On September 13, 2018 the Ravenna-Cowen North Historic District was listed in the National Historic Register of Historic Places, where it joins other districts which contribute to the rich cultural heritage of Washington State. You can download many documents about the national historic designation below and read more about the history of the Ravenna and Cowen neighborhoods.Download Certificate
Properties in this area gained value in the mid-1880s when the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railroad was extended from Seattle up the western shore of Lake Washington. Ravenna became a stop on the new railroad.
William W. Beck, a Presbyterian minister from Kentucky, and his wife Louise purchased 400 acres on Union Bay. They developed the property around Ravenna station into town lots. Ten acres were set aside for the Seattle Female College. This later became the University of Washington. The Becks fenced the ravine between what would become 15th Avenue NE and 20th Avenue NE and opened Ravenna Park. Ravenna Park became a popular destination for Seattle residents, who were willing to pay 25 cents apiece to visit it. Annual passes were $5.
In the early 1900s, Seattle city engineers diverted Ravenna Creek from Green Lake into a sewer that discharged into Union Bay. Ravenna Boulevard was constructed between Green Lake and Ravenna Park along the stream, following a recommendation in the Olmsted Plan of 1903.
Ravenna was incorporated as a town in 1906 and annexed to the City in 1907. The boundaries were 15th Avenue NE on the west, NE 55th Street on the south, 30th Avenue NE on the east, and NE 65th Street on the north, except for an extension to NE 85th street between 15th Avenue NE and 20th Avenue NE. Developer Charles Cowen acquired the upper end of the Ravenna ravine, west of 15th Avenue NE, in 1906. He set aside eight acres for Cowen Park. When Theodore Roosevelt died in 1919, citizens showered the city with his memory. The new high school was built in 1922 and bore his name. 10th Avenue NE became Roosevelt Way NE, and the area between Ravenna Boulevard and Lake City Way NE became the Roosevelt District.
In the 1920s, a thriving commercial district sprung up along Roosevelt Way NE as the automobile transformed America. On January 1, 1928, Sears, Roebuck & Co. opened its North Seattle store at NE 65th Street. The store closed in January 1980, and the building was turned into Roosevelt Square shopping arcade.
Ravenna was the scene of several projects by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the 1930s. In 1936 the WPA built the Cowen Park Bridge, an art-deco style bridge over Ravenna Creek. The Cowen Park Bridge and the 20th Avenue NE Bridge (built in 1913) are both Seattle landmarks in the Ravenna and Cowen neighborhoods.
Ravenna neighbors have a long history of activism. In 1948, the community battled the city engineer over efforts to divert Ravenna Creek into sewers. In 1983, protests against the state Department of Agriculture’s spraying of the pesticide carbaryl to combat an infestation of gypsy moths resulted in a switch to a different compound. In 1991, the community again blocked a city plan to dig up the park for a new sewer.
The Ravenna and Cowen neighborhoods are filled with historically significant architecture. Many styles are well represented but several architectural historians consider Ravenna and Cowen to be some of Seattle’s best early twentieth century bungalow neighborhoods, worthy of historical distinction and preservation efforts.
Click the link below to download a PDF with examples of the bungalow residences that have been noted for their historical architectural character:Download History
This is an interactive map of every home in Ravenna-Cowen that was surveyed as part of the application for national historic designation. Click on any parcel inside the black district boundary to see the address, year built, and a link to a PDF document with many more details. Use the search window in the upper right to find a specific address.
Friends of Ravenna-Cowen is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that was organized to celebrate and raise awareness of the neighborhoods to the north and west of Ravenna and Cowen parks. It is bordered by Ravenna Boulevard and 12th Ave NE on the west, 24th Ave NE on the east, NE 65th St on the north, and the Ravenna Park ravine on the south. This area includes many examples of historically significant architecture, numerous heritage trees, and the incomparable public resources of Ravenna and Cowen Parks.
Our neighborhood is architecturally intact and represents a fascinating period in the development of the City of Seattle. Ravenna's architectural resources highlight a period of rapid growth in the early 20th century, encompassing the history of Ravenna and Cowen Parks; the Olmsted legacy; the streetcar era; development of the University of Washington’s environs (along with the 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition); and the rise of a “bungalow” style that provided homes for working families and university staff.
Historic properties that are demolished or whose architectural integrity has been sufficiently altered are irreversibly and irretrievably lost. In the face of rapid redevelopment in our city, we are turning our activism toward protecting the fragile historic character that enlivens our community.
Mission Statement as described in the Articles of Incorporation for Friends of Ravenna Cowen: “To preserve and protect the history and natural environment of the Ravenna-Cowen neighborhood as a shared community resource for all, and to support other like-minded neighborhood and not-for-profit groups.”
Larry is a Seattle native and is committed preserving this region's cultural heritage. He has a diverse background in community and regional planning, residential and commercial architecture, and historic preservation, as well as a continuing interest in architectural and maritime history. He established The Johnson Partnership in 1979, and in addition to providing professional architectural services, Larry has consulted on historic evaluation and preservation projects ranging from local to national importance. He has provided a wide variety of historical services for both public and private clients, including preparing Section 106 analyses, numerous landmark nominations, National Historic Register nominations, as well as documentation for historic structures. He is active in various national, regional, and local preservation organizations. Larry has previously served as past Chair for the Seattle Chapter AIA Historic Resources Committee, past Chair of the Ballard Avenue Historic District, Council Member for Historic Seattle, Trustee for The Northwest School, and as Board member for the Virginia V Foundation and Swedish Cultural Center.
Lori and her husband have lived in the Ravenna neighborhood for more than 35 years. They selected this neighborhood because of the proximity to Ravenna Park, the lovely historic homes and the sense of community. Lori supported the efforts to achieve the historic landmark designation and wishes to see the neighborhood’s attributes preserved. Her professional career was with the US Environmental Protection Agency where she worked over a 37-year period to protect and clean up the environment throughout the Northwest.
