This post is part of a weekly blog series that will highlight the public orchards that are participating in City Fruit’s 2nd Annual Orchard & Harvest Tour on Sunday, October 2nd. To purchase a ticket, please click here. The Orchard & Harvest Tour is presented by Verity Credit Union.
A Community Tennis Center Graced With an Urban Orchard
Rushing toward the upper courts for an after-work match, tennis players at the Amy Yee Tennis Center might be surprised to glance up and find themselves surrounded by one of Seattle’s urban orchards. This hidden orchard shares an 8.5 acre site with the Center’s ten indoor and six outdoor tennis courts. Completed in 1977 and operated by Seattle Parks and Recreation, the tennis center was named in honor of Seattle tennis star and south Seattle resident, Amy Yee.
Amy Yee (1922-2000) grew up on a Vashon Island farm and brought a love of gardening, flowers and vegetables with her when she relocated to a home on Seattle’s Beacon Hill. A tennis star and inspirational teacher, Yee offered free tennis clinics at schools and public parks for more than 30 years. Her students ranged from young people to adults and included two future mayors of Seattle.
On August 28, 2002, two years and two weeks after Yee’s death, Seattle Parks and Recreation named the tennis center after Amy Yee to celebrate the life and accomplishments of the local athlete and teacher.
The Amy Yee Tennis Center property was logged prior to 1910. No European settlers lived on the property except for when the Stadium Homes row houses were occupied, from 1943 – 1957. In the 1920s primarily Italian immigrant farmers rented the land to grow vegetables. The property was used as a satellite parking lot during the 1962 World’s Fair.
Trees & Sites: What’s Growing Around Amy Yee Tennis Center
The Amy Yee Tennis Center property is bordered by Martin Luther King Jr. Way S., S. Walker Street, 28th Avenue S., and S. Holgate Street in the heart of south Seattle. The property steps up the hill in two large terraces. The indoor tennis facility and parking lot are located on the lower terrace of land bordering Martin Luther King Jr. Way S. The large upper terrace to the east of the indoor center contains the outdoor courts and an open field. Fruit trees are scattered throughout the site.
There are 44 fruit trees on the property. Thirty-two are apple, but there are also pear, cherry, and plum trees and quince and European pear grafted onto hawthorn trees. These fruit trees can be found along the east side of the parking lot, on the upper terrace both north and south of the outdoor courts and on the steep slopes east of the tennis center building. Many of the trees were planted in the 1940s when part of the Stadium Homes public housing project was located on the property. Some apple trees are heritage varieties, some have grown from seed, and other cultivars have been planted more recently. Most of the varieties have been identified but a few of the older trees need to have their fruit classified next harvest season.
Discover all of the beautiful fruit trees at Amy Yee Tennis Center Orchard on October 2nd as part of City Fruit’s Orchard & Harvest Tour!