In its early days, Magnolia wasn’t a very popular place. The land wasn’t great for farming and it was hard to get to, being a peninsula and all. One very smart man, however, saw potential. “Hmm,” Dr. Henry Smith probably said to himself, “Here we’ve got this great downtown area, some low-lying land perfect for a rail line, and nearby a nice little cove. I’m gonna buy me that cove and make a killing in the shipping industry!” And that is what he did, though it took 40 years before the train actually got there. Magnolia became a major trade post, bringing goods in from across the Pacific. (Today, Smith Cove is a cruise ship terminal, which is equally important!)
It didn’t take long before the roads improved, and people could settle in the hills of Magnolia. The military built Fort Lawton on the northwest section of the peninsula. At its prime 20,000 soldiers were stationed here, but after the Vietnam war, 85% of the land was sold to the city. Discovery Park was created, giving us the biggest park in the entire city.
Because it’s on a peninsula, Magnolia has a secluded feel. Looking at the neighborhood from outside, you might think there isn’t much more there than houses and a marina. Wrong! The area around McGraw Street and 34th Avenue W is a little pocket of activity, with a Walk Score rivaling that of Fremont or Greenlake. A glance at the neighborhood’s blog shows that there’s always something going on here, be it a farmer’s market, the yearly SummerFest celebration, a free nature walk at Discovery Park, or a spur-of-the-moment community outreach event.
Not to be left out is Fisherman’s Terminal, located right on Salmon Bay near the 15th Street Bridge. Here, you can walk around on the docks and admire the real-life fishing boats, then stop in at the market to buy the seafood caught that very day. Though not as famous as the Pike Place Market, rumor has it that this is an even better way to experience the local fishing culture.
Activities and Attractions
Discovery Park is one of the biggest lures that Magnolia offers. Its offerings run the gamut from hiking trails to tide pools, with streams, meadows, and sandy beaches in between. The greatest part of the park is their dedication to nature education; throughout the year you can attend classes to learn about the flora and fauna native to the region—bird watching and low tide walks are some of the most popular. Also located in Discovery Park is the Daylight Star, a Native American cultural center complete with conference center, facilities for pow wows, and an art gallery.
If you prefer the neighborhoody over the outdoorsy, try visiting the cluster of blocks around McGraw Street and 34th Avenue West. It’s something you have to stumble across, but once you’re there you’ll be set for the day. In the summer, this is the spot of the Saturday farmer’s market. Or come through any day or season and visit the plentiful cafes, salons, boutiques and bakeries. Food options include Hawaiian, Mexican, sushi, Italian, sandwiches, Thai, pub grub…anything! The community pool and library are also big hits with the kids.
Homes in Magnolia
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There’s a lot going on in this neighborhood: waterways, railways, golf course, military fort, beaches, and tremendous views all the way ‘round.