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Anderson Gardens 20 Years Later

Location: Seattle, WA

Size: 2,660 SF (P1) 5,725 (P2)

Cost: $70/SF (P1) $218/SF(P2)

Completed: 2001(P1) 2003 (P2)

Photography: Cheryl McIntosh

We visited Anderson Gardens in the fall of 2023, twenty years after the renovation of an existing farmhouse and addition of three new homes focused on a central garden, to see the greenspace and the architecture supporting a community. The story, however, begins much earlier- originally four lots were sold in May of 1925 as part of “Gatewood Gardens”. In the years in between, this land made history.


Rhodes Architecture + Light joined a group of neighbors, purchasing the original house and adjoining land in 2000 from Mary Anderson. From 1932, for seven decades, the land was a home, personal garden, and the place Mary, a teacher, and Lloyd Anderson, an engineer for the electrified Seattle trolley system, raised a family. Then, in 1938, Mary and her husband Lloyd started Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI) in the little white house high above Lincoln Park in West Seattle, taking mail-orders for climbing gear for the cooperative. The attic was the REI warehouse, the basement an assembly line for tents and waterproof gear and REI’s first office, a room off the old kitchen. 


When the Anderson home was renovated in 2000, the planning for the four lots included shared space-a shared entrance, drive and gardens; homes and garages that opened to become workshops surrounding common land dedicated to Lloyd + Mary Anderson. Each house occupied private, “fee-simple” land yet the experiment Rhodes Architecture + Light designed was centered on community and a large greenspace for play, gatherings and growing food, the land becoming the focal point. Three new houses were built two years later. Lloyd and Mary’s house maintains appropriate pride of place in its original elevated place above the garden. 


Since 2001, eight families have gathered here and made the original Anderson’s home and land into a shared collective. The original neighborhood gave way to new families in 2010-12.


After so much history it was a delight to see the land and homes again in 2023 with nurturing gardens (shared and private), the soil yielding flowers, herbs and tomatoes, and the koi pond shaded by mature trees. The houses feel natural, fitted into the hillside, and cared for by another generation enjoying the greenspaces. Some changes are evident-new paint colors, added details, personalization-yet today the soul of the place is more vibrant than ever. 

In revisiting Anderson Gardens in the fall of 2023, we are reminded of the rich history that underpins this remarkable community and honored that Rhodes Architecture + Light had a part in shaping its story. From its origins as a simple farmhouse and the birthplace of REI, to its transformation into a shared collective of homes and gardens, this special community has evolved over the decades while preserving its soul and purpose. The emphasis on community and a connection to nature remains steadfast, even more crucial in today's world. As we reflect on the past twenty years, we find a thriving oasis where vibrant gardens, welcoming spaces, and shared moments continue to define Anderson Gardens. It has become a place where neighbors gather, where nature and architecture harmoniously coexist, and where the spirit of Mary and Lloyd Anderson lives on. In embracing the concept of "Positive Space," Anderson Gardens demonstrates that true beauty lies not only in the structures but in the carefully cultivated boundaries that shape and define this unique haven. Here, the legacy of the past meets the promise of the future, making Anderson Gardens a timeless testament to the enduring power of community, nature, and thoughtful design.


Read more about Anderson Gardens...

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