The Laurelhurst Letter

May/June 2001


Horticulturalists lose years of research data in arson fire Bay off limits to skiiers
History book reprinted by popular demand Neighbor proposes to replace fountains
New trustee appointed Stoplight proposed
Progress made on shoreline street ends Street work doesn't prevent market opening
Park to host 3rd season of free summer concerts

Horticulturalists lose years of research data in arson fire

The University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture was badly damaged May 21 by an arson fire that began in a geneticist's office. Responsibility was later claimed by the Earth Liberation Front, an organization opposed to the genetic manipulation of plant and animal species.

The blaze largely destroyed Merrill Hall, which houses professors' offices and research labs, as well as the headquarters for the popular Master Gardener outreach program. The Elizabeth C. Miller Library, adjacent to Merrill Hall, suffered smoke and water damage.

Residents of the Town of Yesler were awakened at 3:30 a.m. by sirens and, in one case, the unaccustomed sound of household water pipes hammering as the firemen's pumps caused pressure to drop. Many who ventured outside reported that the flames quickly reached 60 to 70 feet in the air.

The three-alarm fire took two hours to extinguish, and luckily, no one was hurt. However, many university researchers lost years of hard-won data, much of which is irreplaceable. In addition, rare specimens, included one quarter of the world's population of showy stickseed plants, an endangered Washington native, were destroyed.

Volunteers arrived almost immediately and began helping center staff to remove the library's rare-book collection, which was kept in a special vault. Most of the rare books were undamaged, apart from smelling of smoke. (Some are survivors of an earlier fire that occurred many years ago when the collection was kept in the arboretum.)

The rest of the library books were removed over the next several days. Some were undamaged, but others were wet and will have to undergo a special freeze-drying treatment. All will be treated with ozone to remove 80 percent of the smoke smell.

UW Provost Lee Huntsman has assured center staff that the facility will be rebuilt as soon as possible. Already, the university has appealed to the state legislature for special funding. The center also welcomes donations, which can be sent to the "Urban Hort Recovery Fund," c/o the CFR Development Office, University of Washington, Box 352100, Seattle, WA 98195-2100. (Make checks payable to the University Foundation

Center staff expect the library to remain closed over the summer, after which some library materials may be available through the university library system in the fall. Other programs at the center are expected to continue as planned, with adjustments being made as necessary. The grounds and gardens are open to the public as usual.

More information is available at the center's web site:

Bay off limits to skiiers

Residents are reminded that the nautical speed limit in Union Bay is now 7 knots. That means the bay is off limits for waterskiing as of last August.

History book reprinted by popular demand

Which Laurelhurst street was once called Olympic View Drive? When was the Laurelhurst Community Club founded? What is perhaps the most unusual business ever to open its doors in Laurelhurst?*

The answers to these, and many other, fascinating questions can be found in the pages of A History of Laurelhurst, by Christine Barrett. The book, first published by the Laurelhurst Community Club in 1981, tells the story of the neighborhood from its earliest settlement to the present. It contains dozens of historic photographs, clearly reproduced in large format, and several useful maps. A revised edition, printed on acid-free paper and with additional photographs, was published in 1989.

A must for new residents, the book also makes an excellent gift for relatives and for children growing up in the neighborhood. Sadly, it has been out of print for several years, though demand for it has not slackened. At almost every board meeting, one or another of the trustees reports that a neighbor has asked how to obtain a copy.

Accordingly, the community club decided earlier this year to reprint the revised edition, changing only the quality of its soft cover, which has been printed on slightly heavier stock. The club now has 1,000 new copies on hand, which should meet the demand for several years to come.

The price of the book is $18 a copy, including tax. All proceeds go to the Laurelhurst Community Club to benefit the community. (That makes author Barrett one of the most generous contributors to community causes - please thank her when you get a chance!)

Copies of the new printing were to be made available for the first time at the June 5 annual meeting, where Ms. Barrett was to appear in person to sign them. After that, the plan is to sell them at selected neighborhood retail outlets (details to be announced later). In the meantime, inquiries may be directed to either Barb Ragee (524-4094) or Coco Sherman (525-9850).

*The answers, for those of you who can't wait to buy the book, are West Laurelhurst Drive Northeast, 1920, and Miss Hunt's Whistling Studio.

Neighbor proposes to replace fountains

At their May meeting, LCC trustees endorsed a proposal by neighbor Max Gurvich to replace the two inoperative fountains at the western end of the Evergreen Point floating bridge with two new nonhydraulic art installations.

