Seattle’s Olmsted Parks

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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.

Mount Baker Park

Mount Baker Park is a 21.7 acre park designed by the Olmsted Brothers. It is located in the Mount Baker neighborhood at 2521 Lake Park Dr S, 98144.
The park has upland lawn areas and beach frontage on Lake Washington. The park, as well as Mount Baker Boulevard, was built in 1908-9 by the Hunter Improvement Company as part of the ‘Mount Baker Park’ residential subdivision designed by the Olmsted Bros in 1907.
The land for the park was deemed an essential part of the open space and boulevard system in the Olmsted Bros. 1903 report. The land here provided access to mild grades necessary for establishment of Lake Washington Boulevard as well as relatively easy access to the lakefront for water access.
The owners of the residential lots established an ‘Improvement Club’ in 1909 to manage the maintenance and upkeep of the public areas and the park was built with enthusiastic community support.
The design of the park was centered on a stream that flowed down to Lake Washington. At the upper (south) end of the park, the stream was piped and fill was brought in to create flat lawn areas, picnic areas and clay tennis courts.
In an addendum to the 1909 report, in a letter dated Jan 21, 1909, the Olmsted Bros firm advocated locating a recreational pier for small boats at the lakefront adjacent to Mount Baker Park. This area was mostly level shoreline and close to the boulevard so a building (boathouse) could be accommodated in the future. They suggested this area could also be used to create a beach, which would create access to the water from the southern neighborhoods. The letter, signed John C. Olmsted, concedes that the uninterrupted view from Mount Baker Park to the Cascade Mountains will be impacted by the pier and boathouse, but that the other conveniences of this location make it the best choice. A boathouse and pier were constructed at the park around 1910.
When the level of Lake Washington was lowered in 1917, the shoreline receded and created a small beach area.
A stone lantern was donated and installed in 1911. A comfort station was added in the 1928; tennis courts were re-built in 1941 and a playground was added in 1971. The original boathouse was removed in 1946; a new pier and boathouse were built in 1949. The boathouse was the headquarters of the hydroplane races from 1950 to 1957; the moorage was replaced in 1961 as a fishing only pier. The boathouse was remodeled in 1964 for use as a bathhouse.

Sources: ‘Parks, Playgrounds and Boulevards of Seattle’, issued by the Board of Parks Commissioner, 1909; Don Sherwood files (Seattle Parks and Recreation)

Mount Baker Park Additional Info

Mount Baker Park 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