Hiawatha Playfield was designed by the Olmsted Brothers; the park was originally known as the West Seattle Playground and/or Hiawatha Park. It is located in the Admiral neighborhood at 2700 California Ave SW, 98116. It is 10.3 acres.
In their 1908 report, which described an expanded park system in recently annexed areas of the City, the Olmsted Bros. recommended acquiring the plot of land in West Seattle bordered by W Lander, Walnut Ave, W Stevens, and California Avenue for development of active playfields. The lot was covered by second growth forest and ‘is especially well situated and adapted for playfield use’ being at the south end of the heavily settled area of West Seattle. They recommended ‘prompt action’ be taken to acquire this active recreation land before the land was built upon.
The Preliminary Plan was completed on March 15, 1910. The plan shows a large central ‘ball field’ lawn surrounded by massed plantings and meandering paths, tennis courts, a field house, and 2 wading pools. A grading plan was produced in April 1910. Early in 1911, a planting plan and Field House designs were produced.
The park was dedicated later in 1911 beginning a ’new era in public recreation in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest’ for what was then the largest public playfield in Seattle. The Seattle Times noted that, “The Hiawatha Playfield is rated as the model playfield of the system and will be patterned after very largely in the development of playgrounds in the future.”
The Times also reported that the park, constructed “strictly in accordance with the Olmsted Plan,” included a playground, an athletic field, tennis and basketball courts, a running track, two wading pools, and landscaped areas along the park borders; the field house was added to the park not long after it opened.
In 1932, in order to accommodate a longer running track, the original Olmsted plan was altered by re-locating the track from the east side of the park to west of the Field House. In 1943, the field house was enlarged to add a gymnasium. In 2010, an all-weather artificial turf field was installed in the west-side ballfield area.
Despite upgrades and revisions changes to the park facilities over the past century, the original Olmsted plan is largely intact, including its curved paths, landscaped areas that incorporate a number of native trees, and play areas.
The park was declared a City of Seattle Landmark in 1986.