black lives matter

The Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks mourn the tragic loss of life due to injustice, racism, or intolerance.  We remember George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Manuel Ellis, Roger Reese and Barry Lawson, and countless others as we condemn the continued violence and oppression against Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.  We, as did the Olmsteds, believe in a society that honors and protects the personal rights and freedoms that work to make everyone feel welcome and safe.

          The Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks commit to understanding our role in dismantling institutional racism and to seek partnerships with individuals and communities to further inform the ways our historic parks can effectively serve them.  We will seek broader understanding of the factors and policies that helped form our historic park system so as to acknowledge and communicate this history fully and transparently. We will incorporate these lessons in our ongoing efforts to support the Olmsted legacy of a park system meant to provide access, and value, equally throughout our community.

Go here to read our statement on race and social justice.

Self-Guided Walking Tour Now Available

Photo showing forest environment of Interlaken

We are happy to announce that the first of our self-guided tour scripts is now available online. The tour will lead you through Interlaken Park and along Interlaken Boulevard, learning about historical events and designs that helped shape this forest oasis within our city. You can find the tour script, here.

  • Historical photo showing rustic road bridge in Interlaken Park

Commemorating Our Parks on Earth Day

Many thanks to everyone who submitted their photos, artwork and artpieces for our slide show! It is fabulous to see how our natural environment inspires us and what elements, in particular, draw our eye and mind to attention. We hope you enjoy this slide show presentation, in honor of Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary.

  • painting of woman walking dog among lawn and trees, all figures in dark silhouette
  • photo of water and blue sky with driftwood on shoreline in foreground, car ferry in far distance.
  • building with central breezeway shown at top of lawn, with pink-flowering trees in front.
  • painting of wide lawn path leading past flowering azalea shrubs
  • painting of lawn surrounded by green vegetation
  • watercolor of Japanese-style stone lantern with flowering shrub behind
  • painting of trees and path in lawn
  • photo of deciduous forest in summer
  • watercolor of white chapel entrance with steeple, vegetation surrounding
  • watercolor of white chapel with steeple surrounded by green vegetation
  • rectangular pool with reflection of sky and flowers
  • watercolor of multi-trunked, textured birch tree with lawn, path and vegetation in background.
  • pen and watercolor sketch of wood frame structure on dock, boats in front.
  • watercolor of orange, red and gold-colored madrone tree trunk against blue sky.
  • watercolor of Puget Sound with distant shore and open meadow in foreground
  • photo of car ferry on sunny day
  • oil painting of man with two dogs walking on long lawn surrounded by colorful vegetation
  • photo of asphalt path and roadway running along shoreline amid lawn and trees
  • photo across water to snow-capped peak (Mt. Rainier)
  • photo of benches, lawn and sidewalk lining lake with large willow in background shore
  • painting of yellow and orange trees in fall, lake and pathj in background
  • view of colorful fall and evergreen floiage
  • painting of view across narrow pedestrian bridge with side wallsand globe lights and two people in silhouette at far end
  • watercolor of hexagonal picnic shelter, viewed from downslope with stairs and vegetation
  • photo of park plan panel ("Green Lake Park") in foregraound with view of lake beyond
  • painting of pond shoreline with yellow autumn foliage
  • painting of circular brick tower surrounded by yellow fall foliage
  • painting of trees in fall with wide path leading between them
  • watercolor of tree trunks and fall foliage
  • watercolor of large white-trunked tree in front of bridge
  • painting of balck circular sculpture ("Black Sun" by Isamu Noguchi) with trees and reservoir in background
  • photo of two people walking along shoreline path -- in silhouette with long shadows from late afternoon sun
  • watercolor of white/blue/lavender tree trunks against dark background
  • painting of pond and island with lawn and trees
  • painting of view across water to distant snow-capped peak.
  • photo taken at sunset with sculpture, landform and trees in dark profile against western sky.
  • painting of white-trunked trees in snow with water and sky in background
  • distant view of lighthouse and neighboring building across beach at low tide
  • painting of snowscape with trees, roadway and person pulling sled
  • charcoal sketch of older man with beard, thoughtful gaze

We also encourage each of you to take part in “Voices Carry,” a project being created by Earth Day NW: https://earthdaynw2020.org/voicescarry/ You can add your own message and ideas for change in order to better protect our environment. In the words of Kristi England, executive director of Earth Day Northwest 2020: “In supporting this campaign, you will encourage thousands to get involved, and share their own unique visions of how they want to see the future unfold.”

