Back in 1978, the City of Seattle—apparently having money to burn at the time—published a series of pamphlets called Seeing Seattle on Foot. Each pamphlet was a walking tour of a specific neighborhood. Today, I have before me the pamphlet titled A Walking Tour of Madison Park. The pamphlet says that Madison Park is “conveniently close to Downtown [and is] distinguished by its imposing homes and charming shopping district.” Nearly thirty-four years later, that happy description of this older, established Seattle neighborhood still applies.
Madison Park is bounded on the east by Lake Washington and on the north by Union Bay. Consequently, many homes here have water views or are waterfront properties. In fact, a hundred years ago, Madison Park was essentially a summer resort by the lake. Seattle residents could take the Madison Street cable car from Downtown, First Hill, and Capitol Hill to the lakeshore park. It was one of the most popular freshwater beaches in the city.
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That waterfront park is still here, right at the foot of East Madison. The park offers a lifeguarded (summer) swimming beach, tennis courts, and a large play area ornamented with concrete sculptures of animals, such as hippos and bears.
Across from the playground, is Madison Park’s cosmopolitan shopping district. Here you’ll find upscale boutiques, food shops, services, and restaurants. The variety of restaurants in Madison Park is surprising—you can get everything from bagels and pub fare to some of the finest cuisine in the city.
At the west end of the Madison Park shopping district you will also find a Starbucks. In August, The New York Times ran a story explaining why—out of approximately 17,000 Starbucks in the world—the Madison Park Starbucks is special. It’s because Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, often drops in here to order his daily doppio espresso macchiato. Mr. Schultz lives in a large waterfront estate in Madison Park, within walking distance of that particular Starbucks.
Property in Madison Park tends to be pricey—though that is not always the case. Residences range from waterfront mansions worth many millions of dollars to more affordable single-family homes and even condos. Many of Madison Park’s impressive single-family homes were built in the early 1900s up through the 1920s. So while you will find mid-century Modern here, the inventory is limited. There are some beautiful classic modern-style homes and quite a few luxury Contemporary Moderns as well. On a recent visit, I saw two Contemporary Modern in-fill homes going up.
The eight-acre Seattle Tennis Club is close by. And just as it was a hundred years ago, Madison Park is conveniently close to Capitol Hill, First Hill, and Downtown. I have been told that Madison Street is the only continuous street in Seattle that runs from saltwater (Elliott Bay) to freshwater (Lake Washington). Meaning you can grab some fish and chips at the original Ivar’s Acres of Clams on Pier 54, stop off at the Rem Koolhaas-designed Central branch of the Seattle Public Library, get a latte to go from Howard Schultz’s favorite Starbucks, and end up at Madison Park—all without leaving Madison Street. How cool is that?