Long before Sand Point became a refuge for families and individuals who’ve lived through homelessness, it was a place of aviation innovation and history making.
It was here, on this small peninsula on Lake Washington, that a crew of Army Air Corps pilots landed in 1924 after completing the world’s first flight around the globe. It’s where some of the earliest Boeing airplanes were tested, and where some 8,000 civilians and naval personnel worked in support of the war effort during World War II.
Today, some of that history has been brought back to colorful life thanks in part to several teenagers living in Solid Ground’s Sand Point Housing. The teens were among 27 young artists who spent two weeks last summer painting a series of aviation murals as part of a program organized by Friends of Magnuson Park, a nonprofit organization dedicated to telling the history of Magnuson Park as well as inspiring the success of young people who now live on the former naval air base.
The murals, eight in total, now hang over the windows of Building 41, a long-empty gas station just down the street from Solid Ground’s housing campus. Friends hopes to one day convert the gas station into an interpretive center where visitors can learn about the fascinating history of the peninsula.
“This mural project not only offered an enriching learning experience for local youth, but also acts as a protective measure for an unused building within the Historic District. It serves as one of the only indications of this area’s connection to Seattle aviation history currently visible within the Park,” says Elisa Law, Friends of Magnuson Park Executive Director.
Sand Point served as a naval air base from 1922 until the 1970s, when it was decommissioned and much of its 413 acres became what is now Magnuson Park. Many of the old naval buildings are still standing, including six that Solid Ground helped convert into housing for people who have experienced homelessness (three of these are operated by Solid Ground, three by partner agencies).
“This mural project not only offered an enriching learning experience for local youth, but also acts as a protective measure for an unused building within the Historic District. It serves as one of the only indications of this area’s connection to Seattle aviation history currently visible within the Park.” ~Elisa Law, Friends of Magnuson Park Executive Director
As part of its ongoing mission to keep the history of Magnuson Park alive for future generations, Friends commissioned local artist and educator Sandy Bricel Miller – whose Red Ochre Art Studio is located inside Magnuson’s Building 30 West artist studios – to design a series of murals and oversee their production by a group of young artists.
As part of the work, for which they earned a stipend, the teenagers learned about color theory, brush strokes, and the process of transforming a small sketch into a large-format mural. Speakers also stopped by to share stories about the history and significance of the aircraft depicted in the paintings the youth produced.
“This was a really great opportunity to connect our kids with the larger community here at Sand Point, as well as the incredible history of the place where they live,” says Oliver Alexander-Adams, Family and Children’s Program Manager at Sand Point Housing. “Sandy incorporated youth voices and input into the work that let them really engage with the art they were creating.”
The murals, which were unveiled last fall, feature a variety of aircraft that flew from Sand Point over the decades, including a Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar, Boeing Model C, Curtiss Flying Jenny, and the Douglas World Cruisers that made that historic first trip around the world. They are on display at Building 41 on NE 74th Street, just inside the main entrance to the park.
The project was supported by the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, 4Culture, Seattle Landmarks Board, and Seattle Parks and Recreation.
Learn more about the Friends of Magnuson Park and find out how you can support their effort to convert Building 41 into a visitors’ center at the Friends of Magnuson Park website or by contacting them at email@example.com.