Relocated from downtown northward to larger, wilder acreage in 1895, the University of Washington consisted of just six buildings when the Olmsted Brothers firm prepared a general campus plan in 1903. John Charles Olmsted returned to Seattle in 1906 to design the grounds for the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (AYPE), which would use the undeveloped portion of the University of Washington campus. He created “axes” to organize fair promenades and buildings and capture views of Mt. Rainier, Lake Washington and Lake Union. His design, which created the central core known as “Rainier Vista,” provides the lasting iconic framework for the University of Washington campus that is cherished today.
James Frederick Dawson from the Olmsted Brothers came to Seattle to manage project development, overseeing grading and plant preparation starting two years in advance of the opening of the fair. He published an article in the first issue of Landscape Architecture magazine in 1910 describing the vast amount of landscape design and preparation that went into creating the extraordinary Exposition experience.
After the six-month Exposition was finished much of the architecture was dismantled, but the circulation and landscape framework would remain along with a selection of buildings that would continue to be used by the University. The Olmsted Brothers firm prepared additional campus plans, but the local firm of Bebb & Gould soon took over the role of design consultant for the University. At the time Carl Gould had founded and become Chair of the School of Architecture at the University
The Park Commissioners hoped that the public would continue to be able to use the grounds since it was an integral part of the overall Olmsted system in the city.