Seattle’s Olmsted Parks


John Charles Olmsted of the Olmsted Brothers Landscape Architects firm developed a park and boulevard system for the City of Seattle between 1903 and 1912. In addition to the system plan, Olmsted and other landscape architects from the Olmsted Brothers firm also developed plans for individual landscapes, including the University of Washington campus, Volunteer Park, the Washington Park Arboretum, Hiawatha Park, and others.

The system plan and these individual plans share a number of Olmstedian characteristics:

  • Parks and boulevards located on hilltops or along shorelines take advantage of views, incorporated as "borrowed landscapes" into the designs.
  • In more formally designed parks, "rooms" consisted of sweeping lawns bordered by planting beds that featured multiple layers, from ground covers to mid-height shrubs to taller trees.
  • Olmsted encouraged the preservation and use of native vegetation.
  • Many parks incorporated playgrounds for Seattle's younger citizens.
  • Paths and drives often follow curvilinear lines through the landscapes.
  • Formal sections of boulevards are flanked by rows of trees, informal sections that travel through woodland parks incorporate the existing vegetation along the street borders.

City Hall Park

City Hall Park, was recommended by the Olmsted Brothers. It is located at 450 3rd Ave, 98119. It is 1.3.

Bordering on the south side of the King County Public Safety Building, this former battlefield is now a small walking and sitting space filled with grass, trees, benches, small tables, and chairs. A small oak here commemorates the founding of the United Nations, and a plaque with cannonball recalls the 1865 Battle of Seattle, when Indians led by Chief Leschi attacked the pioneer village in a last effort to save their l and. The battle was short lived, however, largely because of the fire power of the gunship Decatur, moored in Elliott Bay. During freeway construction in 1964, several more cannonballs were unearthed below Harborview Hospital. City Hall park, in keeping with its military history, was used as a drill ground for troops during World War II.

(Excerpted from Enjoying Seattle's Parks by Brandt Morgan.)

What is now City Hall Park was originally known as “Fortson Square”, named for Captain George H. Fortson and other Seattle volunteers who died in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. City Hall Park was also the site of an Indian attack on the pioneer village in 1856. Known as the “Battle of Seattle” it was allegedly led by Chief Leschi of the Nisqually Native American tribe, who was hanged for murder in 1858, and was exonerated in 2004. In 1883 the site was purchased by King County and a frame courthouse was constructed. A second courthouse was built to the east, on “Profanity Hill”, so named by judges, lawyers etc. who climbed the hill daily. This is now the site of Harborview Hospital. The frame building and site were finally sold in 1890 (the 1889 Great Fire did not burn this far) to the City for City Hall. In 1909 city offices were moved to the “Flatiron Building” at 4th Avenue and Yesler until 1951, when the hall was wrecked and the empty lot became a dump. In 1911, Mayor Dilling asked the Park Dept. to improve and maintain “only downtown park”. From 1942 through 1944 the site was a drill ground and outdoor recreation field for Seattle Air Defense Wing Fighter Command with quarters at Frye Hotel on the opposite southeast corner. In 1955 a pin oak tree was planted to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the United Nations, and finally in 1962 city offices were moved into the Municipal Building at 4th and James.

(Edited from the files of Don Sherwood, 1916-1981, Park Historian.)

City Hall Park Additional Info


∆ Cal Anderson Park

∆ Cheasty Boulevard

∆ Cheasty GS: Cheasty Blvd

∆ Colman Park

∆ Frink Park

∆ Green Lake Park

∆ Hiawatha Playfield

∆ Hunter Boulevard

∆ Interlaken Park

∆ Jefferson Park

∆ Kinnear Park

∆ Lakeview Park

∆ Lake Washington Boulevard

∆ Madrona Park

∆ Magnolia Greenbelt

∆ Montlake Boulevard

∆ Mount Baker Boulevard

∆ Mount Baker Park

∆ Puget Boulevard Commons

∆ Schmitz Boulevard

∆ Schmitz Park

∆ Seward Park

∆ Volunteer Park

∆ Washington Park Arboretum

∆ Woodland Park


∆ Alki Beach Park

∆ Cowen Park

∆ Dearborn Park

∆ Denny Blaine Park

∆ Denny Park

∆ Discovery Park

∆ Golden Gardens

∆ Hamilton Viewpoint Park

∆ Leschi Park

∆ Lincoln Park

∆ Madison Park

∆ Marshall Park

∆ McGraw Square

∆ Miller Playfield

∆ Pioneer Square

∆ Ravenna Boulevard

∆ Ravenna Park

∆ Salmon Bay Park

∆ Sunset Hill Viewpoint Park

∆ Union Station Square


∆ Ballard Playground

∆ Beacon Hill Playground

∆ Beer Sheva Park

∆ Boren Park

∆ Cascade Playground

∆ City Hall Park

∆ Fairview Park

∆ Garfield Playfield

∆ Gasworks Park

∆ Genesee Park

∆ Gilman Playground

∆ Greenwood Triangle

∆ Howell Park

∆ Interbay Athletic Field

∆ Kerry Park

∆ Licton Spring Park

∆ Longfellow Creek GS: North

∆ Magnolia Boulevard

∆ Magnolia Park

∆ Myrtle Edwards Park

∆ Observatory Courts

∆ Pritchard Island Beach

∆ Queen Anne Boulevard

∆ Rainier Playfield

∆ Roanoke Park

∆ Rogers Playground

∆ South Park Playground

∆ University Playground

∆ Viretta Park