Cowen Park is located at 5849 15th Ave NE, 98105. It is 8.4 acres.
In 1903, the land that would become Cowen Park was privately owned as part of the “University Park” subdivision platted by Charles Cowen. This parkland, a “streetcar destination” park for the railcars running from downtown Seattle, captured a winding stream channel that drained Green Lake at the time. When the level of Green Lake was lowered, however, the stream channel dried up.
John Charles recommended this park be acquired in his 1903 report. In 1907, as work was underway for the A-Y-P Expo on the university grounds, Cowen donated the land to the city, and Olmsted was asked to provide a preliminary plan for the park. His design included a “Little Children’s Lawn,” a covered shelter, a plaza and other small structures supporting the play area, and four footbridges crossing the stream channel. At the city’s request, Olmsted later also designed an entrance gate for the park. Cowen Park was significantly altered in 1961, when 100,000 yards of fill from the construction of Interstate 5 were dumped here and used to create a ballfield. But the overall shape and location of the play area and the adjacent building with overlook on the second level, along with the entry plaza at Ravenna Place, reflect Olmsted’s original design.
Today Cowen Park is a generally quiet enclave with a softball field, a few picnic tables and barbecue pits, a play area with swings and climbing bars, and restrooms. In the summer, Cowen is a popular sunbathing spot.