We hope also that your thoughts and intentions this Earth Day include ways to continue preserving Seattle’s natural open spaces and parks, including our Olmsted system that first established this open space network.

Call for Submissions – Earth Day

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day and Appreciation of Seattle’s Parks

example of submission: watercolor of red, orange and gold madrone tree trunk against blue sky.
Watercolor sketch of Madrona Tree at Magnolia Park

Do you have a favorite photo, memory, or personal artwork that involves one of our Olmsted parks or boulevards, or any of our city parks? In these days of self-containment, do you find yourself growing introspective about Seattle’s striking surroundings or its colorful history? We’d love to see and hear from you!

With the global outbreak of COVID-19, Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks is revisiting some of its springtime plans, including events to honor Earth Day 50 years after its founding. So, to mark this Anniversary, Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks would like to collect and share images and mementos that celebrate Seattle’s great outdoors.

example of submission: photo of snow scene -- clearing with mature evergreen in foreground.
Lawton Park (photo credit: Gretchen van Etten- Semke)

In this time of having to reinvent how we conduct our daily lives, FSOP also remembers how our larger city environment has been reshaped and its landscapes re-purposed over many decades. Our older Olmsted parks both directed and responded to Seattle’s early development, as have more recently acquired park properties. In normal times, these outdoor spaces provide opportunities for group recreation and outdoor events, socializing, immersion into native woodland settings, distant mountain views, and scenic panoramas.  While we cannot currently partake in all these activities, we can express gratitude and appreciation for how they are made possible. We encourage everyone to share ways that Seattle’s parks are meaningful to them, in whatever medium or form is digitally suitable.

example of submission: photo of wooded ravine, heavily vegetated undergrowth and bridge in background.
Frink Park (Seattle Municipal Archives #178408)

We also feel this will be a great way to connect and share happy memories with each other, particularly during this time of extraordinary containment and isolation due to coronavirus.

example of submission: handwritten haiku reading: "Gasworks Park
Of what was, before,
Stands unused in remembrance;
Ever rust in peace."

We will assemble entries into a slide show, which will be posted on our website and Facebook page on April 22.

So, if you have a photo, sketch, poem, musing, written piece or memory you’d like to share, please send it to fsopjen@gmail.com or to friends@seattleolmsted.org, or share at #parkmemories. And keep your eyes peeled for the final display!

Deadline for submissions is Saturday, April 18. Digital submissions only, please. Multiple submissions are encouraged, but each submission must be formatted to be presentable as a single page/slide.

example of submission: watercolor of Beaux arts era concrete stair leading to lawn.
Steps to Mt. Baker Park Beach (watercolor sketch by Virginia Newman)

Olmsted Book Launched!

head and shoulders shot of author Jennifer Ott in front of Seattle's downtown library.
author Jennifer Ott at Seattle Public Library

Our new book, Olmsted in Seattle, is now available for purchase at local bookstores and online at UW Press and Amazon, following our official launch and presentation at Seattle Public Library on Saturday, November 16, 2019.

Author, Jennifer Ott, gave a 50-minute presentation to a sizable audience in the Microsoft Auditorium in the downtown branch and entertained questions immediately following. Ott signed a number of books, which were available for immediate purchase through Elliott Bay Books.

According to Petyr Beck, publisher and president of Documentary Media, pre-sales exceeded 400 copies prior to the book launch.

