Once upon a time, say 1913, a red brick road stretched all the way from Seattle, through Bothell and headed north to Everett.
On its opening day — celebrated locally as “Good Roads Day” — some 80 cars an hour tried out the new street, which allowed the first dependable travel from Seattle to Bothell. It was a 55-minute trip at the time.
According to architectural designer Vicki Somppi, there isn’t much of that road remaining. There is one stretch sitting in Bothell near the southwest corner of the intersection of State Route 522 and 96th Avenue Northeast.
Thanks to the efforts of Somppi and other members of the city’s Landmark Preservation Board, that stretch of the Red Brick Road is the centerpiece of a park currently undergoing some major renovations.
As they mark National Preservation Month, the preservation board wanted to highlight historically significant places or things besides the obvious buildings.
According to Somppi, the Red Brick Road is one such landmark.
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Reopened to vehicle traffic only during the current renovations, the remaining Red Brick Road stretches from the south side of SR 522 to 96th Avenue. At one time, it made a hairpin turn to what was the Wayne Curve Bridge.
While it, too, was a formal landmark, the bridge was removed four or five years ago, Somppi said, adding the structure was simply unstable. Concrete pieces were falling onto the Burke-Gilman trail that runs beneath the bridge and next to the Red Brick Road Park.
According to Somppi, who was clearly one of the driving forces behind its creation, the Red Brick Road Park became a key project of the Landmark Preservation Board in the early 1990s. They used an entire year’s budget along with a King County preservation grant to make the park happen.
As currently configured, the park covers half an acre, encompassing the road and a small grotto-like area with a bench and a plaque honoring Barbara Graves, a Bothell senior city planner who died in 1997, but had made maintaining the Red Brick Road a priority.
“She was really an advocate for historic preservation,” Somppi said.
The bench area also formerly contained a marker created by the Landmark Board, but was presumably removed by the city during the ongoing reconstruction of the park.
Just a short distance from the small grotto, is a picnic bench built and installed by Somppi’s son, Ian, as part of his 1999 Eagle Scout project. At least one other bench was vandalized and removed. Off to the side of the picnic area, Somppi said her son helped create a pathway down to the Burke-Gilman Trail.
During reconstruction of the park, the pathway will become permanent, allowing access to and from the trail by scooters or wheelchairs.
Somppi said other changes to the park will include a wall built along the northeastern side of the road. The picnic area will be improved. Parking will be added to the side of the Red Brick Road with decorative bollards blocking any vehicle access to the road itself.
“In a way, we are recreating what a historic highway looked like,” Somppi said. “Is it going to be 100-percent accurate? No, but it doesn’t have to be.”
According to Somppi, the important thing is preservation of the road. She expressed some concern that road and its bricks are starting to deteriorate and the problem may get worse if the park gets more traffic, even foot traffic.
The landmark board already replaced and repaired some of the bricks when they created the park. They made the park’s main sign out of bricks left over from the park’s creation.
“I personally think it’s really cool to have something like this in our community,” Somppi said. “Not every community has these things.”