Located near the west end of the Evergreen Point Bridge, Madison Park stands out not as a typical urban neighborhood but as a unique, and dog friendly enclave.
Written by Elizabeth Henkes | Photography by David Henkes
At the west end of the Evergreen Point Bridge lays the tiny village of Madison Park. An affluent neighborhood founded in 1865 by Judge John J. McGilvra (former resident of Illinois and a contemporary of Abraham Lincoln), Madison Park sits on the edge of Lake Washington, near the arboreal, expansive Washington Park Arboretum. On this particular sunny Saturday morning the weather is still cool but hinting of spring; folks of all ages are out enjoying the day, and there are dogs everywhere!
Although considered to be somewhat exclusive, this stately area is also incredibly welcoming. The main street, Madison Street, caters to independent business owners of all kinds. We elect to stop first at Pharmaca integrative pharmacy, where Sawyer and Winston are immediately given biscuits and attention by Kelly, one of several knowledgeable employees. Here you can find recognizable “standard” pharmacy brands, but there’s also a host of alternative therapies and gifts to choose from. Daniel, one of the pharmacists, is especially helpful in recommending items to fend off spring allergies, and the boys nearly get a second biscuit out of him.
Since it’s early morning in Seattle, a cup of coffee is required, and we can choose between either local chain, Tully’s, or Seattle staple, Starbucks. Both are just doors away from each other and have ample space for sitting outside. There are dogs tied up in both courtyards, alone and with their owners! One, a handsome chocolate Lab named Cadbury, graciously poses for photos while his owner gets us up to date on the dog-friendliness that abounds here. (She tells us that the local Wells Fargo keeps a Polaroid handy to immortalize your dog on its neighborhood board when you come to do your banking!) Tully’s keeps a jar of dog treats on the counter, so we elect to order our usual brews here, and then wander just a few blocks away to Madison Park Bakery. This quaint little spot has a great place to park ourselves and the dachshunds outside. We’re feeling a little reckless, and enjoy a couple of decadent doughnuts with sprinkles on top. They might sound like a basic treat, but these little wonders are some of the best we’ve ever tasted; it’s tempting to take home one of everything else in the case!
Happily fed, we trot down the street to Martha E. Harris Flowers & Gifts. This shop creates beautiful arrangements, and also has a distinct and elegant line of gift items. A range of wares is available for sale, from silver serving sets to delicate guest soaps. Frances is running the shop today, and she welcomes our dynamic duo, while giving us the scoop on resident shop dog, Gracie. A rescued mix, Gracie has a little of everything in her, and comes complete with an amazing rescue story. She has her own bed in the back of the store near the floral counter and regularly greets customers; sometimes sharing her bed with Tucker, the small dog from a store nearby.
Only a few doors away, we discover Cookin’ at Madison Park, a culinary-lover’s dream, filled with fun and functional items for your kitchen. The oil and cookware selection is diverse, and the shop’s dog-friendliness is made apparent by the bone-shaped cookie cutters on display. This store also has a resident canine, Parker, a Norwich terrier. Unfortunately he’s not here today, but we are assured that he presides over the shop often. His owner, Jan, is running the store, and she happily greets our nosy hounds as well as a new puppy that has come by to pay a social call.
We continue our easy morning wander, encountering a number of canine and human friends along the way. Passing the Madison Park Café, we note its dog-friendly outdoor seating, available in warmer weather. Although it’s been in existence in one form or another for nearly 30 years, the renowned café only serves dinner in the evenings (French bistro style), in addition to brunch on the weekends. Local residents pass along the great news that the majority of the restaurants on the main street open up outdoor seating as the seasons change and that canine companions are quite welcome at most spots.
Our eyes are suddenly caught by something just a little out of place: a red telephone booth, straight off a London sidewalk! It turns out to be part of the façade of Best Buds, a tiny but first-rate little nursery tucked away on a side street. We step inside the building and despite the small quarters, Sawyer and Winston are given immediate greetings; owner John and I exclaim over the arrival of Tete-a-Tetes, miniature narcissus that are generally a first sign of spring. We continue through the small retail enclosure into a compact but darling little outdoor courtyard that already has a great selection of spring plantings to choose from. We can’t wait to see what this little gem has to offer once the season is in full bloom!
The activity in the downtown area is really starting to pick up, so we decide to explore the green space that is Madison Park. The upper area sits above the retail district, and sports a large and innovative playground (dogs are not allowed inside children’s play areas), surrounded by an ample grassy area where the boys find lots of interesting things to sniff. There are “mutt mitts” available for use if needed, and canine friends all around. It’s a great place to have a little picnic under one of the sprawling trees on a warm spring day.
Once we’ve checked out the grassy upper level, we cross the street and make our way down the hill and towards the water to the other half of the park. Dogs must remain on leash (there is a beach and swimming area at the edge of the park), but this is a fun place to meet new friends in a tranquil spot. Our hounds are thrilled to spot a couple of fellow dachshunds, Sadie and Jack, as well as a gorgeous golden retriever, Gracie, whose friendly owner spends a few minutes chatting about the vast number of canines that reside in the neighborhood.
Eventually, Sawyer and Winston wear out both themselves and their owners, and the four of us call it a day. Madison Park’s reputation precedes itself, but we were happy to discover how committed it is to its canines. We can’t wait to get back and track down the many more secrets it holds within its hospitable neighborhood.
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