Seattle is known for its greenery, which makes sense, it is the Evergreen state afterall. It’s no wonder one of our favorite spots is Green Lake, accurately named after the freshwater lake at the heart of Seattle. A little bit of history: the Green Lake neighborhood was settled in the late 1800s and has always been residential and the scenic backdrop to many people’s lives. Perhaps that’s why it’s still such a popular spot for locals and tourists alike along with the occasional celebrity! We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite Green Lake legends, stories and highlights that show what a quirky, beautiful spot Green Lake is and we hope will continue to be!
- Duck Island:
Duck Island was originally created as a safe habitat for swans which obviously didn’t pan out. This small island is located in the middle of Green Lake and is off limits to visitors. In fact, it’s even against the law to trespass on this island as it was deemed a wildlife refuge back in the 50’s (this changed in the 80’s). If caught, you could get a misdemeanor for trespassing. But rules were meant to be broken, right? In 2017, a group of skaters handbuilt their own skatepark in the middle of Duck Island. Some videos can still be found online. Did they get caught, yes. Did they get in trouble? You know it. Let this be a lesson, Duck Island is for the birds.
- Twin Teepees:
There’s a local legend that Colonel Harland Sanders (yes! The KFC guy) was a short order cook at the former Twin Teepees, a local establishment that was destroyed by fire and then later torn down in 2001. John Owen, who wrote Walking Seattle said that the owner of the Twin Teepees, Walter Clear “met another energetic restaurateur who had fallen upon hard times. He offered his new friend Harold Sanders a temporary job as a short order cook at one of his Seattle restaurants. Clark moved his friend to the Twin Teepees, where the man’s fascination with herbs and spices continued.” After almost a year in Seattle, Harold decided to head home to Kentucky and later began to refer to himself as “Colonel Sanders.” We may never know if he developed his famous recipes here in our very own Green Lake neighborhood but it’s still a pretty tasty story.
- The Green Lake Arch:
Originally located as a prominent fixture in the Martha Washington School for Girls, a historic school building on Lake Washington. This looming piece of history now resides in Green Lake, but how? You may have heard stories about the Martha Washington School for Girls. Ghost stories to be specific. The school, which has since been demolished, was built in 1921. The school offered support for neglected and unfortunate young girls until the school closed their doors in 1952. It sat empty and neglected for decades, some say satanic cults took place in the structure which led to the 1972 decision to demolish it. The City of Seattle purchased and tore down the building and built a park (which you can visit today). Sightings only intensified of young girls haunting the shores of Lake Washington. So how did the huge arc get to Green Lake and not in a landfill? For some reason, it was put in storage in 2009 and brought to Green Lake as part of Seattle’s Shade Park and Plaza. For many decades this eerie arch greeted young girls as they entered their school each day and now you too can visit it in Green Lake, just watch out for the paranormal, it’s probably still haunted.
- Magnet Fishing:
It’s how it sounds and it works with varying success. Local man, Sam Miller was out magnet fishing on the lake and uncovered an unlabeled can with an expiration date of 2020. Sam, who is also a local comedian in Seattle, opened the mystery can at Emmett Montgomery & Brett Hamill’s Joketeller’s Union show in the summer of 2019 and proceeded to taste this mystery meat. Spoiler alert, it wasn’t spoiled! The cool lake temperatures keep things like beer cans and food cans nice and chilled! You can watch the “uncanning” here.
- Spuds Fish N Chips:
Founded in 1935, this place has history! Two brothers, Jack and Frank Alger, are credited with bringing the phenomenon that is “fish & chips” to Seattle. The brothers, originally from England (where the whole fish and chips fad started) decided to open a restaurant in Alki and later Green Lake. It’s rumored the brothers even helped out Ivar’s with his famous fish and chips recipe. Taste test anyone?
- Milk Carton Races:
This quirky event has been taking place every year since its opening event in 1972 (sorry 2020, the next race has been rescheduled for 2021). It’s officially called the Lucerne Seafair Milk Carton Derby and features the weirdest, most colorful milk carton boats you have ever seen. You never know what kind of boat or floatation creation will float by as they vary in size and designs. May the best milk carton boat win!
- Water Lantern Festival:
This is another annual event that has been rescheduled due to COVID-19 but their website says to check back in 2021. Watch as a spectator or take part by purchasing a lantern that you’ll personalize with a message or drawing. Watch as it drifts in tandem with hundreds of other lanterns across Green Lake. It’s a sight to see! Food trucks and live music make for a fun filled evening.
- First Date: Green Lake can seem like the perfect romantic spot, a stroll around the scenic lake, canadian geese honking in harmony as you pass by with your new love…except when you realize you have absolutely nothing in common with your date and you’re only a quarter way around Green Lake. A stroll with your date can turn awkward really fast and can feel like a ride you can’t get off of. So romantics beware, Green Lake may be the best or worst place to go on a first date. It can be a long 2.8 miles around the lake.
- The Aqua Theater: Originally built in 1950 for Seattle’s Seafair as a way to showcase “swimusicals”, which is just how it sounds. Singing, dancing and synchronized ballet swimming a la water musical! Besides swimusicals, many plays have taken place at the Aqua Theater along with jazz festivals, wrestling matches, comedy shows, and live music concerts. After the summer productions, the activity at the Aqua Theater waned (most probably due to the near constant wet weather) and was for the most part abandoned. After Led Zeppelin and Grateful Dead played at the Theater in 1960, the City of Seattle deemed it unsafe. In 1970 it was torn down and repurposed. Some sections of the grandstand remain today and offer a great way to exercise those glutes.
- Gaines Point: The murder of Sylvia Gaines was huge news in Seattle when it happened in June of 1926. A man was walking around the north end of Green Lake on his way to work when he discovered a pair of women’s shoes. He investigated further and found Sylvia, dead near the shore. Sylvia Gaines was only 22 and had just moved to Seattle to reconnect with her estranged father whom she hadn’t seen since she was 5. It didn’t take long for investigators to charge her father, Bob Gaines with her murder. It only took 3 hours for the jury to find Bob Gaines guilty. The grove of Alder trees where Sylvia was found was replaced by Cottonwood trees (many of which were planted as a memorial to Sylvia). The trees grew to be 70 years old and offered a habitat to bald eagles but unfortunately their limbs began to fall. Deemed too dangerous, the cottonwoods were then removed. They have since been replaced with Populus Robusta trees. There are many who say the ghost of Sylvia has been seen peeking through the branches of these trees at night!