Thank you for all who have supported the production of Olmsted in Seattle. We are very grateful to HistoryLink and Documentary Media for their expertise in bringing this project forward. A very special thanks to Seattle Public Library and Elliott Bay Books for a successful launch.

book cover with title reading "Olmsted in Seattle; Creating a Park System for a Modern City, by Jennifer Ott and HistoryLink staff." Full color photo of woodland path in autumn.
cover design for Olmsted in Seattle

New Book Due for Release in November 2019!

book cover with title reading "Olmsted in Seattle; Creating a Park System for a Modern City, by Jennifer Ott and HistoryLink staff." Full color photo of woodland path in autumn.

Look for the release of our new book later this fall! Olmsted in Seattle: Creating a Park System for a Modern City, by Jennifer Ott, is the culmination of an 18-month effort by HistoryLink and Documentary Media, in partnership with Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks. The book traces the story of how, in the midst of galloping growth at the turn of the 20th century, Seattle’s city leaders seized on the confluence of a roaring economy with the City Beautiful movement to hire the Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm. Their 1903 plan led to a supplemental plan, a playground plan, numerous park and boulevard designs, changes to park system management, and a ripple effect for the firm, as the Olmsted Brothers were subsequently hired to design public and private landscapes throughout the region.

The book, distributed by UW Press, will be available in early November. Following are a few of the events being planned around the book’s release:

October 3
Dunn Gardens Books & Beer Program
https://dunngardens.org/events/books-beer-olmsted-in-seattle
6:00 – 8:00 pm

October 20
Dunn Gardens Fall Foliage Festival (booth at the event)
https://dunngardens.org/events/fall-foliage-festival-3
1:00 – 4:00 pm

November 12
Book Presentation, Douglas Classroom, Center for Urban Horticulture
https://botanicgardens.uw.edu/
7:00 – 8:00 pm

November 16
BOOK LAUNCH, Seattle Public Library, Downtown Branch
https://www.spl.org/event-calendar?trumbaEmbed=date%3D20191116#/?i=2
2:00-3:30 pm

Author Jennifer Ott is an environmental historian and assistant director of HistoryLink, and she is also a former president of FSOP (2011-15) and founding and current Volunteer Park Trust steering committee member. Previous publications include the book Waterway: The Story of Seattle’s Locks and Ship Canal(co-authored with David B. Williams), and articles for the Oregon Historical Quarterly, HistoryLink.org, and Seattle magazine.

Check out our new, improved website!

With the help of 4Culture funding and redevelopment by MRW Web Design, the Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks now boasts a new website with much more detailed information on its parks, a more accurate and easily viewable map, and new, separate listings for News and Events.

We hope you will have fun perusing our site.

Olmsted Legacy Task Force – Final Report

After several months of meetings, presentation, discussion and review, the Olmsted Legacy Task Force came out with its final recommendations report earlier this spring. The set of recommendations can be found here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1CTF9hzUI1fjlB5u4Htp21p_iSkCHhX1K

Anticipated next steps are adoption of the findings by the Board of Park Commissioners and implementation by Seattle Parks and Recreation.

Hand-drawn map of Seattle, titled "Parks, Boulevards and Playgrounds of Seattle," issued by the board of park commissioners in 1909.

2019 Summer Walking Tours

black and white photo of manicured sloping lawn with crushed rock path on the uphill side. Large trees are in the lawn and along the path in the background.
Upper Kinnear Park in 1925 (SMA postcard collection, 73333)

Join us for monthly walking tours in Seattle’s Olmsted parks and start your weekend with a dose of beauty, nature, and history!  We meet the third Saturday of each month, May-September.  Tour locations and dates are noted below. Appropriate for all ages and lasting approximately 2 hours. Contact friends@seattleolmsted.org for more information about specific tours.

May 18th
Kinnear Park and SW Queen Anne Hill
9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Meet at the stairway entrance at 7th Ave and W Olympic Place. 

June 15th
Denny-Blaine, Lakeview and Viretta Parks 
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Meet in the parking lot at Denny-Blaine Park

July 20th
Schmitz Preserve Park 
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

NOTE LOCATION CHANGE: Meet at the intersection of 58th Ave. SW and SW Stevens St., near Alki Elementary.

