The Madison Park neighborhood of Seattle is situated northeast of downtown Seattle on the western shore of Lake Washington. The Duwamish tribe who originally inhabited it called it "Where One Chops." The Duwamish shared the forested banks, swamps, and inlets with bear, deer, otter, and mink. After Seattle was founded in the 1850s, Madison Park became a favorite picnic and recreational area. Judge John J. McGilvra (1827-1903), the area's first developer, purchased land and opened Madison Street at his own expense in 1864-1865. Today Madison Park is an affluent, end-of-the-carline residential district on Lake Washington, which has a small, elegant shopping area.
Judge John J. McGilvra was a transplanted Illinois resident who once practiced law in association with Abraham Lincoln. He acquired 420 acres of land at Madison Park in the 1860s, the first Euro American to do so. He bought his lakeshore property for $5 an acre when sections of school land were sold to finance the University of Washington.
To reach his land, in 1864-1865, McGilvra cut a straight-line road through the forest from downtown Seattle to Madison Park. Today his road is known as Madison Street. It was named after U.S. President James Madison, and is the only direct route in Seattle between salt water (Puget Sound) and fresh water (Lake Washington).
Within a decade Seattleites found their way to the Park. It became the site of summer outings and a "tent city," buttressed by Wagner's band playing Gilbert and Sullivan pieces and Sousa marches on a barge. A baseball team - the first professional champions in the Pacific Northwest - practiced on a crude diamond build in 1890, Seattle's first ballpark. John Anderson's Mosquito Fleet boats made regular stops at Madison Park. An ornate boathouse was built, along with piers, a wooden promenade, twin bandstands, and shoreline seating (for, it was said, a thousand spectators) for Vaudeville acts and other entertainment. The adults drank beer and the kids drank sarsaparilla.
Madison Park is a great community of mostly single-family homes with a few condo and apartment buildings. When they lowered the water level in Lake Washington there were many houseboats and cottages along the original shoreline that were left for many years. All but a couple of these cottages have been torn down and new homes have been built. Housing prices are on the high side with even most of the condos running in the millions. The location and natural beauty of the area's parks, lakefront and views combined with the classic styling of the homes help to justify the high prices. Convenience is another big draw; although the neighborhood feels many miles away from the hustle and bustle of a busy city, residents face a quick and easy commute to Downtown Seattle, the University of Washington, and Seattle University or onto I-5 or the 520 freeways.
Kids that live in Madison Park would attend McGilvra Elementary School considered one of the best K through 5 Public Schools in the city or The Bush School (K to 12) considered one of the best private schools in the city or Epiphany School another excellent private grade school or Holy Names Academy (girls only Catholic school) considered one of the top academic high schools in the city, or Seattle Hebrew Academy Elementary. All these schools are just a short distance from Madison Park.
The commercial section of Madison Park is small and has some excellent shops, a spa, a great grocery store, restaurants and coffee shops. There are two outdoor public tennis courts that are always in excellent condition and a great kid play area along with the wonderful sandy beach on the lake.