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.

Queen Anne Boulevard

In 1903, John Charles Olmsted recommended that the city develop a parkway from the northwest corner of Queen Anne Hill, running across the hill to Howe Street and Taylor Avenue, then around to Highland or Prospect streets, continuing along Galer to the park proposed at the water tower on top of the hill. He advocated for parkland extending down the hill from the boulevard to protect views. This boulevard was not realized, but neighborhood residents lobbied the city for the development of a boulevard around the crown of the hill, which was established. It follows a number of streets, which are marked with brown park boulevard signs:

Traveling north from the corner of Prospect Street and Bigelow Avenue north, the boulevard follows Bigelow Avenue North for several blocks, crosses Boston Street and continues to Wheeler Street, then it takes a softly rounded turn to the left, heads west for a couple of blocks until it comes to Nob Hill Avenue North and heads briefly in a southwest direction until it comes upon McGraw Street and heads west (and crosses a deep ravine).

At the intersection ofMcGraw Place it heads in a northwest direction until it intercepts Smith Street and heads west, crosses Queen Anne Avenue and continues onto West Smith Street for a block until that road intercepts West McGraw Place and it heads southwest again for a block or two where it intercepts West McGraw Street and heads west.

Right after you cross 3rd Avenue West, it takes a soft right-hand turn and heads northwest on West McGraw Place until that road becomes 5th Avenue West for several blocks. At West Raye Street it heads west (next to a cemetery) until it intercepts 8th Avenue West and heads north (and continues to travel next to the same cemetery) until at West Fulton Street then it takes a softly rounded corner and heads west a couple of blocks until at 10th Avenue West it heads south for several blocks. At Wheeler Street it turns left, heading east, for about three blocks until it comes back to 8th Avenue West, following around a softly rounded corner and heading south again for a block until West McGraw Street.

Turning left, it heads east for another block to 7th Avenue West and another softly rounded corner. Several blocks to the south (at West Boston it travels along one block of tall concrete retaining wall with very nice brick detailing... part of the so called "Wilson Walls") until West Blaine Street. A block west from there, it follows another softly rounded corner and proceeds on 8th Avenue West (also held up by concrete retaining walls) to West Highland Drive.

Traveling east, it crosses Queen Anne Avenue North and takes a soft right-hand turn onto Prospect Street (it is a short road at an angle) and travels southeast for a short partial block, then takes a soft left-hand turn and travels a few blocks, heading east, until it returns to the point-of-beginning.

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