Your Destination Guide to Seattle

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Magnolia

Magnolia
Magnolia

© Seattle Municipal Archives

Seattle’s second largest neighborhood has been living a lie since the 1790s. While exploring the region by boat, British Royal Navy officer George Vancouver described in the ship’s log the abundance of magnolia trees dotting the nearby peninsula. These trees, as it turned out, were not magnolias but madronas. It became clear that Captain Vancouver was an explorer, not an arborist. Despite the mistake, the name stuck.

Once a pair of forested hills separated by a meadow, Magnolia has seen a great deal of development over the past century and a half. Structures were first erected in 1853 when early settlers imagined a transcontinental railroad running through Seattle—a venture nearly four decades in the future. Now the neighborhood is mostly residential, with a commercial district housing some of the city’s most swoon-worthy restaurants and cafes. The area hosts its annual SummerFest Art & Talent Show in late July, during which locals and tourists can sample tasty snacks, peruse tent after tent of handmade crafts, and be so captivated by live entertainment that awe-induced paralysis is not entirely inconceivable.

Aside from SummerFest, the jewel of Magnolia is its 534-acre Discovery Park—a nature preserve located on the northwestern tip of the city with protected tidal beaches, forested walking trails, and the West Point Lighthouse, built in 1881 and the oldest in Puget Sound. From the top of the bluff, the horizon is a seemingly endless fringe of mountains, with the Olympics to the west and the Cascades to the east.

Smack dab in the middle of the northern shoreline, Fishermen’s Terminal is proof of the neighborhood’s flourishing boating industry. The marina moors a large portion of the city’s fishing fleet, including several vessels that have appeared on the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch. The Magnolia branch of the Seattle Public Library has also earned acclaim in the form of several design awards from the American Library Association. Its clerestory windows and Japanese architectural influences have designated it a landmark building by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Board.

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