Because Seattle was established during an economic boom fueled by the timber industry, the city's early years were characterized by hasty expansion and development, under which residential areas were loosely defined by widely scattered plats. This arrangement was further solidified by the establishment of locally-initiated community clubs, public libraries, public schools, and public parks, which created a sense of community and civic participation.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Seattle’s community clubs became influential in the organization of public improvements. These had a significant effect upon the character of their neighborhoods and allowed them to remain distinct from the surrounding areas. Some community clubs used covenants to restrict the ethnicity of residents.
Establishing public library branches can define districts as well as neighborhoods. Public libraries are among the most heavily used buildings. Seattle has elected its city council at large since 1910, and community clubs lobby councilors for the interests of local residents – such as for a library branch. The community organizations build a voting constituency, and in so doing define a neighborhood. In the absence of ward politics, this and campaign finance legislation are seen as more open alternatives. The Greenwood-Phinney Commercial Club was particularly active in organizing toward the Greenwood branch that opened in 1928. The Lake City Branch Library opened in 1935 as a few shelves of books in part of a room in Lake City School, shared with the Works Progress Administration (WPA), sponsored by the Pacific Improvement Club community group. The library moved into a new building in1955.
Elementary public schools effectively defined many neighborhoods, which are often synonymous with the name of the elementary school when the neighborhood and school were established. Many of the neighborhoods contain a few smaller neighborhoods. Mann and Minor neighborhoods in the Central District, were built around their schools. The University Heights school (1903) in the north of the University District was named for the neighborhood, as was the Latona School (1906) in Wallingford.Parks similarly define some neighborhoods. Madrona Beach and Cowen and Ravenna Parks were privately established to encourage residential development upon otherwise unusable land. The plan for Olmsted Parks fulfilled its goal and significantly influenced the character of neighborhoods around parks and playgrounds. East Phinney and West Meridian neighborhoods are sometimes called Woodland Park, as well as South Green Lake or North Wallingford for Meridian.
Come explore the neighborhoods of Seattle.