The fountains, redesigned by artist Parks Anderson and rededicated as the Nellie C. Cornish Memorial Sculptures in 1989, have always tended to clog with lake debris. Gurvich donated the cost of the 1989 refurbishment and for eight years afterward paid a team of divers to unclog the fountains on a bimonthly basis.

In 1997, the state Department of Transportation declined to assume responsibility for this maintenance, and despite appeals from the mayors of communities on both sides of the lake, the fountains were turned off.

Now, Gurvich is proposing to use the existing concrete platforms to install - at his expense - two colorful kinetic sculptures, made of metal, that activate reflections but do not cause glare. Similar sculptures have been installed inside the Key Tower, downtown, and on the exterior north wall of the Ballard Office Max building at 14th Avenue Northwest and Leary Way.

Gurvich also has suggested that one of the inoperative Lake Washington fountains be renovated and reinstalled in Gasworks Park in Wallingford.

WSDOT officials have tentatively approved Gurvich's proposal, subject to his satisfying technical considerations and obtaining the support of lakeside communities.

New trustee appointed

At their May meeting, the trustees appointed Laurelhurst neighbor and former Seattle Times columnist Casey Corr to fill a vacancy on the LCC board. Corr, who "grew up in Laurelhurst Park," welcomed the opportunity to get involved in community activities. He will stand for election at the June 5 annual general meeting.

Stoplight proposed

The Seattle Transportation Department (SeaTran) has asked the LCC for input into their proposal to install another traffic light on Sand Point Way at 50th Avenue Northeast. That corner, which is complicated by the nearby intersection of a third street - Ivanhoe Place - has long been a sore point for many Laurelhurst motorists.

Others, however, dislike the idea of another light on Sand Point. The LCC has suggested that if the light is added, the whole series of lights on Sand Point Way should be adjusted to facilitate a smoother flow of traffic.

Progress made on shoreline street ends

LCC shoreline street-ends representative Liz Ogden reported that the city has made some progress in cleaning up one of Laurelhurst's six city-owned shoreline street ends for public use. Specifically, the laurel hedge that effectively blocked access to, or even knowledge of, the 51st Avenue Northeast street end (next to the beach club) has been limbed upward to let in light and provide views of the water. The work makes this street end a safer and more inviting place to go, Ogden said.

Ogden also reported on a neighborhood meeting May 3 to discuss improvements to the Northeast 43rd Street street end. Again, the removal of a laurel hedge and other vegetation is proposed to try to open up the site and increase visibility. Neighbors worry that creating more open space will attract larger numbers of users, especially late-night revelers who disturb the peace. They also are concerned about landscape maintenance, sanitation, and user safety.

Ogden said the group will continue to meet to thrash out answers to these concerns in a way that both satisfies the requirements of the shoreline street-end law and is respectful of the neighbors' legitimate need for peace and security.

Street work doesn't prevent market opening

You may encounter some difficulties getting there, but the University District Farmers' Market is open.

Located at the corner of University Avenue Northeast ("the Ave") and Northeast 50th Street, the market began its ninth season May 26, despite the fact that Northeast 50th is all torn up and customers must detour down side streets to reach it. It will be in operation every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. until Nov. 3.

This year, producers will be selling fresh-frozen fish and USDA-approved poultry and pork, in addition to the usual array of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, cheeses, flowers, pasta, honey, mushrooms, cider, and baked goods. And starting in mid-June, the market will feature a series of special weekly events, including product tastings, musical entertainment, and cooking demonstrations by local chefs.

Parking is available for market shoppers in the lot behind the Brooklyn Avenue Rite-Aid. Free, one-hour parking tokens may be obtained at the market information table.

Park to host 3rd season of free summer concerts

The very popular Summer Concerts in the Park series will be back again this year (for the third year in a row) in Laurelhurst Park. Five free concerts are scheduled to take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on successive Thursdays beginning July 12.

First in the lineup is a performance of Latin dance music by the group Mambo 9 (July 12). They will be followed by jazz vocalist Edmonia Jarrett (July 19), blues artists The Mark DuFresne Band (July 26), jazz and blues guitarist Michael Powers (Aug. 2), and 60s pop and jazz performer Cheryl Serio (Aug. 9).

Concertgoers are encouraged to bring blankets to sit on and picnic hampers, if desired. Prepared food will be available for purchase July 26, the evening of the Community Salmon Bake.

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