Leschi: A Tiny ‘Hood
With Lakeside Appeal
Nestled alongside Lake Washington Boulevard on the east side of First Hill where Seattle nudges Lake Washington, you’ll find the tiny, one-of-a-kind community known as Leschi. It’s almost entirely residential, although there is a great little market, a Starbucks, some offices, and a handful of spots to grab a bite to eat with waterfront views. If you’re looking for a Seattle oasis with lots of outdoor activities — especially cycling — Leschi is the neighborhood for you.
2019 Data at a Glance
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Pros & Cons of Living in Leschi, Seattle
The biggest pro of living in Leschi is also probably a con for some: its size. With Madrona to the north, Judkins Park to the west, Lake Washington to the east, and I-90 to the south, this little hamlet doesn’t take up a lot of space compared to other neighborhoods in the city. Being so small and set on the side of a steep hill also limits the space available for homes and commercial real estate, so there isn’t much.
However, Leschi is a beautiful neighborhood with plenty of parks and beautiful views of Lake Washington. The neighborhood has over a dozen parks and green spaces. The most popular are Leschi Park and Frink Park, but the south entrance to Judkins Park also borders the neighborhood at its southwest corner.
There aren’t many restaurants, and one or two longtime eateries have closed for good in the past few years. But the Leschi locations of Bluwater Bistro and Daniel’s Broiler have been around for awhile and seem to be here to stay. Get brunch, lunch, or dinner at Bluwater Bistro, with its fresh menu of Pacific Northwest fare and yummy seafood as well as classic American fare. Daniel’s Broiler is only open for dinner and happy hour, but there’s also a pretty tasty weekend brunch available on Saturdays and Sundays. Happy hour at Daniel’s is also a great deal, with $4 off martinis and delicious bar bites such as Crispy Artichoke Hearts, Crispy Fried Calamari, Seared Ahi Tuna, Daniel’s Bay Shrimp Cocktail, Filet Mignon Steak Strips, and Beef Tenderloin Sliders.
Although there used to be a deli and coffee shop serving the neighborhood, it is no longer open and now the only spot to get your latte or cappuccino fix is Starbucks. The Leschi Market has been a neighborhood staple since its opening in the mid-1940s, and this full-service, family-owned grocery store has everything you could need and a great selection of wine, beer, and specialties. In addition to great organic produce, there’s also an on-site butcher and a wonderful selection of beef, lamb, chicken, fish, a large variety of the Market’s famous home-made sausages, and even many prepared specialties.
That’s about it, though, for Leschi establishments — you’ll need to go elsewhere for your other errands. But if you like a little more seclusion from the busy bustle of Downtown, Leschi is an ideal and very beautiful neighborhood to live in.
History of Leschi, Seattle
Leschi has a very rich history, particularly as it pertains to Seattle’s earliest years. Long before white settlers came to the city in late 1851, Leschi was used as a seasonal settlement for the Duwamish people. Nisqually Chief Leschi was also known to visit the area. Then, in January 1856, the Native Americans used the old Indian trail from Leschi to get to the outskirts of the white settlement in Seattle to attack for the “Battle of Seattle.”
Even after the skirmish, Duwamish continued to occupy the Leschi area. White settlers called the area “Fleaburg” until they found the old trail and began to make their way over to enjoy the beautiful banks of Lake Washington’s western shores. They built cabins and lean-tos, and William Meydenbauer built a house at Leschi from which to explore the eastern shore of the lake, where Bellevue now stands.
In the 1890s, Leschi Park was developed and became a center for vacationing and entertainment. Bicycling became a favorite pastime in the area between 1895 and the early 1900s, and engineer George Cotterill helped to develop bicycle paths here and throughout the city.
A man named Frederick J. Grant named the neighborhood, and was also president of the Leschi cable car company, which transported passengers between Lake Washington and Pioneer Square via Yesler Way.
In 1909, the Lake Washington Steamship Company served the area between Leschi and the AYP fairgrounds at the University of Washington with a 15-minute steamboat ride. The fare was 10 cents per passenger. The sternwheeler and auto ferry Leschi also made regular trips from Leschi to the eastside of Lake Washington, and could carry 400 passengers and “40 teams of autos,” according to an advertisement at the time. It was the last ferry on Lake Washington, and continued serving the Medina, Bellevue, and Kirkland areas even after the completion of the Lake Washington floating bridge in 1940.
By the mid 1900s, Leschi settled into what it is now, a hillside community with an active marina and very tiny commercial area — all with some of the best views in the city.
Home Prices in Leschi, Seattle
The average home in Leschi is valued somewhat higher than the Seattle average, at $546 per square foot, compared with the city’s average of $511. However, with stunning views of Lake Washington and a small, very in-demand inventory, the above-average prices make sense. The average value of a home in Leschi is $960,833, which has declined -2.7%, although values are predicted to rise 0.9% within the next year.
Despite the small size of the neighborhood, the homes in Leschi show a lot of architectural variety. You can find bungalows, colonials, and Tudor-style cottages, as well as Victorian homes, ranch houses, medieval-style mansions, California cottages, and of course early-Northwest and modern homes.
There are few apartment buildings in the area, but for the ones that can be found, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Leschi is $2,018.
Walk Score & Transportation in Leschi
Leschi is not very walkable as it’s set on the steep east side of First Hill, and it is the 41st most walkable neighborhood in Seattle with a score of 72. The bike score for the neighborhood is 71, and Leschi has a transit score of 57.
It’s a bit hard to get to the neighborhood by way of transit, although the lakefront area is served by route 27. In the upper area of the neighborhood, closer to Yesler Way, route 14 travels along Jackson and goes from the Mt. Baker area into Downtown. Route 8 goes from Yesler into Downtown by way of Martin Luther King Jr. Way, and route 3 also goes into Downtown along the northern edge of Leschi at Cherry Street.
Unique Gems in Leschi
With such a tiny commercial area, the best things to do in Leschi revolve around biking and outdoor activities in the neighborhood’s parks. Since its early days, Leschi has been a prime destination and route for cyclists, and numerous popular bike routes pass through the area, including the full Lake Washington route and the Magnuson to Mercer Island route.
Leschi Park: With its pretty grassy hillside across the street from the marina, Leschi Park is a great spot to hang out on a nice, sunny day. It’s an 18.5-acre park with tennis courts, a playground, and a few picnic tables to enjoy your lunch from the Leschi Market.
Madrona Park: Walk or drive just a couple of minutes north to Madrona Park, which has a guarded beach and a play area for summertime recreation in Lake Washington. There are picnic areas as well.
Meet the Moon: Grab a coffee and a cinnamon roll (or a full breakfast or brunch) in the morning; enjoy soups, salads, sandwiches, or tacos for lunch; or stop by for a delicious dinner at Meet the Moon, Leschi’s only all-day eatery. It’s open daily, and offers a weekend brunch as well as a great selection of wine, beer, and cocktails.
The Polka Dot Jersey Bike Shop: Leschi’s attraction for cyclists doesn’t end with its great lakeside routes; The Polka Dot Jersey is a fantastic local bike shop with apparel and gear (as well as bikes), offering everything you need in the way of services as well, from a quick tune-up to a full overhaul. They service all types of bikes and riders, and provide a truly welcoming atmosphere.
Central Pizza: Head up the hill from Leschi Park to Central Pizza to get your ‘za fix, with pies, calzones, pasta, and sandwiches. They offer tasty salads and gluten-free and vegetarian options, and of course, there’s a full bar.