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Meridian Playground at Good Shepherd Center

Published on: January 20, 2007

Children's Books and a Secret Orchard
4649 Sunnyside Ave. N., Seattle

Meridian Playground is a special place. The past is palpable here, and
a thoughtfully designed playground magnifies the feeling of being
transported from busy Seattle to a slower, quieter corner of the city.

Meridian Playground sits on land that was originally part of the
grounds of the Home of the Good Shepherd, an orphanage and home for
"wayward" girls. Opened in 1907 and run by the Catholic Sisters of the
Good Shepherd, the looming facility was a neighborhood fixture, both
forbidding and intriguing, until 1973. Historic Seattle, a non-profit
organization dedicated to preserving Seattle's architectural heritage, (
purchased the site in 1975. The building currently houses a senior
center, school, garden organization Seattle Tilth, artist work and
living spaces, and many other community groups. More history of the
Home of the Good Shepherd is available at

The old apple trees that dot the park grounds are remnants of an
orchard maintained by the sisters and their charges. Preserved at the
insistence of the Wallingford Community Council, the trees still bear
fruit,unsprayed and free for the picking. Finding this old- fashioned
orchard preserved in the heart of Seattle is true serendipity.

Set inside the garden walls that surround the Good Shepherd Center,
Meridian Playground feels secret and very special. Its theme is
children's books. The project of Friends of Meridian Playground, built
in cooperation with the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department and the
Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, was three years in the making and
opened in March 2002. It replaced a playground built in 1980. Each play
feature has been thoroughly thought through and beautifully executed,
and each is unique. Children are welcomed into the play area by a
fabulous Dr. Seuss circle game designed by Lisa Burgess Alm. Beginning
readers will enjoy sounding out the many book titles and quotations
carved into stones embedded in the low wall that separates the play
area from the park at large.

The climbing
structure, one of the most innovative in any Seattle park, is fun even
for older kids who usually eschew playgrounds. A basketball court is in
clear sight but not so near as to put toddlers at risk. Other features
include broad low slides with stone facings, a large sand play area, a
water play area and swings. A life-sized bronze sculpture of Carl, the
hero of Alexandra Day's Good Dog, Carl
series, was created by Kevin Patel with permission from Day and her
publisher Farrar-Strauss. Lisa Kuh, who heads the Friends of Meridian
Playground, says that Day generously allowed the group access to her
enormous collection of antique children's picture books, greatly aiding
the design process. Meticulous care went into this playground, and it
shows. It is more than worth a visit.

miss "Meridian Archway," a twisting stone wall ramp leading to the
park's northwest exit. Designed by Chuck Greening with Maria Kern and
Rob Williamson, it was constructed in 1981.

The numerous bronze statues scattered through the park are
touch-friendly. Many portions of the playground are
wheelchair-accessible but the routes from parking areas to playground
may be tricky. One route is via the long drive that starts where Bagley
Ave. dead-ends into the southern side of the Center grounds. Or park in
the accessible-parking spaces in the lot on the east side of the
Center, follow the path past Meridian School, turn right at the picnic
shelter, then left at the end of the path.

The Wallingford branch of the Seattle Public Library is nearby at 1501
N. 45th (206-684-4088). Many food options are available on nearby
N.45th St., notably Boulangerie (2200 N. 45th, 206-634-3959), Starbucks
(2110 N. 45th, 206-548-9507), and Dick's Drive In (111 N.E. 45th,

Paula Becker is a contributing editor for and a mother of three.

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