August 17th

Discovery Park 
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Meet in the south parking lot off West Emerson and McLaren.

September 21st*

UW Campus/ A-Y-P Exposition
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Start location TBD

*This is the FSOP annual meeting, please join us for potluck lunch after the tour.

Celebrating April 30 as “Seattle Olmsted Day”!

black and white image of John Charles Olmsted working on a drawing at his desk
John Charles Olmsted (Image courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives)

John Charles Olmsted first arrived in Seattle on Thursday, April 30, 1903, setting in motion the creation of our city’s connected system of parks and boulevards that is still largely intact today. To recognize the Olmsted Brothers’ impact on Seattle’s modern-day parks system and its influence on citywide development, and to honor the firm’s significant standing and achievements in landscape architecture and city planning nationwide, the Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks would like to celebrate April 30 as “Seattle Olmsted Day.”

John Charles’ first morning in Seattle started with a visit to two local highpoints – the then-designated county courthouse on First Hill, and Washington Hotel on Denny Hill – that afforded great views over much of the downtown area. After visually surveying the city core, Olmsted and his assistant, Percy Jones, were escorted by several park board commissioners and city surveyor Captain John Pratt on their initial sojourn of the larger metropolitan area, starting with a tour of Volunteer and Lincoln (now Cal Anderson) Parks, then moving eastward to Madison and, from there, crossing Union Bay to its northeastern shore. The group continued their explorations the following week, each day reaching and traversing another area of the city either by streetcar, boat or by foot. Olmsted walked Cotterill’s bicycle path system to Bailey Peninsula, now Seward Park, about two-and-a-half miles south of the city boundary, and Fort Lawton (today, Discovery Park). He and Jones observed improvements made at existing parks and noted the terrain and native vegetation and spectacular views to water and distant mountains throughout their site reconnaissance. Afternoons and evenings often consisted of meetings and dinners with city leaders.

Black and white photo from 1903 showing eight men standing on grassy slope with copse of trees behind them.
Taken at Lake Washington on May 1, 1903. Pictured L-R are: E.F. Blaine, Captain Pratt, E.F. Fuller, J.C. Olmsted, P.R. Jones, C.W. Saunders, J.E. Shrewsbury, A.L. Walters.

The following Monday, May 11, Olmsted presented to the city council and urged them to acquire more, choicer land for parks and parkways before private development claimed these parcels. He particularly stressed setting aside shoreline and adjacent areas for public enjoyment and view opportunities, noting that “[y]our harbor front must be devoted to commerce, but around Lake Washington, Green Lake and other fresh water bodies there is an abundance of park possibilities, such views of wooded hills and outside views that are seldom met with. These lands, too, are going so fast that the city right now should take advantage of the time to secure them before they are all occupied or the native woods cut away.”

Olmsted also met with the Chamber of Commerce later that month and started sketching out a preliminary plan for park acquisitions. Given how ambitious his proposals were, Olmsted worked with the park commissioners to arrive at a much-reduced plan that could be more immediately attainable. Both his larger set of recommendations and a “reduced plan for the near future” are described in his final report, sent to the Board of Park Commissioners on July 2, 1903.

Following the approval of this plan, John Charles Olmsted and the Olmsted Brothers firm were hired by the Board of Park Commissioners several times in subsequent years to help develop site plans and detailed design for many of the parks and also to produce supplemental planning reports for an expanding city and in response to a growing awareness of the need for more playgrounds and playfields. The Olmsted Brothers further shaped the city’s public open space with their design of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition grounds, on the University of Washington campus, in 1909. The firm’s last project for the city was completed between 1935 and 1939, when James Dawson created plans for a new arboretum at Washington Park.

Map of city of Seattle from the early 20th century, showing areas proposed for parks and routes proposed for boulevards, overlaid with quotes from the 1903 Olmsted report. Map is titled "Excerpts from Olmsted's 1903 Plan for Boulevards, Parks and Playgrounds."
Map illustrating Olmsted’s recommendations from hie 1903 report, with quotes from that report.

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