Ravenna Boulevard

Ravenna Boulevard extends from Green Lake to 25th Ave NE north of the UW campus, traveling through the Roosevelt and Ravenna neighborhoods. It is 1.9 miles long.

When John Charles visited Seattle in 1903, Green Lake’s water level was seven feet higher, and it drained naturally via a creek that eventually emptied out at Union Bay east of the university. The creek ran generally southeast from the lake and wound through the ravine in Ravenna Park, which was a privately-owned park at the time. Olmsted recommended a boulevard that generally traced this route and connected Montlake Boulevard to Green Lake Boulevard, thus becoming an essential link in the boulevard system.

For the western portion of the boulevard, Olmsted stated that a “liberal strip of land of varying width should be taken to include the brook. . . , and particularly the banks of the ravine which extends up the brook several blocks west of [Ravenna] park,” noting also that the “drives would preferably be curvilinear throughout.” As the creek entered Cowen and Ravenna Parks, however, the parkway would stay near the southern rim of the ravine, the final alignment depending on whether an existing streetcar line might be moved further south to “provide room for a curvilinear pleasure drive overlooking the ravine.” Should the electric railway line remain in place, as John Charles recognized as likely, then “the private land between the parkway and the park should be secured as far east as the park entrance.”

Condemnation proceedings to acquire land for the boulevard began in 1907. The western section of roadway initially followed the “New York Plan” layout, with a center roadway and two side roadways, each separated by a grass strip.  By 1915 this was part of the Pacific Highway that extended from Vancouver. B.C., to San Diego CA. The center roadway was removed in 1962 and the median expanse graded and seeded to make uniform throughout.

Many of Olmsted’s recommended aspects for the boulevard were never realized, as the stream to be featured in the western portion dried up with the lowering of Green Lake and the roadway alignment in this section is far straighter than Olmsted envisioned, and the eastern portion of parkway is fully divorced from the park itself.  But, with the route’s tree allees and its lawn median consistently in place along the whole route, its visual and actual connection to the rest of the park and boulevard system is very evident.

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