Spokane Parks, Spokane WA #03095
Type:Parks, Parkways & Recreation Areas
The Olmsted Brothers firm began their work in Spokane during the city’s peak development years, when Spokane and its population were growing at a rate never matched by another northwestern city. John Charles Olmsted and his associate James Frederick Dawson agreed to visit the city at the request of Aubrey L. White, President of the then-newly formed Board of Park Commissioners.
The Olmsted Brothers firm began their work in Spokane during the city’s peak development years, when Spokane and its population were growing at a rate never matched by another northwestern city. John Charles Olmsted and his associate James Frederick Dawson agreed to visit the city at the request of Aubrey L. White, President of the then-newly formed Board of Park Commissioners. Several meetings later, Olmsted was contracted to prepare a citywide park system plan.
The project officially began on December 15, 1906, when Olmsted stopped in Spokane on his return east from working in Walla Walla, Portland, and Seattle. He took in the powerful Spokane River and falls, and in a letter home remarked on the picturesque hills and valleys. The following fall he returned and was disappointed to find that railroads had “taken the land [that I] wanted to reserve when I was here before.” Olmsted and Dawson shared their observations, advice and recommendations with Spokane’s park commissioners over the next two years culminating in their 1908 report to Spokane’s Board of Park Commissioners. The board implemented many of the recommendations out of the public eye in order to “gather funding and to quietly achieve its aims without realtors and land developers jacking up property prices or otherwise interfering.”
In 1913, the report was released to the public. In it, the Olmsted Brothers summarized the need for public parks and their benefit to the “health, morality and well being of the people.” They opined that city life had a depressing effect on families and parks were the antidote, constituting “one of the best means of drawing people out-of-doors … mothers … with their little babies and children … school children … for active play … young men and young women … for tennis, baseball, sociable walking together … older men and women … to walk … or to see other visitors and their clothes and horses, automobiles, or to study birds, flowers, or other attractive details of nature.”
The report outlined four primary elements for a citywide park system: large parks, local parks, parkways and boulevards, and playgrounds. It also included suggestions for improving existing park properties as well as for general city planning. Though not every recommendation was carried out exactly as specified, the Olmsted Brothers’ report has been well-realized throughout the years and continues to be an important document for Spokane’s park and urban planning, with properties reflecting both the city’s unique character as well as those Olmsted concepts. The city quickly exceeded the report’s original acreage recommendations, with the City of Spokane Parks and Recreation Department currently managing more than 4,100 acres. The goal of Spokane’s early park development pioneers, of establishing a park within a half mile or about a 10 to 15 minute walk of every home (at the Olmsteds’ recommendation), has also come to fruition; there is a remarkably even distribution of parks east to west and north to south.
To view plans, documents, & images
|National Register||NR-MC - Spokane Parks and Boulevards MPS||View|
|LOC Finding Aid||LOC Finding Aid_03095-03102_03107||View|
|Job fIle (LOC)||LOC_03095(1906-1907)_OAR-B-R166_mss52571.02231||View|
|Job fIle (LOC)||LOC_03095(1908)_OAR-B-R166_mss52571.02232||View|
|Job fIle (LOC)||LOC_03095(1909-1915, 1931, 1937)_OAR-B-R166_mss52571.02233||View|