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.

Green Lake Park

Green Lake Park was designed by the Olmsted Brothers between 1907 and 1912. It is located in the Green Lake neighborhood at 7201 E Greenlake Dr N, 98115. It is 323.7 acres.

John Charles Olmsted included Green Lake Park in his plan for Seattle's parks and boulevards system in 1903. It has been part of the park system since 1905 and has undergone a number of changes – including losing nearly 100 acres of lake to filling.

After creating a park and boulevard plan for the city, Olmsted returned to Seattle numerous times to create landscape designs for public and private projects. In 1908 he developed a preliminary plan for a park and parkway along the shores of Green Lake. His planned called for lowering the lake four feet and filling two lobes of the lake, one on the northeast corner of the lake near today's community center, and the other on the southeast corner, where the golf course is now.

The plan included a parkway encircling the park. He incorporated the streetcar tracks on the inland side of the parkway, a local access roadway, and a pleasure drive closer to the shore. Around the streetcar tracks he suggested the planting of trees and shrubs to limits its intrusions into the park experience. By adding fill along the east side of the lake, Olmsted wrote in the 1903 report, "These places will be valuable as local recreation grounds for the residents." He also recommended that two or three small islands could be constructed in the lake and planted with "masses of trees and shrubbery." While acknowledging that docks and boathouses could be built along the shore, Olmsted recommended that they only be allowed behind the islands so as not to obstruct the view across the open water.

The city eventually lowered Green Lake by seven feet, freeing up more parkland along the lakeshore. Over the next several decades, the park was developed largely according to the Olmsted plan. Much of the work was carried out by Works Progress Administration employment relief programs in the 1930s.

Green Lake Park Additional Info

Green Lake Park News


∆ 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