Celebrating the Centennial of Seattle's Olmsted Park System

A century ago, city officials, community leaders and the citizenry of Seattle recognized the value of their spectacular natural landscape and invited the top landscape architectural firm in the country to design a city-wide park system that would celebrate, showcase and protect the spectacular Pacific Northwest landscape while providing access and opportunities for all of Seattle's citizens to experience and enjoy their extraordinary natural environment. John Charles Olmsted, of the Olmsted Brothers firm of Brookline, MA. and stepson of Frederick Law Olmsted, arrived to survey the Seattle area in the spring of 1903. By October the firm had prepared plans and recommendations for a comprehensive system of parks and boulevards that has achieved national recognition as one of the most fully-realized Olmsted park systems in the country.

Dose Terrace & Lake Washington Boulevard

Frink Park

The Olmsted legacy includes such familiar Seattle treasures as the Washington Park Arboretum, Lake Washington, Ravenna and Magnolia Boulevards, and Volunteer, Woodland Green Lake and Seward Parks, as well as over 30 other Seattle area parks and boulevards. Even today, we are still acquiring and developing parklands recommended by the Olmsted plan 100 years ago. For example, the original plan recommended four parks along Lake Union. Within the last 25 years the city has acquired Gas Works Park, Fairview Park and most recently, South Lake Union Park.

For extensive information about Seattle's historic Olmsted Park and Boulevard system, please visit the Park History pages on the Seattle Parks and Recreation website.

Colman Park

The Olmsted plan looked forward 100 years to provide open space for a city of 500,000. Seattle has now reached that mark, and today's challenge is not only to protect and preserve our century-old legacy but also to carry the Olmsted philosophy into the next 100 years of landscape design and planning in order to ensure the preservation of open space in the century to come.


The Friends of Seattle's Olmsted Parks, Seattle Parks and Recreation and over 45 community, city and county organizations are organizing a year-long series of events and projects that will provide opportunities for community members and professionals to learn about and celebrate Seattle's Olmsted legacy and its contribution to the development of the Seattle urban landscape.

Lake Washington Boulevard
Some of the 2003 event highlights include specific parks projects such as the Seattle Park Foundation project to restore the Volunteer Park lily ponds, the EarthCorps IvyOUT project in Olmsted landscapes, the Days in the Parks summer neighborhood park event series, and the National Association for Olmsted Parks annual conference in May. Throughout 2003 there will be events in Olmsted landscapes including walks, lectures, bicycle tours, work projects and community celebrations.

In order to make the next year of activities and projects a huge success we are depending on the help of many dedicated volunteers and community partners. If you would like to participate in the Centennial I am sure we can find a way to put you to work!

Please contact us for information about volunteer opportunities and centennial projects.
For more information about Seattle Parks, please visit the Seattle Parks and Recreation website.