Next step toward Watton family’s pocket-park gift: Teardown

This isn’t the only house being demolished in West Seattle today, but we’re pretty sure it’s the only one with a backstory like this: It’s the house at 3823 SW Willow in Gatewood that was mentioned here three months ago, as Seattle Parks notified neighbors about the plans to turn it into a pocket park, thanks to a “reserved life estate donation” from George Watton, who lived there with wife DeLayne Watton for more than half a century. He built the house after returning home from World War II and had arranged the donation of the site, plus money to cover demolition, long before his death last year at age 95 (his wife died in 2007). Parks has said that after the site is cleared – today’s teardown follows a long period of more-gentle “deconstruction” – they will embark on site restoration and turf establishment, to be complete by next spring.

P.S. Thanks to Joseph for sharing the photo!

ADDED: And thanks to Ron for this view hours later, as the final wall of the house was brought down:

21 Replies to "Next step toward Watton family's pocket-park gift: Teardown"

  • John November 10, 2014 (9:58 am)

    What a great and caring gift for West Seattle….
    The neighbors will be happy to have a nice play area in their neighborhood.

  • John 2 November 10, 2014 (10:24 am)

    Will any trees be allowed?

  • BlairJ November 10, 2014 (11:08 am)

    Looks like that park might have a great view!

  • JanS November 10, 2014 (11:16 am)

    BlairJ, I was just going to comment on the view. What a great neighborhood place to go watch the sunset ! And so glad this didn’t go to a developer :)

  • wakeflood November 10, 2014 (11:24 am)

    Generations of people will enjoy this. Thanks so much on behalf of the rest of us. May this encourage others who can give back, choose to do so.

  • KM November 10, 2014 (10:41 pm)

    LOVE this!

  • cj November 11, 2014 (11:18 am)

    What a nice gesture, and it has a view! Well hopefully for a while.

  • Bruce November 11, 2014 (9:08 pm)

    Love the donated park space, but am saddened a house had to be demolished.
    Hope somebody will start a new tradition of donating to Habitat for Humanity, to a homeless shelter, or moving to a vacant lot.

  • T. Karnofski November 14, 2014 (7:09 pm)

    The way the house was built didn’t allow it be relocated. Before it was taken down all usable parts(sinks, doors etc) were salvaged. The company that did the demo. took the stuff to a place where it is being sorted and all metal, wiring etc. is being salvaged.

    Mr and Mrs Watton made very careful decisions so that as much as possible would have a second or third life.

  • lml November 15, 2014 (7:30 am)

    Wow! This is such a gift to all of us. I want to know more about Mr and Mrs Watton and I wish I knew more people like these beautiful souls.

    • WSB November 15, 2014 (7:33 am)

      I reached out to their family in hopes they would want to be interviewed, when I first found out about this months ago – the Parks Department gave me an e-mail address. They did not respond, unfortunately.

  • TK November 15, 2014 (8:03 am)

    At the time WSB e-mailed me, circumstances were such that it would not have been appropriate to be interviewed. I am sorry and wish I could have been helpful at that time.

    • WSB November 15, 2014 (8:06 am)

      Hi! If you are able to speak now (or sometime soon), – still interested. This will be taking shape in the neighborhood for some months so it certainly remains newsworthy. – TR

  • J&J November 15, 2014 (9:06 am)

    This is on my walking route. I’ve been wondering what was going on there. The real story brought a tear to my eye but put a smile on my face! The corner just above at 37th and Willow is one of the nicest views in West Seattle and I always stop at the top to take it in. To have a park there where everyoine can share the beauty will be such a gift! Thank you to the Wattons! I hope that there will be some little mention of them in the park when it’s done.

  • wssz November 15, 2014 (6:38 pm)

    Their amazing story filled with kindness and compassion toward others is on the front page of today’s Seattle Times:

  • Karen November 16, 2014 (10:11 am)

    We used to live down the street. Living out of state, we miss this view so much! So grateful, that we can go back to our old neighborhood, and enjoy the spectacular view next time we are in town. As you can see by the story, the people here are as amazing as the view!

  • Ed November 16, 2014 (8:24 pm)

    This is a wonderful gift and no doubt the donor’s hearts were in the right place.

    However, I can’t help but think that this park being so isolated will largely benefit the mostly affluent people who live in the immediate area. Their already high property values increased even more. The folks across the street now have an even better view which will increase the values of their homes.

    I might have approached the neighbors and asked that they donate money towards an endowment for the creation and future maintenance of the park which no doubt most of them could have easily afforded.

    • WSB November 16, 2014 (8:57 pm)

      I know what you’re saying, Ed, but consider … if you take a spin through King County Parcel Viewer, the sites around this house are valued in the $400-$600K range. Certainly not low income. But not high-income, either; at least some have likely lived there many years and might be affluent on paper only. As for who it’ll benefit … we first heard about this months ago from a couple who walk through that neighborhood though they live a couple miles north. People like them might benefit. Maybe this will inspire others to leave legacies of little open spaces in their neighborhoods. Breathing room as the years go by, whether the neighborhoods remain single-family or densify. – TR

  • Jesse Andreini November 17, 2014 (10:32 am)

    Yes! Pocket parks! I have driven past this site several times in recent months and wondered what sort of curious thing was going on. Sure the “rich” get richer, but every neighborhood loves a pocket park. We need property owners everywhere to think of this as one option in the quiver. The unofficial pocket park/greenspace east of Walt Hundley, near my house, has perennial 300-unit developments lurking. Maybe the owners ought to deed it over to parks and have done with it.
    On a personal note, I am a cabinetmaker and use a lot of local historic wood. Was any of the old fir undoubtedly in the house salvaged? Sinks are great, but we’re throwing away a lot of Seattle’s legacy of old-growth softwood by demolition.

  • Wendy November 17, 2014 (11:50 am)

    Gone, but not forgotten … forever a West Seattleite.

  • TK November 19, 2014 (8:07 am)

    To Jesse and Ed, Yes the oak flooring was salvaged, along with any other reusable wood. Wattons’ not only donated the property but also money to take the house down and help develop the pocket park. The term pocket park indicates that, yes, it will basically serve those in the neighborhood. Much better use of the land than having a large structure built on it. I don’t see how a couples generous donation to the neighborhood where they lived and raised children could be considered anything but wonderful.

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