Seattle’s Olmsted Parks

Close

John Charles Olmsted of the Olmsted Brothers Landscape Architects firm developed a park and boulevard system for the City of Seattle between 1903 and 1912. In addition to the system plan, Olmsted and other landscape architects from the Olmsted Brothers firm also developed plans for individual landscapes, including the University of Washington campus, Volunteer Park, the Washington Park Arboretum, Hiawatha Park, and others.

The system plan and these individual plans share a number of Olmstedian characteristics:

  • Parks and boulevards located on hilltops or along shorelines take advantage of views, incorporated as "borrowed landscapes" into the designs.
  • In more formally designed parks, "rooms" consisted of sweeping lawns bordered by planting beds that featured multiple layers, from ground covers to mid-height shrubs to taller trees.
  • Olmsted encouraged the preservation and use of native vegetation.
  • Many parks incorporated playgrounds for Seattle's younger citizens.
  • Paths and drives often follow curvilinear lines through the landscapes.
  • Formal sections of boulevards are flanked by rows of trees, informal sections that travel through woodland parks incorporate the existing vegetation along the street borders.

Hiawatha Playfield

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.

Hiawatha Playfield Additional Info

Hiawatha Playfield News

Designed

∆ Cal Anderson Park

∆ Cheasty Boulevard

∆ Cheasty GS: Cheasty Blvd

∆ Colman Park

∆ Frink Park

∆ Green Lake Park

∆ Hiawatha Playfield

∆ Hunter Boulevard

∆ Interlaken Park

∆ Jefferson Park

∆ Kinnear Park

∆ Lakeview Park

∆ Lake Washington Boulevard

∆ Madrona Park

∆ Magnolia Greenbelt

∆ Montlake Boulevard

∆ Mount Baker Boulevard

∆ Mount Baker Park

∆ Puget Boulevard Commons

∆ Schmitz Boulevard

∆ Schmitz Park

∆ Seward Park

∆ Volunteer Park

∆ Washington Park Arboretum

∆ Woodland Park

Influenced

∆ Alki Beach Park

∆ Cowen Park

∆ Dearborn Park

∆ Denny Blaine Park

∆ Denny Park

∆ Discovery Park

∆ Golden Gardens

∆ Hamilton Viewpoint Park

∆ Leschi Park

∆ Lincoln Park

∆ Madison Park

∆ Marshall Park

∆ McGraw Square

∆ Miller Playfield

∆ Pioneer Square

∆ Ravenna Boulevard

∆ Ravenna Park

∆ Salmon Bay Park

∆ Sunset Hill Viewpoint Park

∆ Union Station Square

Recommended

∆ Ballard Playground

∆ Beacon Hill Playground

∆ Beer Sheva Park

∆ Boren Park

∆ Cascade Playground

∆ City Hall Park

∆ Fairview Park

∆ Garfield Playfield

∆ Gasworks Park

∆ Genesee Park

∆ Gilman Playground

∆ Greenwood Triangle

∆ Howell Park

∆ Interbay Athletic Field

∆ Kerry Park

∆ Licton Spring Park

∆ Longfellow Creek GS: North

∆ Magnolia Boulevard

∆ Magnolia Park

∆ Myrtle Edwards Park

∆ Observatory Courts

∆ Pritchard Island Beach

∆ Queen Anne Boulevard

∆ Rainier Playfield

∆ Roanoke Park

∆ Rogers Playground

∆ South Park Playground

∆ University Playground

∆ Viretta Park