Volunteer Park could one day be in line for a $760,000+ upgrade of its paths, plantings, and entryways to help the Capitol Hill green space more fully meet the vision of its original Olmsted design. Brothers John and Frederick Jr. carried forward father Frederick Olmsted’s philosophies and practices of landscape design to create some of America’s greatest urban parks and campuses. In 1903, the city hired the brothers to create a family of parks and boulevards across Seattle.
116 years later, Seattle Parks is conducting a survey to help it prioritize restoration investment in the city’s multitude of Olmsted-designed parks and boulevards:
Seattle Parks and Recreation needs your input on prioritizing future Olmsted Park and Boulevard restoration projects. Based on your input, future projects could provide restoration in several different Olmsted parks/boulevards around the city. A study conducted in 2018 looked at 10 different sites to assess existing conditions, research historical design intent, and determine restoration feasibility.
Sites assessed included:
- Magnolia Boulevard • Volunteer Park
• Queen Anne Boulevard • Schmitz Park
• Lake Washington Boulevard parks • Woodland Park
• Lakeview Park • Washington Park
- Colman Park
- Mount Baker Park
The survey closes Friday, March 1st.
A study completed last year, below, examined the ten sites under consideration for restoration work including Capitol Hill’s Volunteer Park. The study lays out recommendations for each and estimated construction costs.
Selecting Volunteer Park for work would be tantamount to putting the final touches on one of the city’s most polished Olmsted parks. “Volunteer Park is one of Seattle’s most developed and most intact Olmsted landscapes,” the study reads. “That is likely because of its location in a wealthier neighborhood, but also because John Charles Olmsted spent several years involved in the design and development of the park between 1904 and 1912.”
Because of its excellent condition, Volunteer Park would allow “for more precision in implementing John Charles Olmsted’s plans,” the study notes. Work would include planting, formally incorporating the park’s many “social paths” and enhancing its entrances to better connect with the surrounding neighborhood.
The park has already undergone a series of improvements under the guidance of the Volunteer Park Trust including updated lighting and new fencing around its ponds, and is in the middle of more including the overhaul and expansion of the Seattle Asian Art Museum expected to be wrapped up later this year.
Through an inclusive planning process in partnership with the Capitol Hill Community, Seattle Parks and Recreation, the National Park Service, Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks (FSOP), Volunteer Park Trust (VPT) and many other local and regional stakeholders, the Seattle Art Museum is in the process of constructing two historic Olmsted pathways, improving the surfacing of existing park pathways, strengthening the connection between 15th Avenue/ public transit and the park, and improving safe pedestrian circulation around the Seattle Asian Art Museum.
That work is expected to be completed by this spring.
Other parts of the Olmsted vision will, sadly, never see the light of day in the park. The study describes the original plan for a playground “intended for older children” along the park’s western edge:
The playground was intended for older children, with apparatus laid out in the plan along the existing western border of the park. Olmsted strongly recommended that the Parks Board acquire the remainder of the land between the park border and Federal Avenue, but it was not purchased and houses were built on the lots. When the playground was proposed, neighbors opposed its placement because of noise concerns and the playground was moved to the northeast corner of the park, near the “Little Folks Lawn” and wading pool.
For more, check out the Olmsted study, below.