Judith (Judy) Bendich and her husband (Arnie) came to Seattle at the end of 1965. After a one-year stint in Michigan in 1970, they returned with their then 1-1/2-year old son and lived for 20 years just on the east side of Ravenna Park. They then moved all of five blocks to the west side of Ravenna Park, where they now live - for the past 27 years. Judy’s first engagement with the City of Seattle came in the early 70s when the City wanted to crisscross the City with freeways that would destroy Seattle neighborhoods and the Arboretum. She joined Citizens Against the RH Thompson and became Vice President of the Ravenna Bryant Community Association. That indirectly led her to law school at the University of Washington. After graduation in 1975, Judy started up her law firm, Bendich, Stobaugh & Strong, P.C., with two other UW law School grads. She retired from the firm, about nine years ago, but she is an active member of the Washington Bar. Over the years Judy has served on several non-profit organization boards.
Lani Johnson strives for responsible interaction with our natural and cultural environment in everything from major projects to details of daily life. She grew up in Hawaii, moved to Seattle in 1968, and earned her Master’s in Architecture from the University of Washington. Lani began providing environmental planning consulting services in 1974, managed The Johnson Partnership's planning projects and SEPA/NEPA environmental evaluations between 1982 and 2007, and continued as The Johnson Partnership’s business manager through 2018. In addition to her professional work and other volunteer activities, Lani provided many years of volunteer service for Roosevelt neighborhood land use activities, including serving as a past Land Use Chair and a past Vice President of the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association. She also served on the School Design Team (Design Review), Site Council, and Land Use Departure Committee for Roosevelt High School. She lives in the Ravenna-Cowen North National Historic District and is proud to have contributed her time to its successful nomination.
Francesca is a structural engineer with the local engineering firm Swenson Say Faget who lives in Ravenna with her husband, Stephen. She was born and raised in the Ravenna neighborhood, growing up in a family of architects who focused on historic preservation projects in Seattle, Montana, and Italy. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Washington and her master’s degree in Civil Engineering from UC Berkeley, she returned to her native Seattle to specialize in historic preservation, adaptive reuse, and seismic renovation. In her free time, she enjoys crocheting, fly fishing, and mushroom hunting. Francesca is also an active member of Historic Seattle, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Structural Engineers of Washington committee on Existing Buildings.
John is a Seattle native and has lived in the Ravenna Bryant neighborhood for over 40 years and studied art and architecture at the University of Washington. He has contributed to this community on the board of the Happy Medium School (an alternative preschool), coaching baseball for the NE Little League and youth soccer programs and volunteer support for the jazz bands at Eckstein Middle School and Roosevelt High School. He is currently the president of the local Ravenna Emergency Preparedness committee. He has been a Seattle Art Museum volunteer since 2013 working exclusively for the Gardener Center for Asian Art and Ideas and its Saturday University Lecture Series. John’s professional career spans 35 years as a business consultant and project manager in custom architectural residential and commercial construction and 15 years as a real estate broker licensed under Coldwell Banker Bain. He participates in a number of trade organizations.
October 1, 2022, 1:00-2:30 PM at the west entrance to Cowen Park. Neighbors and city government officials invited. Walking tour of Cowen area with local architect & historian Larry Johnson at 1:30 PM. Sponsored by FORC.
You can download Walk 1 here and take a self-guided tour too. This one covers only the western portion of the Ravenna-Cowen North National Historic District, west of 15th Avenue NE. There’s still much more to see in this section—the tour highlights a few points of interest that you might enjoy seeing.
We are working on at least three additional walking tours, so keep an eye out for more to be posted on our website in the future. We are eager to share much more of the history and lore of the Ravenna-Cowen North National Historic District. Future tours will cover some points of interest in the much larger portion of the historic district located east of 15th Avenue NE. We also plan to cover history and features of Ravenna Park in future walking tour.
In late 2018, FORC applied for a City of Seattle Small Sparks grant from the Department of Neighborhoods (DON) to install Historic District street signs. The application was approved in 2019, and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) installed the signs in February 2020. The signs were paid for by a combination of volunteer time spent by FORC volunteers and matching funds from the Small Sparks grant. The signs are official brown (denoting historic significance) and are mounted on street poles or light poles at 12 approved locations that will help identify the Ravenna-Cowen North National Historic District.
Thank you for considering a donation to the Friends of Ravenna-Cowen (FORC). We are an all-volunteer, charitable 501(c)(3) organization (Tax ID #82-2731235). Your donation is 100% tax-deductible. Please consider asking your employer if they match donations.
You can also mail a check to:
Friends of Ravenna-Cowen
1037 NE 65th St., #105
Seattle, WA 98115
Your donations to date have funded the development of this website for public use. This site includes an interactive database where you can look up your home and read the relevant historical information that we gathered so far while researching 443 properties in the Ravenna-Cowen Historic District.
Our next project is to build the capacity for you to add family historical files to the database. We know that many of you have stories and pictures about your home. Together we will build a repository of information that can be shared with future generations and that will keep the history of the Ravenna-Cowen neighborhoods alive. The approximate cost to further develop the interactive database is $10,000. We’ll need more volunteers too.
We’re developing ideas for other future projects, which might include additional signage and/or interpretive materials, development of historic overlay to help retain neighborhood historic integrity, historic neighborhood/house tours, workshops on topics helpful for homeowners, research workshops, and educational collaborations. We would love to hear your ideas for future projects. Our contact information is below.
Friends of Ravenna-Cowen
1037 NE 65th St., #105
Seattle, WA 98115
Feel free to reach out to us via email at email@example.com or by clicking on the button below.