Seattle Park System, Seattle WA #02690
Type:Parks, Parkways & Recreation Areas
The Olmsted Brothers firm’s first work for the City of Seattle began in 1903. Civic leaders, influenced by the City Beautiful movement and aware of the pressure to preserve park space in the face of galloping growth following the Klondike Gold Rush that began in 1897, hired John Charles Olmsted in the spring of 1903 to develop a plan for a park and boulevard system for the city.
The Olmsted Brothers firm’s first work for the City of Seattle began in 1903. Civic leaders, influenced by the City Beautiful movement and aware of the pressure to preserve park space in the face of galloping growth following the Klondike Gold Rush that began in 1897, hired John Charles Olmsted in the spring of 1903 to develop a plan for a park and boulevard system for the city. Olmsted’s plan took advantage of views from the city’s shoreline and hilltops and linked the large city parks with boulevards.
In addition to the larger parks, which include Woodland Park (2694), Volunteer Park (02695), Washington Park (2699), Green Lake Park (02714), and Jefferson Park (02725), Olmsted also incorporated a number of smaller parks to ensure the availability of open space for every neighborhood. After the city expanded its boundaries between 1905 and 1907 by annexing a number of communities and towns to its north and south, the Board of Park Commissioners invited the Olmsted Brothers to incorporate the newly acquired territory into the park and boulevard system. John Charles Olmsted prepared a supplemental report in 1908 that guided park and boulevard development as the city grew.
Along with planning the overall system of parks and boulevards for Seattle, the Olmsted Brothers consulted on the design of numerous individual parks and boulevards. Many of these have their own job number, but other well-known parts of the Olmsted system, such as Cheasty Boulevard, do not have a job number and are considered a subproject of the master project, job 02690. Drawings are sometimes found in related projects, for example Cheasty Boulevard is laid out in part on a plan for Jefferson Park (see plan 02725-05). Some of the Olmsted work on such subprojects are only found in the master project, such as sketches for King Street Square (see plans 02690-z17-tp1 or 2 or 3).
John Charles Olmsted advised on planning and design, but also on setting up park system governance. He advised that the Board of Park Commissioners should be separate from the City Council. In 1906 the voters approved this charter amendment and approved the first bond issue to start adding to the system. Significant bond issues were passed over the next six years which allowed much of the Olmsted Park system to be acquired and developed.
The Multiple Property Documentation for the Olmsted Park and Boulevard System is on record with the National Park Service and a number of parks and boulevards have been listed on the National Register and/or designated as Seattle landmarks.
See other job numbers from the initial Olmsted visit in 1903 for links to some of the related photo albums at the Olmsted Archives, including 02696 Queen Anne Hill Parkway, 02697 Magnoglia Bluff and 2706 Lake Washington.