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Going places on light rail: Mount Baker station

July 18th, 2009 at 9:16 am | Posted by Wendi Dunlap

Cheesesteaks are a very short walk away from the elevated Mount Baker Station. Photo by Jason

Cheesesteaks are a very short walk away from the elevated Mount Baker Station. Photo by Jason

The Mount Baker Station is located just west of Rainier Avenue South, and just south of South McClellan Street. Had it been built 40-some years ago at that site, it might have been called Stadium Station; the former site of Sick’s Stadium, home of the American League Seattle Pilots in 1969 (not to mention the Seattle Rainiers for 40 years), is just across the street. It’s now Lowe’s, and there is a small historical display there. (Here’s a video on YouTube that shows the stadium in its heyday, and later in its decrepitude, before it was demolished in the 1970s. And here’s an old documentary about the Pilots, in two parts, with more footage of the stadium and 1960s Seattle.) Sick’s wasn’t just known for baseball, either — Elvis and Jimi Hendrix, among others, played concerts there.

Thirty years after the stadium’s demise, the area is a relatively automobile-focused district containing fast food and big stores like Lowe’s, Rite Aid, and QFC, mostly surrounded by large parking lots, with cars speeding by on Rainier Avenue. It’s not a pedestrian-friendly environment, but the intent is that the new station, and the potential transit-friendly development it will attract, will improve that.

East of the station rises the imposing neoclassical façade of Franklin High School, which opened in 1912 and was renovated in the late 1980s.

Northeast of Lowe’s on MLK, between South Walker and South Bayview streets, you’ll find the Martin Luther King Junior Memorial Park, a tiered, grassy amphitheatre-like space containing a reflecting pool and a 30-foot-tall granite sculpture by Robert Kelly, inspired by King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech.

There is good eating to be found near the station, even if you have to dodge a few cars to find it. Thai Recipe is located in the same strip mall as Domino’s on McClellan, and it is the only Thai restaurant we know of that even borders on North Beacon Hill. The very friendly staff serves good, reliable, and tasty Thai food, available for take out or to eat in the small dining room.

Perhaps your current craving is for a cheesesteak sandwich instead. If so, there’s The Original Philly’s, almost in the shadow of Mount Baker station at the intersection of Rainier and McClellan.

The art at this station includes chandeliers on the underside of the guideway, made from recycled “cobra head” street lights (Sky Within by Sheila Klein), and painted glass forming splashes of color on the glass face of the station (Rain, Steam and Speed and Seattle Sunrise, both by Guy Kemper);

If you continue on the train toward downtown from Mount Baker, you will then turn west and enter the Beacon Hill tunnel. Here’s a video taken by Oran Viriyincy to give you a taste of what it’s like to ride the train from Mount Baker into the tunnel.

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