Go visit the new bears on First Hill!
Seattle Parks and Recreation encourages the neighborhood to go discover the two new bronze bear cubs named Johnnie and Irish at the newly renovated First Hill park. The community-initiated park renovations re-opened in late January 2021. First Hill Park is a .25-acre urban park located along University St. and Minor St. immediately north of the Stimson-Green Mansion in a densely populated residential neighborhood. It features a custom bronze sculpture of an Edwardian chair, ottoman, and two bear cubs.
The new design seeks to create a more open and flexible space allowing for performance and passive activities to occur, while retaining an intimate garden feel, an important characteristic of the First Hill Neighborhood. Seating areas are interspersed among lushly planted beds, and a curvilinear seat step meanders through the park and frames the lawn suited for small events and gatherings. In a nod to the previous brick paving, the new park features permeable pavers laid in a herringbone pattern that also act as a sieve that treats and percolates storm water into the ground below. New barbeque and picnic benches are available for neighbors to enjoy in this dense urban environment.
The bronze sculpture by artist Georgia Gerber sits near the entrance along University and recalls the history of the Stimson Green Mansion family’s adoption and care for the young bears until their transfer to the Woodland Park Zoo. The two black bear cubs were orphaned due to logging in the area in 1906, but they were promptly adopted by 8-year-old Dorothy Stimson, who lived in the Stimson-Green Mansion at the time.
In 2016, the First Hill Improvement Association (FHIA) engaged the community to reimagine and update First Hill Park as a vibrant, welcoming, and safe open space for the neighborhood where people of all ages and abilities can relax and play. FHIA hired the landscape architecture firm, Site Workshop, to guide First Hill neighbors through a community visioning and design process. SPR awarded the construction contract to GreenTech in early 2020. The protective fencing around the grass will be removed once the turf establishes.
“We look forward to celebrating with the community, hopefully, sometime this summer when it will be safer to gather,” said Doug Holtom, Executive Director of the First Hill Improvement Association. “Thank you to everyone who participated in the public process and provided invaluable input to get us where we are today. A special thanks to the Seattle Parks Department, the Department of Neighborhoods, and Swedish Medical Center. We encourage you to visit the park, take some pictures and hashtag #FirstHillPark. We are thrilled at how the renovation turned out for our neighborhood backyard!”
The project was made possible by funding from the Department of Neighborhoods, Swedish Health Services and the 2008 Parks and Green Spaces Levy. The artwork was funded separately through a FHIA led art committee with the generous contributions of the Peach Foundation, the Committee of 33, the Seattle Parks Foundation, Suzanne Hittman, and Harriet Bullitt.