University District

University District

Seattle’s University District is the area directly surrounding the University of Washington, Seattle’s biggest institute of higher education. The neighborhood that encompasses the school is a strange and diverse mix of people from all different walks and at all different stages of life. Located on the eastern half of Seattle, just north of the Lake Washington Ship Canal, the U-District, as it is called, is centrally located for access to the rest of the city, while being in a prime location for those with business at the University.

The campus takes up much of the central area of the neighborhood, spreading with its sports stadiums and Waterfront Activities Center to the shores of Lake Washington. To the northeast of campus is the outdoor shopping center, University Village. Immediately north of campus is an area dominated by student housing, much of it in the form of group homes and Greek system houses. This section is noisy in the evenings, often a little grungy and very popular with University students for its convenience to the classroom buildings. To the north of that and further to the west are a variety of newer apartment buildings and modest single family homes, meaning it is a careful balance of older students (such as graduate students) and staff and faculty of the University of Washington (often called UW or the U-dub). Running parallel to campus along the eastern edge is University Way, or ‘The Ave’ as it is known locally.

The Ave has not always been a street of great repute. The homeless (often teenagers) who make the street their residence are known as ‘Ave Rats’ and often they or others can be seen using various forms of illegal drugs on the street. Combined with the college bars that litter the area, bringing out violence, vandalism, noise and other sorts of trouble in the evenings and late into the night, the area has well earned its bad reputation. During the day, however, the street is filled with life, as students fill up the budget restaurants and patronize the various shops, many geared toward the limited income of those attending the University.

The layout of the University stems from the Alaska-Yukon Exposition in 1909 and many buildings that stand today can be dated back to that era, such as the College Inn. The campus itself is a beautiful swath of land, lined with academic style buildings, green grass in open spaces and come spring, dotted with the stunning pink of the cherry blossom trees.

With its central location, the U-District pulls visitors from all over town for a variety of events. On Saturdays throughout the year a parking lot north of campus opens as the U-District Farmers’ Market. One of the first neighborhood markets of its type in Seattle, it is also a rare one that is open all year and the only that is limited solely to food vendors. It is packed in the summer with shoppers picking up fresh local produce, and the crowds continue through the fall as it attracts people stopping by on their way to the area’s favorite Saturday activity—Husky football. UW has always had a popular football team, and while they have their ups and downs in the standings, spending a fall afternoon watching from the stands on the shores of Lake Washington is a classic Seattle activity.