Chelsea Park

802 SW 137th Street

This small, open park, ringed by homes and businesses, lies in a shallow depression one block east of Ambaum Blvd. The park is home to a softball/baseball field, soccer field, and play equipment, and provides a good view of Mt. Rainier to the southeast.

Park History

The Chelsea Park Improvement Club was very active in the 1940s and 1950s. The Club was started in 1947 by Mrs. Juvia Goodfellow, an early resident of Chelsea Park. Seeing the need for community activity, she called the first meeting in the Chelsea Food Center. The Club raised money for community projects, sponsored dances, and other social events. Not content to be just another real estate development, Chelsea Park sought its own identity through beautification and improvement programs. In 1947, the Chelsea Park Improvement Club adopted the slogan, “Where the Lilies Grow.” It was hoped that planting lily bulbs would make Chelsea Park “a place separate and apart from the rest of the South End.”

Many choice variety bulbs, including “exquisite rare lilies," were purchased from Southern Oregon growers and sold in the neighborhood. The money from the bulb sale and other events was earmarked for the development of a building and playfield. November was chosen for the fund drive because that was the time of year for bulb planting.

In 1948, the Chelsea Park Community Club raffled off a “beautiful hand-braided woolen rug” as part of their Playground Fund Drive. The rug was displayed at Graves Electric Store at 1st Ave. S and 136th St. Tickets were 25 cents each. The drawing was held at Coy's Hi-Line Theatre, since Chelsea Park had “no facilities for handling a matter of such interest to the general public.”

The Club also sponsored bingo parties, organized by Charles Eyers, in the Trowbridge Building between the Chelsea Park Service Station and Food Center. Prizes included cash and “several pieces of lovely silver” donated by the Silversmiths of Seattle. Other prizes were donated by the Evansvale Commercial Club—all part of a years-long, step-by-step effort to build a community playground and clubhouse.

Leaders of South End civic organizations included Hugh Shepard, president of the Chelsea Park Community Club, Joe L. Owens, president of Evansvale Commercial Club, and Jud Colburn, secretary-treasurer of the South End associated clubs. In 1948 they agreed that the natural and strategic location for a playground lay at SW 136th St. and Ambaum Blvd, which had been deeded to the County by the original owner for the express purpose of playground development. This site was centrally located for children from the Lake Burien Heights apartments, and Evansvale and Chelsea Park neighborhoods.

Building the Playground and Other Amenities

Work started on the playground on June 12, 1948. All men in the community were encouraged to pitch in and work parties were organized for every Saturday. Mr. R. Fordham directed the crews who came to work. More than a dozen men cut down trees, burned brush, and did the groundwork for establishing the playfield. Many children also joined in the work. It was hoped that “a place sufficiently interesting and healthful can be developed to entertain our youngsters during vacation and keep them from crossing these three lanes of very rapid traffic.” (Highline Times, June 17, 1948)

Ground for the playfield was broken on January 6, 1949 by the South Seattle Excavating Company, after two years of effort by the Chelsea Park Community Club. Some of the remaining stumps were blasted out. The names of contributors were published in the Highline Times. As of January 27, 1949, $52 had been raised toward the expected cost of $500 to finish clearing and leveling the land.

Later that year, construction was begun on an amusement center for children and adults, with an outdoor dancing deck. The wooded area was cleared for $1,100. The King County Parks and Playfields Board assisted, along with a generous donation of work by the South Seattle Excavating Company.

The park land, known as Chelsea Park #42, was deeded to the county on May 31, 1951. It was a gift conveyance ($10) from Desmond Peck and Clarence Hardesty, trustees of Northwest Homes, Inc. The Chelsea-Evansvale Community Club had donated their services through labor to prepare and grade the land, and raised funds for playground equipment. In April 1953, the Club petitioned the King County Parks and Playground Department to install proper drainage and grading, erect suitable buildings for shelter, and incorporate the playground into their schedule for supervision of youth activities.

In February 1968, King County voters approved Proposition 6, a Forward Thrust Parks and Recreation bond, which included $21,750 for a Chelsea Park playground.

In January 2000, King County offered Burien assistance in replacing the backstop, and providing new fences, dugouts, and concrete floors. Chelsea Park has been the site of countless baseball, softball, and soccer games—both organized and informal—throughout its 56-year lifespan.