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The Bogue Plan

map of Bogue plan
Map of Bogue plan

In the municipal election of 1910 Seattle voters passed an amendment to the City Charter that created a Municipal Plans Commission. The Commission was charged with devising “plans for the arrangement of the city with a view to such expansion as may meet future demands” by September 30, 1911.

Civil Engineer Virgil Bogue was hired to draw up the plans. Bogue had worked with Frederick Law Olmsted in designing Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and he also had lived and worked in Seattle. A core element of Bogue’s plan was a grand Civic Center. With the regrading of Denny Hill, Bogue saw there was land available near downtown that was neither too expensive nor yet developed.

Bogue civic center
Bogue civic center

One of the most controversial parts of Bogue’s plan for the citizens of Seattle was the location. The plan grouped all public buildings in a Civic Center in the Denny Hill regrade district, with the center at Fourth and Blanchard. Many citizens felt the location was too far from the City center.

The Civic Center was only a small part of Bogue’s plan. His two-volume report included an elaborate and well thought out transportation system, including rapid transit; a plan for the Seattle coastline; and for an expansion of the parks and boulevards, including a recommendation to set aside Mercer Island as an "island park - a people’s playground, worthy of the city of millions which will someday surround Lake Washington."

Drawing of Bogue plan
Drawing of Bogue plan

Bogue’s plan was heavily influenced by the City Beautiful Movement and the scientific rationalism of the Progressive Era. The concept that disciplined, rational planning could ameliorate city problems and foster cooperation between the public and private sectors as well as between the various levels of government is evident behind Bogue’s master plan for Seattle.

The plan was the subject of much political debate within the City. And many citizens simply did not know very much about the plan. The plan went up for a vote in March 1912 and was defeated almost two to one. On the same ballot was a measure to fund construction of a County Courthouse between Third and Fourth Avenues between James and Jefferson Streets. The Courthouse issue passed two to one.

Amidst the work of the Municipal Plans Commission Mayor H. C. Gill proposed "a building of the sky-scraper type" in 1911, but his proposal was not acted upon.

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