Have you checked out the recently renovated Lake Burien School Memorial Park? After a period of closing for repairs and improvements, the park has reopened.

Over the past few months, a contractor improved the existing loop pathway by creating an asphalt and adjacent gravel pathway and improving entry points into the park. The pathways are funded through a grant from the King County Consortium Community Development Block Grant Program with funds obtained from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In addition, the playground was replaced with a new Venti® system that packs 20 exciting activities into its compact size. It contains nets, slides, belts and climbers providing lots of fun and challenges that promote physical development and strategic thinking, while also creating hangouts where kids can take a break and connect with others.

In addition to the Venti, there will be traditional and dish swings. The new playground was funded by the City.

The path around the grassy field has been widened and now has a gravel side for walkers and joggers and a paved side for a smoother stroller or scooter ride.

Other new projects – including landscaping and additions like benches and tables – are scheduled to be completed in the coming months.

The city said that there are still some projects that parks staff will be working on over the next few months. The city acquired new benches, tables and trash receptacles and after they arrive, staff will install them. Most of the former furnishings were removed due to their condition and the need to adjust the pathway and pour new concrete foundations for the new furnishings. The PaRCS team is also scoping and planning for a new fence to be installed on the south end of the park. In the Spring, staff will make some more landscape improvements to the garden nodes and ensure grass grows in the hydroseeded areas. Staff will also work on replacing the signage related to the memorial.

This is a great park in the Seahurst neighborhood, check it out on your next stroll through.

This park will also again play host to Burien’s annual “Music in The Park” concert series, set to return Thursday nights from 6:30 – 8 p.m. between July 14 – Aug. 18, 2022.

Below are photos of the renovated park, courtesy the City of Burien:

From the City of Burien’s website:

The park is the former site of the historic Lake Burien Elementary School.

The land on which Lake Burien School was built was homesteaded by the Bloomfield family. W.M. or William Murphy owned 160 acres due east. Chas Barton claimed the 160-acre parcel to the south, which includes the western half of Lake Burien. To the north of the Bloomfield property lay the Pope and Talbot claim, which became Seahurst Park.

Homesteading was not as successful here as in other parts of Burien. Claims were given up because it was hard to make a living (hence the early name “Hardscrabble”). The area’s gullies and rocky soil were better suited to chickens and hogs than farming. The land north of 152nd St. and throughout Seahurst was primarily logging land. Around 1910 it was subdivided and sold. In 1915, the Seahurst Land Company owned 200 acres from 16th Ave. SW to Puget Sound, north of 152nd St. The land included the current Lake Burien School Park and supplied residents with spring water.

Later, Fred and Bill Dashley, recently returned from the Alaska Gold Rush, bought the property where the park now sits. The Dashley brothers owned property from 8th Ave SW to 22nd St. on the north side of 152nd St., and possibly as far north as 144th St. The Dashleys were promoters of Ambaum Blvd.

The First School in Seahurst
The first school in Seahurst began in 1913 in a real estate office at SW 152nd and 22nd Ave SW at the trolley terminus. Later that year it was moved into a tent. In order to get a teacher, the school had to have ten pupils. Since there were only nine school-aged children in the area, five-year-old Etta Marasch was drafted to go to school. (Other accounts say this draftee was Angelo Balzarini).

During rainy weather, children worked under umbrellas in their tent schoolroom. In its second year, the Lake Burien School moved three-quarters of a mile east to a real estate office at 10th SW and SW 152nd.

Lake Burien School
A year later a new Lake Burien School, was completed at the current park location, and opened its doors to 13 students in eight grades. The Craftsman-style structure was the only elementary school in the new district. There were two classrooms, a lunch room, and playroom downstairs, with two rooms and a principal’s office upstairs. The building was also used as a community meeting place and Boy Scout headquarters. Woods and wild huckleberries surrounded the school.

Very few families lived in Burien at the time. As the area attracted new residents, it quickly outgrew the first schoolhouse. In 1926 a new Lake Burien Elementary, facing 18th Avenue SW, replaced the smaller building. The two-story school began with six classrooms. Within two years, four more rooms were added to the north side.

