Olmsted’s Landscape Architecture

Greenscapes: Olmstead's Pacific NorthwestJust as soon as the weather warms up a bit, we will all be out in our wonderful parks jogging, taking our four-legged friend for a stroll, visiting with a friend from out East, or rowing happily in some much loved boat.  The backbone design for Seattle Parks was done by one of the premier landscape designers in America, John Charles Olmsted from Brookline, MA.  In 1903 Olmsted came to Seattle at the request of the City Council based on the recommendation of the Parks Board of Commissioners.  Olmsted designed the grounds for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition which became the center for the University of Washington campus and still offers one of the best vistas of Mt. Rainier from “Frosh” Pond. 

After several visits and much design work, Olmsted produced a master plan for Seattle parks which included a plan to connect all the parks with a graceful roadway.  Lake Washington Boulevard, Volunteer Park, Green Lake, and Washington Park are all part of this grand plan.  During the next ten years the City would purchase or acquire most of the property to build this extensive park system. 

This  Saturday, May 2nd, the Hugh and Jane Ferguson Seattle Room and The Seattle Public Library Foundation will host a very special event at 2:00 p.m. in the Central Library Microsoft Auditorium.  Joan Hockaday, noted authority on Olmsted, will discuss her new book,  Greenscapes: Olmsted’s Pacific Northwest, published by Washington State University Press.  Elliott Bay Books will be on hand to sell copies which Ms. Hockaday will sign. 

John Charles Olmsted and the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition have a special connection with The Seattle Public Library’s Hugh and Jane Ferguson Seattle Room. One of the AYP’s major features was the Geyser Basin.

Geyser Basin  The structure was build by John Ferguson, civil engineer and father of Hugh Ferguson for whom the Seattle Room is named.  Mr. Ferguson and his family have been generous supporters of The Seattle Public Library and will be joining us for this event.

 Read more about Olmsted and the Seattle parks we all cherish.   Jodee F

2 thoughts on “Olmsted’s Landscape Architecture”

  1. I’ve already placed my hold. Living not far from Lake Washington and Seward Park, and feel gratitude for the Olmstead legacy almost every day, and it was really neat to see that vintage picture from Frink Boulevard, which is a forgiving uphill bike ride and a delightful downhill one.

  2. Does the roadway designed to connect all of these parks have anything to do with a boulevard going over Queen Anne — or maybe it was Capitol Hill? I remember hearing something on KUOW about an attempt to recreate this old boulevard, returning the long swath of neighborhood to a greener condition, and this raising concerns about traffic patterns. I’m new to Seattle, which is why the information didn’t stick with me more clearly. At the time, I wanted to hear more. I imagined that the street they were discussing looked something like that picture in its heyday, only a boulevard. I think.

    Does this ring any bells with anyone?

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