Call for Submissions – Earth Day

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

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.

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.

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.

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 or to And keep your eyes peeled for the final display!

Deadline for submissions is Saturday, April 18. Digital submissions only, please.

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
6:00 – 8:00 pm

October 20
Dunn Gardens Fall Foliage Festival (booth at the event)
1:00 – 4:00 pm

November 12
Book Presentation, Douglas Classroom, Center for Urban Horticulture
7:00 – 8:00 pm

November 16
BOOK LAUNCH, Seattle Public Library, Downtown Branch
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,, 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:

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 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.

Looking for New Board Members

Are you interested in becoming more involved in matters regarding our Seattle Olmsted parks and boulevards? Consider joining us!

We are currently seeking new members to serve on our Board of Directors and/or our committees. Our board is typically composed of citizens with expertise in landscape architecture, history, horticulture, business management, project management and urban planning. We would like to further diversify our board to include individuals with expertise and/or interest in at least one of the following:

  • Community Outreach – looking for a candidate who will identify and work with community groups and individual Olmsted Parks groups to help with park improvement projects;
  • Accounting – looking for a candidate who can assist with our bookkeeping
  • Historical Research – looking for a candidate willing to do in-depth research on specific projects
  • Landscape Design – looking for candidates who are comfortable reviewing design proposals
  • Fund Raising — Looking for candidates that are interested in leading our fund raising initiatives

Terms begin in September immediately following our annual meeting on Sept. 21, 2019, and run for three years. Our board meetings are typically held from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on the first Monday of each month at the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation headquarters (100 Dexter Ave N, 98109) in Denny Park.

Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks (FSOP) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving Seattle’s unique Olmsted landscape heritage and raising awareness of the Olmsted philosophy of providing open space for all people.

Please contact Douglas Luetjen at if you are interested in getting more involved!

Color photo of old cottonwood tree in mown lawn by the shore of Lake Washington on a sunny day.
A view of Colman Park

Olmsted Legacy Task Force Meetings in 2018

FSOP is excited to be partnering with Seattle Parks and Recreation on the Olmsted Legacy Task Force. The task force is made up of members of the FSOP board, staff members from several city departments, representatives of community organizations, such as Historic Seattle, Volunteer Park Trust, the Associated Recreation Council, Seattle Youth Soccer Association, and others. The task force will meet monthly during 2018 and the public is encouraged to attend the meetings. The next meeting is scheduled for May 30th at Parks headquarters in Denny Park at 6:30 p.m.

The task force grew out of meetings between Parks and FSOP about how to more proactively rehabilitate and preserve the city’s historic park system. As the task force web page explains, “Park planners across the country recognize Seattle’s Olmsted park system as one of the best preserved and best designed in the United States. More importantly, while many eastern cities have only one or two Olmsted-designed parks, Seattle has an extensive multi-park plan linked by boulevards. It is this legacy that makes Seattle one of the most livable spots in the country…The creation of the Olmsted Task Force is a deepening of the relationship between SPR and FSOP for the benefit of the parks in our community.”

The taskforce will focus on developing recommendations to the Superintendent and the Board of Park Commissioners. Some of these include:

• Specific standards of design related to maintaining the character and effect of the Olmsted Parks, such as park furniture, lighting, signage, and landscaping
• Best practices for maintaining our Olmsted parks and boulevards
• Educational programs for informing the public about the Olmsted legacy in Seattle
• Innovative approaches for managing Olmsted parks and boulevards
• How best to export Olmsted design elements to other parks in Seattle; how to improve existing and create new green connections between our parks
• How to prioritize funding for the recommendations above to be considered in the next iteration of the Park District funding package
• Creating a sustainable connection between SPR and the community and to improve on the existing connection between SPR and FSOP

For more information, visit the task force webpage or email

black and white line drawing map of Seattle in 1908, showing hatched areas for existing and proposed parks and boulevard or parkway swaths.
Olmsted Park and Boulevard System, 1908. Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, 2390.

We are developing a book about Seattle’s Olmsted legacy!

The Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks has joined with HistoryLink to produce a book about the Olmsted legacy in Seattle. FSOP sees this book as providing a much-needed tool and educational resource toward advocacy and protection of our Olmsted park and boulevard system, which is the foundation of the Seattle park system. Our current Olmsted parks system can be difficult to define by nature of its nuanced design, broad distribution, age, and continued evolution. By more fully describing the thinking of John Charles Olmsted and his associates and placing it to our modern-day city, we can create a fuller, more comprehensible rendering of this legacy.

We are thrilled that HistoryLink historian Jennifer Ott will be writing this book. She has a master’s degree in environmental and Western American history and has published numerous articles about Olmsted Brothers’ landscapes. Her nine years of experience on the FSOP board, and her extensive work on the Volunteer Park Trust steering committee, makes her the perfect choice.

HistoryLink has been publishing top-quality books for more than 15 years. They have recently partnered with Documentary Media and have produced titles such as Waterway: The Story of Seattle’s Locks and Ship Canal, co-authored by Jennifer Ott.

We are joining with HistoryLink to raise money for this book and hope that you will consider a donation, working towards our goal of $95,000. The book will be released mid-year 2019. Donors will receive a copy upon publication and will be listed in the book.

Donations can be made directly to HistoryLink at, or sent to:

93 Pike Street, Suite 315B
Seattle WA 98101

Please note on your donation that you want this gift to go to the Olmsted Book Project. All proceeds from sales of the book will go to FSOP.

Book Details:
144 pages 
overall dimension — 10″ x 9″
over 100 images (both color and black and white)
5,000-copy first edition
cover price: $34.95
release date: Summer 2019

Color photo of woodland path with arching branches full of yellowing leaves overhead. A lighter path and brighter foliage in background indicate a clearing in the woods. Image is bordered at top and bottom with black bands and light text: text at top reads "Olmsted in Seattle; How the Olmsted Brothers Created Seattle's Park System," and text at bottom reads "by Jennifer Ott and the HistoryLink Staff."

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