Leschi-Lake Dell Natural Area
Tucked away in the hills of Leschi, a block away from Cherry, lies a small park. This park is known as the Leschi Dell Natural Area. It is connected to a long winding street on one side and trails into the heart of Leschi on the other. This well maintained park sits towards the top of an enormous hill that goes all the way down to the lake. The lookout is positioned in such a way that you have unobstructed views from Mount Baker to Mount Rainer. If you go early enough, there will probably be clouds floating on the lake, making you feel as though you are floating above the clouds. Cut out of what remains of the once lush forest. While it's hard to see them, you're surrounded by residential houses on all sides. As you walk around, you will start to have an understanding of just how many houses are positioned precariously on the hillside. The thousands of houses didn't use to be here, though. And once, the forest was all but consuming Leschi.
Backstory and Context
Leschi was shaped in a similar way to most of Seattle. Through earthquakes, landslides, glaciers, tsunamis, and more recently, humans. Two hundred years ago, this place looked very different. The only residence were people native to the area. The Duwamish used Leschi as a seasonal hunting ground and fished on the shores. In the early 1800s, settlers also started hunting deer, elk, bears, and other native wildlife in Leschi. Shortly after that, cabins started popping up despite the difficulties of transporting lumber over Seattle's hills. Not much later, Henry Yesler, an early Seattle pioneer, built several lumber mills along Lake Washington and in Leschi. The easy access to lumber mills and plentiful trees helped expedite the process of residential development.
The Leschi area gets its name from Chief Leschi of the Nisqually nation. Chief Leschi, along with eight other chiefs, "signed" away ownership of land around Washington (including what is now Leschi area) in exchange for $32,500 ($991,981.25 today) as part of the Treaty of Medicine Creek. Though at the time the United States says the treaty was "duly authorized by them [the various nations]," many Chiefs, including Chief Leschi, explicitly opposed the treaty, denied signing it, and objected to their compensation (in the case of Chief Leschi, a two-square-mile reservation with no access to Lake Washington or any other source of fishing).
During the Battle of Seattle (1856), Chief Leschi was cited as one of the two primary "hostile" chiefs. While he denies participating in the battle, most accounts say he was involved in at least some capacity. The Battle of Seattle occurred when Native Americans from various tribes attacked Seattle settlers, include those in Leschi. Most details, including the motivation of the attack, are unknown. But, some historians suspect that it had to do with land seizures, like that of the Treaty of Medicine Creek and the general disturbances to the native people's way of life. The scale of the attack is also unknown; some say it was as few as 150 Native Americans, whereas others say it was more than 2,000. Like the land near Leschi, most land in the Seattle area was enveloped mostly or completely in forest. The forests' obstruction of the land made it particularly difficult to know specifics about the battle.
In 1901 a company named Seattle's Hammond was created, based on its Californian cousin, the company created a streetcar in Seattle. The streetcar was used, before cars, as a means of transportation up and down the hills. One of the streetcars terminals ended in Leschi, increasing the accessibility and means of transportation. In the early 1900s, Hammond hired Jacob Umlauff to maintain the nature of Leschi. Many of the trees he planted in Leschi remain today. Later, Jacob became the Seattle Parks Superintendent. In 1959 the Leschi Improvement Council (now Leschi Community Council) was created and led by Powell Barnett. Powell Barnett was a renowned community activist in Seattle. To honor him, the Seattle Parks Department, with extra funding from Starbucks, created the four and a half acre "Powell Barnett Park" in the heart of Leschi.
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