Seattle Parks and Recreation remembers Powell Barnett

Powell Barnett being shown development plans by John O. Andrew, former Chair of the Board of Parks Commissioners (left), Hans A. Thompson, former Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent, and Roy Lehner of the David Jensen Association in October 1970.
Photo courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives

The 4.4-acre park that lies between East Alder and East Jefferson streets was named for civil rights activist and community leader Powell Barnett in 1969.

Barnett’s father, an ex-slave, was recruited to work in the coal mines in Roslyn, Washington in 1889. Barnett worked in the mines as a young man, but moved to Seattle in 1906 to explore other opportunities. He worked as a sub-foreman installing street car lines and later helped build downtown hotels. He clerked for State Senator Frank Connor and served as a maintenance man at the King County Courthouse before retiring at age 71.

Barnett is remembered for his passion to improve race relations in the city. He organized the Leschi Improvement Council and became the first president in 1967, in addition to organizing the East Madison YMCA and serving as board chairman.

Barnett helped bring together different races in the YMCA and was the first African American to become a member of the once all-white Musicians Union, Local 76.

Powell Barnett Park has a children’s play area, summer wading pool, basketball hoops and tricycle maze.