can arrive at Lake City by way of an Interstate Highway known as I-5. There is an exit at Northgate,130th Street NE and another exit at 145th Street NE which takes you a little further north of us. If you take the Northgate exit you can head northeast and find us; or if you prefer to take the 145th Street exit you will need to follow it east and then turn right onto Lake City Way. Lake City Way is a busy arterial highway. It winds its way through the middle of the verdant neighborhoods but doesn’t touch them all. The Northgate exit is by a shopping center which, by the way, happens to be the very first post-war Mall built in the United States. Northgate also has a Metro Transit Station. Metro bus routes run from SeaTac Airport through downtown Seattle and into Lake City.

Lake City has five big boroughs or neighborhoods: Cedar Park, Meadowbrook, Matthews Beach, Victory Heights and Olympic Hills.  Lake City Way will take you to most of them except Matthews Beach. You will have to get off the beaten path to go there. Cedar Park and Matthews Beach touch Lake Washington; a huge lake that sprawls the entire length of Seattle. There are some aboriginal legends and folklore about the lake that may be of interest to historiy buffs. The Olympic Hills neighborhood touches the north boundary of the city limits and Victory Heights is south of the hills.  Meadowbrook sits in the lowlands between Victory Heights and Matthews Beach.

One can arrive at Lake City by way of the world. If you look at its inhabitants you would certainly feel it is the City of Liberty. It is culturally, socially and ethnically mixed and the people here enjoy and relish in this diversity. You can discover this amazing aspect of Lake City for yourself.  You might want to start with your stomach – we have restaurants and coffee shops for anyone’s favorite country-of-origin taste. If you feel like a walk afterwards, there is a pedestrian path around the local golf course, Jackson Park, and of course, public beaches and parks towards Lake Washington. The golf course is part of Lake City’s equestrian history; which boasted extensive riding paths and polo grounds. Will Rogers and Eleanor Roosevelt rode horses here. Maybe not together, but I’m sure they would have enjoyed the other’s company in the Olympic Hills.

Within the big neighborhoods of Cedar Park, Meadowbrook, Matthews Beach, Victory Heights and Olympic Hills are smaller areas. The Hub or Urban Village of Lake City sits in the central area.  It is also the historical district with the Lake City Library and the Lake City Elementary School designated as historical buildings.  Aside from the beautiful waters and scenery of Lake Washington, Thornton Creek meanders through many of the neighbors until it reaches Lake Washington.

There are plenty of old, welcoming churches to attend and, if not church, we have many pubs for other sorts of entertainment. (There are a couple of Catholic churches that offer confession on Saturday so many of us can enjoy both prayer and libations.) The Jackson Park Golf Course has an 18 hole Championship and a 9 hole Executive course. It was opened in 1930.

Shane Pierre and his family ride as Grand Marshal of the Bill Pierre Auto Centers Grand Parade during Lake City's 70th annual Pioneer Days. The annual festival includes a street fair, salmon bake and parade. Photographed on Saturday, August 4, 2012. (Joshua Trujillo,

Shane Pierre and his family ride as Grand Marshal of the Bill Pierre Auto Centers Grand Parade during Lake City’s 70th annual Pioneer Days.

The Lake City Farmers Market opens in spring with fresh vegetables and lots of mingling of old and new friends and vendors.  Each summer there are Pioneer Days (with a parade) and Salmon Bakes for the town folk to celebrate their past and invite the world for a visit.  We have our own Chamber of Commerce and a travel agency, too.

Things have changed over the years, in Lake City, we have Starbucks and cell phone stores and our young people are planning to build a skate park for skate boarders. That’s progress.  But the spirit of this neighborhood hasn’t changed much, it is a City of Liberty – and yet also, just home sweet home, to me.

Theater in Lake City

Nancy Catone is a guest contributor to Lake City Live. 

Last night a friend and I attended a performance by Leon Seaman at the George Center for Community (2212 NE 125th St). Seaman’s performance was a real tour de force, at least for our neck of woods, which currently doesn’t have its own performing arts center. This wasn’t always true, in the 1970’s there was a troupe of actors calling themselves the St. Matthew Players who put on productions at the theater in the then Jane Addams School. After the St. Matthew Players disbanded, live theater was taken up by the Civil Light Opera which also performed at the school. In those days, theater was alive in Lake City and thriving thanks to the dedication of some very fine people. It would be nice to revive it.

Meanwhile, live theater can be found at the Seattle Musical Theater in Magnuson Park and just beginning at the George Center. Since this is the season of Lent, both venues presented productions with a religious theme.

“Altar Boyz” ran from February 15 to March 10, at the Seattle Musical Theater. Five young men sang, danced and acted, backed by a live band, and an off stage announcer who guided the audience through the sins and good deeds of the not so angelic former altar boys. It was good entertainment based on Kevin Del Agula’s book with a rock musical score circa 1990′s. The young actors were handsome and talented and I felt ever so grateful for having them perform in my neighborhood. With me were my husband and two granddaughters who all loved the show. Seattle Musical Theater’s next production will be “Gypsy” which will run April 26 to May 19, 2013.

“Mark’s Gospel in Performance” at the George Center for Community at 125th Street NE, was performed by Leon Seaman. Mr. Seaman has a charming British accent and delivers a very convincing story of the life and times of Jesus according to the gospel of Mark. This is no holier-than-thou or tent show “religiousness” performance. Leon tells the straight story which he had studied and translated for himself from the ancient Greek transcripts. It is a very powerful one-man performance of a very old story. It follows the oral tradition of storytelling and in this simple way, makes you enjoy the events, not like it is being preached to you, but as if you were hearing it for the first time. Mr. Seaman told me, “It is a fascinating story, and I do enjoy sharing it.” George Center is developing an actors studio and hopes to expand this venue.

It would be nice to have live theater back in Lake City.

The Inside Scoop on the McDermott Place Building

Many of you may have noticed the McDermott Building, the new construction across the street from Fred Meyer’s parking lot.

This will soon be the new home for North Helpline as well as 75 other low income individuals and families. Sound Mental Health will be responsible for case management and 50% of these units will be reserved for veterans transitioning out of homelessness. The 1.6 million already raised to fund this building has been mostly government grants. Now they’re asking for our help to raise the remaining 300,000 they need to finish the building. North Helpline is an essential part of our community, providing food and aide to over 1,000 people each week. Don’t have money to give? Consider volunteering. Check out their website for a wide range of opportunities.

This meessage from North Helpline

After close to twenty years of struggling with cramped and ill-equipped spaces, North Helpline will be moving.  The new 9,000 square foot facility, located at 12730 33rd Avenue NE will provide support and solutions to the growing number of people in our community who are facing financial adversity.  

North Helpline at the McDermott Place building will play an essential role in the community by offering housing for the homeless,  a new home for North Helpline’s Emergency Services, Lake City/Northgate Food Bank and free acute medical care for community members in need.

Please consider donating to North Helpline’s future home.  Your gift presents a unique opportunity to leave a legacy. You may also choose to honor a family member or friend through a naming opportunity. Permanent naming opportunities are available at many gift levels and may be paid in a single payment or over time (terms of up to three years available on payment plans).

To learn more about other naming opportunities, contact us at 206-367-3477 or visit the website at