Licton Springs is both a residential neighborhood and a natural spring at the north end of Licton Springs Park, which has a long history as both a unique recreational spot and a commercial crossroads. The neighborhood, wedged between the busy corridors of Interstate 5 and Aurora Avenue, takes its name from Liq’tid (LEEK-teed) or Licton, the Lushootseed (Whulshootseed) Coast Salish word for the reddish mud of the springs—. The Dkhw’Duw’Absh, People of the Inside and Xacuabš, People of the Large Lake, Lushootseed (Skagit-Nisqually) Coast Salish native people had used the springs area as a spiritual health spa since the area was populated after the last glacial period (c. 8,000 BCE—10,000 years ago). In the 1850s, the Dkhw’Duw’Absh and Xacuabš became the Duwamish tribe of today.
Seattle pioneer David Denny built a summer cabin near the springs around 1870. The natural spring fed Green Lake before it was capped and drained to the Metro sewer system after it became contaminated by residential development (1920, 1931). The Olmsted Brothers designed a park for Licton Springs, as part of a grand streets and parks plan for Seattle (1930s), but this park was never implemented. A park does exist today (where Woodlawn Avenue curves to connect with N 95th Street) in which the spring is located. In the mid-1960s restoration began with bond issues and increasing volunteer assistance, resulting in a small pond and natural wetland vegetation as well as urban park amenities. A Native American presence continues in the neighborhood through the Indian Heritage School at Wilson-Pacific. This school hosts frequent Indian Pow Wows and spectacular wall murals by Indian artist Andrew Morrison.
Mosaic tile at Licton Springs Park, Seattle, Washington
Exotic waterfowl habitat at Pillings Pond
The Everett and Interurban Railway Company (1900–1936) came past the neighborhood in 1906. The trolleys became a part of everyday life and development of residential neighborhoods around trolley stops. Running on a narrow right-of-way through backyards, the whistle became part of the atmosphere of neighborhoods like Licton Springs. In the early years, the line ran through cut forest and rural farms. A few sawmills along the way gave the line a business hauling lumber. The rough wagon road became Aurora Avenue N (1930) after being paved with brick (1913) and asphalt (1928). A most distinctive early feature was the motorist “tourist camps”, “auto camps”, and later, “auto courts”, then the now-familiar motels. One or two still remained at the turn of the 20th century.
The Pilling family had a dairy farm (1909–1933), out of which grew the waterfowl habitat and birding site of Pilling’s Pond today. Japanese-Americans had greenhouses and small farms until they were abruptly forcibly removed with the Japanese American Internment (1942–1945).
North College Park
Seattle annexed most of North Seattle in 1954. North College Park became defined with the Licton Springs neighborhood with the establishment of North Seattle Community College (1970).
Facing NW. Soon after 2006 renovation
Licton Springs and the Sunny Walter–Pillings Pond are part of the Densmore Drainage Basin. The springs at the North Police Precinct and North Seattle Community College are headwaters of the south fork of Thornton Creek; this fork flows through culverts under I-5 and the south lot of Northgate Mall development. These neighborhoods are natural extensions of Maple Leaf downstream. Neighborhood activists and North Seattle Community College (NSCC) have been promoting habitat restoration in support. NSCC grounds have a nationally-recognized native habitat, a pentimento of restored native species on a palimpsest of former 1940s suburb, former dairy farm, former bog where native Dkhw’Duw’Absh harvested cranberries.