Kinnear House

Queen Anne Historical Society

Seattle, Washington

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Preserving Our Community Heritage... Now and for the Future

Queen Anne Boulevard

Queen Anne Boulevard Slide Show

The scenic route called Queen Anne Boulevard winds around the crest of Queen Anne Hill nearly 3 ½ miles, providing grand views in all directions. Called a boulevard, the route follows various streets, including W. Highland Drive, Bigelow Avenue N. and W. Raye St.

The route includes several retaining walls, the best known being the Willcox Wall at Eighth Avenue W. and W. Highland Drive, built in 1909. Doris McClure Linkletter, whose family lived nearby on Eighth Avenue W. remembers going for walks as a child with her father up the long stairway to W. Highland Drive. She, like many youngsters before and since, marveled at the wall, which appeared to be constructed of wood, for the surface had wood grain and knot holes, yet was as hard as the concrete sidewalk.

History of the Boulevard

Willcox Wall
Willcox Wall (courtesy of Jim Stevenson)

Enjoying success in their quest for thoroughfares, in 1906 the Queen Anne committee appeared before the Seattle Parks Board proposing the development of a scenic route at the top of the hill to be called Queen Anne Boulevard. At this time John Clise was a member of the Parks Board and received support for the idea from other Queen Anne residents on the board, J.M. Frink and George Cotterill. In addition, John McGraw appeared before the Parks Board and spoke on behalf of the proposed route.

The Seattle Parks Board opposed the idea of the boulevard, since it was not a part of the new Olmsted Plan for Seattle's boulevard and parkway system. The proposed route followed ordinary city streets, which did not meet the 150 foot minimum width called for by the Olmsted Plan to provide space for tree plantings and other amenities. The Parks Board finally agreed to the plan with the provision that the community pay some of the costs of development of the scenic route.

Constructed between 1911 and 1916, the boulevard was the only route by which commercial vehicles could reach certain sections of Queen Anne Hill. Queen Anne residents were happy with the boulevard for a time, but by the 1930s the complaints began pouring in and have not stopped since: “maturing trees are blocking the views; tree roots are buckling the side-walks; and the sewer lines are clogged by roots.” The Parks Dept. understood that many of the problems arose from the “cutting of corners” at the beginning and the failure to follow the standards established for boulevard throughout the city. For decades to come Queen Anne Boulevard would be a headache for the city parks and engineering departments.

Excerpt from the book “Queen Anne – Community on the Hill”. Purchase the book.

For Further Reading

Queen Anne Boulevard, 12 sheets in Donald N. Sherwood's extensive notes about Seattle parks (compiled during Sherwood's 1955–1977 tenure as an engineer with the parks department). Includes detailed maps.

Read the entry about Queen Anne Boulevard at Wikipedia.

Read more about the Willcox Wall at HistoryLink.org.

Read the 1997 article Parks Battle Moves to Boulevards in the Daily Journal of Commerce.