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Thursday, May 6, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Beaux Arts: It took a Village to provide the soul with a place to rest

Senior news producer, seattletimes.com

City Walks


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The walk: Here's a rare walk: You can take in an entire community — not just a piece of it — in a single afternoon. Even people who live on the Eastside may not be familiar with tiny Beaux Arts Village, the smallest jurisdiction in King County at a mere 10th of a square mile and a population of just over 300.

Beaux Arts was established as an artists' colony in 1908, a creative community living and working along Lake Washington, "to develop art and its appreciation here in the Northwest," according to the community Web site. Originally it was a 50-acre tract of land purchased by members of the Beaux Arts Society, with 10 acres set aside for sketching grounds, workshops, cricket and a tennis court. You could buy your way into membership for $200.

Though that part of the dream died because of back taxes during the Great Depression, the village still feels like a pulse-slowing retreat off the grid of the city, even though it's only minutes away from Bellevue's commercial heart. A walk through its winding paths reveals a quixotic and gracefully aging neighborhood of fairy-tale homes alongside classic Northwest architecture, where people and even streets go by names more often than numbers.

KEN LAMBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Mostly level, narrow roads with very little traffic help make Beaux Arts ideal for walking.

Start just outside of Beaux Arts in Enatai Neighborhood Park at the corner of Southeast 25th Street and 108th Avenue Southeast in Bellevue; it's the best place to leave a car and set out on foot. From the southern end of the park, you'll take a footpath into the woods. In fact, you're near people's back yards, a note that should be respected along this walk.

You'll emerge at 106th Place Southeast. Though in Beaux Arts, those official street names rest alongside hand-painted community signs — 106th is "Crosse Creek Way" and a dead end to cars. You've gone about two-tenths of a mile. Follow south to an intersection of mailboxes.

You can go in either direction from here, or walk a loop between Southeast 27th and Southeast 28th, using "Covert Road" (which isn't on the Thomas Guide or Web map) to go between them. Now you'll see an in-city forest of cedar and fir spiking into the sky and a host of native and adapted plants — rhododendrons, azaleas, euphorbias, magnolias.

KEN LAMBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES
A carved bear keeps an eye on the activity in Beaux Arts.

Walking west, you'll reach 104th Avenue Southeast, or "Beaux Arts Way," the main thoroughfare. Whichever side of the loop you've taken, you can cross over to the same streets on the west side of 104th. Southeast 27th turns into a private road that goes to the water, and is restricted to community residents and guests. The nearest public swimming area is Chesterfield Beach Park nearby on 100th Avenue Southeast. Southeast 28th also goes to the water, but has another park-like loop along 103rd Southeast. If you take all of the loops and side streets, you'll walk about two miles.

Secret tip: Keep an eye out for a magical house that goes by the name of Toad Hall on Southeast 28th Street. Also, if you have a way of getting airborne, it's said that the initials for Beaux Arts Village are still visibly laid out in its streets.

Lunch stop: Beaux Arts doesn't have any retail business, so you'll have to head into (old) Bellevue for food. Gilbert's on Main (10024 Main St.) is a favorite stop, with generous sandwiches, and one of the more comfortable places to settle in and read on a quiet afternoon. Or, especially on weekends, you can follow a long tradition by tucking into breakfast at Chace's Pancake Corral (1606 Bellevue Way S.E.), which may be 50 years younger than Beaux Arts but still offers up the atmosphere of the good old days.

Access: Within Beaux Arts, the streets are paved and even, though there are no sidewalks.

Parking/bus routes: Parking is limited to neighborhood streets or nearby Enatai Neighborhood Park, which is free. To go by bus, the neighborhood is served by Metro Route 222, which stops on 104th.

Lucy Mohl: 206-464-2968 or lmohl@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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