The Roosevelt Neighborhood is a diverse, eclectic, socially-active community that serves as a transportation and commercial hub for Northeast Seattle. Through thoughtful planning, Roosevelt successfully integrates diverse housing and employment options, mass transit, thriving commercial activity, and open space to create a livable and sustainable neighborhood.
Before the arrival of United States settlers, the neighborhoods of Roosevelt and Ravenna was notable for Ravenna creek that ran from Green Lake and drained into Union Bay. Douglas Fir and other huge trees over 100 years old covered the landscape, and American Indians had a permanent winter settlement near the shores of Union Bay.
In 1891, Seattle annexed the area that later became the Roosevelt neighborhood, and in 1906 developer Charles Cowen donated eight acres of the ravine to the city to form Cowen Park. The 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition at the UW campus helped develop the area further, but 10th Avenue (later named Roosevelt Way) was still an unpaved country road.
While the neighborhood grew, the nation’s youngest president, Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt (though he preferred his childhood nickname ‘Teedie’ or his signature ‘TR’) became renowned for his combination of rugged cowboy persona and progressive policies. As an early proponent of the conservation movement, he protected 230 million acres of land and developed the national parks system. After his presidency, wanting a more progressive party to fight for social and economic justice, he formed the Bull Moose Party in 1912 – named when Roosevelt declared during a speech that “It takes more than that to kill a bull moose,” just minutes after being wounded in an assassination attempt.
President Roosevelt further endeared himself to local residents during his visit a 17-stop ‘Whistle Tour’ of Washington in 1903, when 150,000 people attended a parade through downtown Seattle. He toured the Northwest, and would later preserve much of the region’s natural beauty by creating National Parks, wildlife preserves, and other protected areas. During his visit to Seattle, Roosevelt is said to have visited Ravenna Park, where one of the landowners named the tree with the largest girth after the president; TR is said to have whispered his approval.
After Theodore Roosevelt’s death in 1919, citizens fondly remembered his Seattle visits: the neighborhood high school was named in his memory, and 10th Ave became Roosevelt Way. A naming contest in 1927 made the “Roosevelt Neighborhood” name official. Through the 1920s, the neighborhood continued to grow and in 1928, Sears, Roebuck & Co. opened a store in the bustling commercial district on 65th St. In business for more than 50 years. The site is now home to the Roosevelt Square shopping center that includes Whole Foods. As the University of Washington grew and expanded, the neighborhood became home to university-connected individuals and families and additional restaurants and amenities have cropped up over the years.
The Roosevelt Neighborhood has seen significant development and change since 2008 when regional voters endorsed the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure. During the planning stages, Roosevelt community members rejected plans to site the station near the I-5 highway, instead urging for the station to become a fixture of the central neighborhood. This has driven development of thousands of new housing units, and several new businesses moving to the neighborhood. In 2019, the Seattle City Council passed Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) measures that ensure new residential development contributes to affordable housing. Much like the president who bears the neighborhood’s name, Roosevelt residents have long advocated for progressive and inclusive policies to increase affordable housing and increase equity in the community.
Today, Roosevelt is in preparation for the opening of the Sound Transit Light Rail station in late 2021 and welcoming many new residents into the neighborhood. We are now one of the best neighborhoods in Roosevelt for walking, biking, and transit!
*This history was compiled using articles from historylink.org and theodoreroosevelt.org