Magnolia is the second largest neighborhood of Seattle by area. It occupies a hilly peninsula northwest of downtown. Magnolia is isolated from the rest of Seattle, connected by road to the rest of the city by only three bridges over the tracks of the BNSF Railway. It has been a part of the city since 1891. A good portion of the peninsula is taken up by Discovery Park, formerly the U.S. Army’s Fort Lawton.
Magnolia is bounded on the north by Salmon Bay and Shilsole of the Lake Washington Ship Canal, on the west by Puget Sound and Elliot Bay, on the south by Elliott Bay and Smith Cove, and on the east by Thorndyke, 20th, and Gilman Avenues W.
Although magnolia trees do line W. McGraw Street in the neighborhood’s commercial district, Magnolia’s naming was actually a misnomer. While out at sea, Captain Vancouver saw the huge Madrona trees atop the peninsula’s southern bluffs, but mistook them for magnolias and noted this in the ship’s log. Groups are actively working to save the remaining Madrona trees on the bluff.
On Magnolia’s south end is Magnolia Park, overlooking Puget Sound, Mount Rainer, and the city skyline. It features a picnic area and tennis courts across the street. Also in Magnolia are Smith Cove and its marina. Discovery Park, in the northwest, encompasses 534 acres and is Seattle’s largest park. The park is home to eagles, herons, falcons, foxes, and beavers. Seven miles of trails provide visitors with a wilderness experience and views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. Parts of Fort Lawton, such as the officer’s homes and other historic buildings remain in the park. Adjacent to Discovery Park is West Point, featuring the West Point Lighthouse, which was built in 1881 and is the oldest lighthouse in the area. Walking trails descend from the park to two miles of beach and the lighthouse.
Magnolia’s business district, called “Magnolia Village” by locals, is home to many specialty stores and professional services, some of Seattle’s top restaurants, and industrial and marine services.
Magnolia Audio Video, a regional electronics retailer now owned by Best Buy, was started in and named after the neighborhood.