Terra cotta sculptures over the school’s entrances were installed in 1926. The Lake Burien sculptures consisted of:

    • A 551-pound, 3 foot by 5 foot owl with outstretched wings, reading a book
    • Two “fish gargoyles”
    • A globe with two candles and the word “LIGHT” above it
    • A plaque with the words “LAKE BURIEN SCHOOL 1926”

In 1930, the school added a gym with a fine hardwood floor. The gym also served as lunchroom, music room, classroom, and PTA meeting hall. During the Depression, the school cook served three kinds of soup daily, knowing that, for some of the children, this would be their only meal.

Continuing efforts were made to keep up with the flood of new pupils. Three more classrooms were added in 1937, and a lunchroom in 1938. Five portables were added in the 1940s. On September 19, 1949, LIFE Magazine featured the entire student body on its centerfold. 380 students the school was designed to hold peered from the school windows, and the remaining 457 standing on the lawn.

In the 1970s, needing to update the school’s aging heating system, the District consolidated three elementary schools into the empty Seahurst Junior High. Lake Burien School was closed in 1976. Later, through the efforts of Burien residents, it became the property of King County Parks. In 1978, Seattle Regular Baptist bought the property from the District for $181,000, operating its own school program there into the 1980s.

From School to Park
By 1992, King County had purchased the property as a potential park site and was preparing to demolish the school building. There was some controversy, however, about what to do with the property. Some wanted a retirement home while others wanted low-income housing. Recognizing the artistic and historic value of the school entrance’s cast ornaments, community activist Vivian Matthews convinced the County to spare the sculptures and obtained funding to safely remove them.

Protected by many coats of paint over the years, the ornaments were carefully removed from the building, loaded onto a flatbed truck, stored at Kirk’s Feed and the Highline School District’s Maintenance Facility, and eventually mounted on the arch which stands today in the park. The only damage sustained was a broken ear.

The Arch
The Burien Parks, Arts, and Recreation Council was formed in 1993 and assumed responsibility for the sculptures. The Council proposed placing them in the Lake Burien School Park, the first park for the new city. Roger Patton Jr, who attended Lake Burien School, designed a structure to hold the sculptures—an arch replicating the school’s front entrance—where they could sit high off the ground, as they had over the front doors of the school.

Many community members, organizations and suppliers helped create the Arch at the Lake Burien School Park. Friends of Burien Parks member Pam Harper took the lead on the project and enlisted the help of a local architect, builder, and a variety of suppliers. The Friends sold personalized bricks that are part of the plaza today.

The Arch took a year to design and build. An art conservator rebuilt the pieces, a dedication ceremony was held, and trees were planted. Two large hawthorne trees on the park’s west side have survived from when the school was still standing.

The Burien City Council negotiated the assumption of responsibility for Lake Burien Park with King County in 1994. The City took the lead in construction of Lake Burien Park which was completed that same year.

The City of Burien would like to acknowledge all the work that went into this project from the following:

    • JA Brennan Associates: Community Engagement and Preferred Design Concept
    • The Berger Partnership: Community Engagement, Final Design, and Construction Management
    • New X: Contractor
    • Play Creation: Playground vendor, and installation and inspection services
    • Diane Salter: City Project Manager
    • King County Consortium Community Development Block Grant Program and Burien City Council: Funding Agencies

The community engagement outcomes included these improvements and identified other needs such as adding a younger youth play area, improvements to the tennis courts, improvements to the memorial archway, signs, and donor bricks, and more. These items are on the PaRCS Department work plan. They require additional funding and resources. If you are interested in donating to future improvements at the park, please see how to donate below.

Want to contribute?
The City is seeking private donations to help fund complementary park elements, such as benches and tables, as well as to fund other elements of the 2017 conceptual plan in the future.

    • To donate, visit the donation page on Burien’s class registration system to make a donation online..
    • Log into your account or create a new account.
    • Click on the Park Contributions/Donations tab on the upper left.
    • Choose your desired donation amount.
    • If the amount you want to donate is not available in the menu, please call the Burien Community Center at (206) 988-3700 to make a donation by phone.

Questions can be emailed to ParksProjects@burienwa.gov.

More info on the city’s website here.

Lake Burien School Memorial Park is located at 1620 SW 149th Street:

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