Document 24: Seattle Parks

First Annual Report of the Board of Park Commissioners, Seattle, Washington, 1884-1904 (Seattle: Lowman and Hanford, 1905), 4-6. 
Seattle Municipal Government, Don Sherwood Parks History Collection, Chronological Files. Seattle Municipal Archives, Office of the City Clerk, Control No. 5801-01, Box 1, Folder 5.

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The Board of Park Commissioners of the City of Seattle in issuing this publication do not wish it to be considered exactly in the nature of a statistical report, as detailed information of that character is contained in the annual report submitted to the Mayor on August 1st of each year. However, as no publication descriptive of the parks, playgrounds and boulevards of the city has been issued since 1904, and inasmuch as since that time such wonderful progress has been made in the way of extensions and development and the citizens of the city have become so interested in the park and playground movement that at the recent special bond election a million dollars for parks, playgrounds and boulevards was voted almost unanimously, coupled with the fact that this year we will entertain thousands of eastern visitors, made it seem advisable that the Board should issue a publication descriptive and illustrative of what has been done and what is in contemplation. The object of this booklet will therefore be to review what has been accomplished, to set forth by word and by pictures the success which the Board feels it has attained, to show to the people of this city as well as to our eastern friends that Seattle, though a rapidly growing city, is keeping pace in the matter of things beautiful. Incorporated in this publication will be found the original and supplemental Olmsted reports, by which the Park Board in a general way is guided in its work, and it is safe to say that in a few years' time the entire Olmsted Plan will be realized, which means that Seattle will rank foremost with the leading cities of the United States in the matter of parks and parkways. If this booklet can show to the citizens of the city how much has been done in so short a time, how much is being planned and how great our possibilities are, its purpose will have been accomplished.


The acquisition and improvement of the park properties of the city of Seattle has been carried on through three distinct periods of the city government, to-wit:

(1) From 1884, under the direction of the City Council; (2) from 1890 to 1904, under the Freeholders' Charter, Park Commissioners and Park Superintendents being appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council; (3) since March 12th, 1904, under an amendment to the City Charter to be found elsewhere in this publication.

From 1884 to 1890 very little was done in the way of developing or acquiring park property, but from 1890 to 1904, under the Freeholders' Charter, a marked activity occurred in the acquisition of lands for park purposes and the improvement thereof.

During the summer of 1903, the City Council, upon recommendation of the Board of Park Commissioners, employed Mr. John C. Olmsted of the firm of Olmsted Brothers, Landscape Architects, to visit the city and submit a report recommending a system for park extension and improvement. This report was formally accepted by the City Council October 19th, 1903, and in a general way is being carried out by the Board of Park Commissioners. This report, as well as a supplementary report relative to the newly annexed territory, submitted in 1908, will be found in full elsewhere in this publication. . . .

Seattle's Park System of Today

In the matter of the development of the park and boulevard system of the city, preparatory to the advent of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, the Seattle Board of Park Commissioners has played a very important part and the Eastern visitor to the Exposition will probably be surprised at the extent to which this young and rapidly growing Western city has gone in the matter of making a city beautiful. The growth of the cities and towns of the Northwest has been so rapid that in most cases parks and boulevards have been an after thought, but in this respect Seattle is a notable exception and the acquirement and development of park properties has kept pace with the growth of the city to such an extent that there is probably no other city in the country of its size, regardless of age, which is better provided with parks, playgrounds and boulevards. The general topography of the land in and around Seattle, its mountains, its hills, its lakes and the beautiful Puget Sound and the forests and vegetation characteristic of Western Washington, afforded an excellent opportunity of blending the natural with the artificial and in making of a park system these features have been taken advantage of to a degree of perfection.

Seattle at this time has fourteen improved parks, varying in size from Woodland Park, a beautiful natural park of two hundred acres, to the small community park of two or three acres. Five equipped and supervised public playgrounds are in operation and nine other sites have been acquired and are rapidly being developed. Ten unimproved park sites have been acquired, with others in course of condemnation, making a combined area of nearly eleven hundred acres.

In the matter of boulevards, this feature of the system has been developed practically within the last two years. Lake Washington, a beautiful body of water thirty miles in length, marks the eastern boundary of the city, the Exposition Grounds being located on the lake in the northeastern part of the city. The Park Board decided to establish a north and south boulevard along the shore of, or overlooking, this lake from the southeaster part of the city to the Exposition Grounds with feeders from various sections of the city, and their efforts during the past two years have been directed toward the carrying out of this idea, with the result that the Lake Washington Boulevard system, consisting of about twelve miles of parkway, is now open for traffic. Several miles of this boulevard skirt the shores of the lake, while, where the topography of the land makes it necessary, it winds its way through wooded ravines or along the crest of the highlands overlooking the lake, with a panoramic view of the lake and the Cascade Mountains with the towering peaks, Mount Rainier and Mount Baker, almost constantly in view.

The entrance to the system from the down town section of the city is over what is known as Interlaken Boulevard, a serpentine driveway which leads from the Capitol Hill district down to the main boulevard south of the Exposition Grounds, and as a scenic driveway it has been declared by notable Eastern tourists to be incomparable.

Under the proposed system of Olmsted Brothers, Landscape Architects, the designers of the Seattle system, it is planned to have boulevard system of fifty miles practically belting the city, and a park system of over two thousand acres, and if the people of Seattle continue to endorse and support the park movement as enthusiastically in the future as they have in the past, the Olmsted plan in its entirety will have been accomplished within the next ten years.


Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest