Local historians Junius Rochester and Jane Powell Thomas led the walking tour.
Local historians Junius Rochester and Jane Powell Thomas led the walking tour.

The Pioneer Association of the State of Washington hosted its first historical walking tour in Madison Park, which was presented by the Pacific Northwest Historians Guild on Saturday, May 18.

Local historians Junius Rochester and Jane Powell Thomas led a group of more 30 people on a tour of landmark locations in the neighborhood.

The idea for the Madison Park Walk arose from other local historic walks put on by the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) and the Pacific Northwest Historians Guild.

“I brought the walk idea up at a WA Pioneer board meeting and the previous president Junius Rochester volunteered to help,” said Steve Ellersick, trustee for the Pioneer Association of the State of Washington. “Junius and I contacted Jane, and she was all in.”

Thomas is a local historian and author of the book, “Madison Park Remembered,” while Rochester, now a trustee for the Pioneer Association, recently finished writing the history of the Seattle Tennis Club. Ellersick, Thomas and Rochester joined forces with the Pacific Northwest Historians Guild and Madison Park Community Council to plan and curate the walk.

“I want people to come learn, enjoy friendship, get some fresh air and exercise,” Ellersick said. “It will be fun.”

Walkers started arriving at the Pioneer Hall at 10 a.m. and were met with cookies and refreshments before the sunny summer morning walk. Some folks came from the local Madison Park area while others came from across the city to learn more about the neighborhood.

“Judge John J. McGilvra bought 420 acres of land [in the Madison Park area] for $5 an acre. Today’s tour will walk through that land that he owned,” Thomas said.

The two-hour walk consisted of 13 stops within the 2 1/2 mile loop started at Pioneer Hall, including Madison Park Beach, McGilvra Elementary and the Seattle Tennis Club.

Madison Park was home to Seattle’s first baseball field and the 1890s Music Palace. McGilvra spent much of his energy developing the Madison Park area into a recreation area. Madison Park became a neighborhood of families and pioneers during the early 1900s. While landmarks like the Music Palace and Ferry Service no longer exist, other locations are still standing and open to the public.

Pioneer Hall, built in 1910 on land donated by McGilvra in 1902, currently houses the Daughters of the Pioneers, Seattle Chapter No. 1, the Fiske Genealogical Library and Colonial Dames of the State of Washington. Incorporated on December 5, 1895, the Pioneer Association of the State of Washington is the oldest historical organization in the state.

“There is a willow tree on the shore of Lake Washington, east of Pioneer Hall, that is from clippings that were brought to Seattle from George Washington’s tomb,” said Ellersick when kicking off the tour.

The Pioneer Association’s goal is to make this a recurring event for years to come, with increased membership and attendance. The proceeds from this walk will be used to run future events and walks.

The Pioneer Association’s 147th anniversary gathering will take place at Pioneer Hall on June 23 and is open to the public. The event will kick off with a business meeting followed by a guest talk by Joe Martin, who will provide a perspective of homelessness in Seattle. A no-host salmon bake luncheon will follow the talk.