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 E. Johnson, AIA 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 since 1986. 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) are long-term Ravenna residents. Judy is a retired lawyer, has been involved as a neighborhood advocate over many years, and has served on quite a few non-profit organization boards. Judy represented Friends of Ravenna-Cowen in the administrative appeal against the City of Seattle because the city proposed to upzone sections of what is now the Ravenna-Cowen North National Historic District. Ultimately, Friends of Ravenna-Cowen prevailed. Judy has found it a pleasure working with Friends of Ravenna-Cowen, a truly dedicated and caring group of people and, through this organization, meeting, and getting to know the remarkable people who live here and the many other friends who do not live here but who have helped with its mission, "To preserve and protect the heritage of the Ravenna-Cowen neighborhood as a shared community resource for all."
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.
Jackie is retired from Edward Jones where he worked as a financial advisor. Previous to his work at Edward Jones, Jackie was a policy analyst and budget analyst at the City of Seattle in the Charles Royer administration. His history of volunteerism includes International Rotary Club, Chinese Information & Service Center, Bryant School and Girl Scout Troop 680 - a predominately dads and daughter’s troop. Jackie currently volunteers at Blessed Sacrament Food Bank, West Ravenna Emergency Preparedness and the National Archives at Seattle. Jackie and his wife, Deb, have lived in the Ravenna neighborhood since 2014. Prior to moving to Ravenna, they lived for 16years in the Bryant neighborhood a few houses from the Wedgwood Rock. Jackie moved to Seattle in 1973 from San Francisco where he was raised and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley.
Lani Johnson strives daily for responsible interaction with our natural and cultural environments. She has been a long-time resident of the Ravenna neighborhood, as well as long-time business owner in the Roosevelt neighborhood. She earned her Master’s in Architecture from the University of Washington, and for over four and a half decades, her professional career included environmental planning consulting services and SEPA/NEPA environmental evaluations. In addition to her professional work and other volunteer activities, Lani has 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 (along with her husband Larry), and is proud to have contributed her time to its successful nomination.
Marilyn Spotswood and her family have been residents of the Ravenna neighborhood for over 20 years. She served as President of the FORC Board for six years. Marilyn spent her professional career researching community-based health care programs and as a project manager for various software companies in Seattle and Bellevue. She has been an active volunteer in her community for the last ten years. Marilyn served on several committees and led major fundraising activities for Bryant Elementary and Billings Middle School. She has served on the Board of Directors for Northeast Seattle Together (NEST) for the last 3 years, serving as President since 2016.
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 the past president of the local Ravenna Emergency Preparedness committee, and served as Vice President of the FORC Board for five years. 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/project manager in custom residential and commercial construction and 15 years as a Washington real estate broker.
We held our fourth walking tour on Saturday, October 7, 2023. This tour focused on the Ravenna Park, the beautiful park that is adjacent to and south of the District. Larry Johnson led one of two groups for the walking tour. He was assisted by board member Lani Johnson, as well as volunteer Dante Moreno. Board member Francesca Renouard and her husband Steven Pool led the second group, assisted by Dr. Lewis Johnson. Research on the park's history took several months and revealed the location and fate of the once majestic three hundred feet tall fir trees that were found within the park. Master Birder and naturalist Wood Wheeler also gave a presentation on the park's natural history.
On Saturday, June 24, FORC hosted the third of our walks through the Historic District. This walking tour covered the easternmost section of the District encompassing the University Place and College plats and portions of the Wade, Wasson, Alder Park, and Ravenna Springs Parks plats, ending up at the Ravenna Commercial District.
On May 6, 2023, FORC hosted our second historical interest walk through the central section of the Historic District. About 60 neighbors participated with FORC president, Larry E. Johnson, AIA, leading the group and pointing out points of interest along the way.
You can download Walk #2 here and take a self-guided tour too. This one covers the middle portion of the Ravenna-Cowen North National Historic District, east of 15th Avenue NE and extending to 20 th Avenue NE.
On October 1, 2022, FORC hosted a celebration of the Ravenna-Cowen Historic District in Cowen Park. Over 50 neighbors and 3 local politicians joined in the event.
FORC Board President Larry Johnson described the mission of the organization and lead a tour of Cowen Park and the Cowen University Park Platt (east and north of Cowen Park). He highlighted 12 unique, historical features of this area. The event was a great success with many people asking when we will host another tour!
Darya Farivar and Dr. Lelach Rave who are running to represent Legislative District 46 in Seattle gave brief remarks on their platform. State Senator Javier Valdez joined on the tour as well.
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.
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.