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.

Montlake Boulevard

Montlake Boulevard was designed) by the Olmsted Brothers. It is located in the Montlake and University District neighborhoods and runs between the northern starting point of Lake Washington Boulevard and NE 45th Street.

Montlake Boulevard, originally known as the University Extension of Washington Park Boulevard, which became Lake Washington Boulevard, was identified in John Charles Olmsted's 1903 plan for Seattle's parks and boulevards system. The plan included a ring of boulevards connecting Seattle's major parks.

The first boulevard to be built ran along Lake Washington from the Mount Baker neighborhood to Washington Park. In preparation for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific (A-Y-P) Exposition in 1909, the Parks Department built an additional segment that crossed the Montlake Portage and ended at the A-Y-P's south gate. (The Lake Washington Ship Canal, built in 1916, had not yet bisected the strip of land connecting Capitol Hill to the University District.)
The boulevard made it possible for visitors to drive along the scenic route to the fair and a new streetcar line provided access to the fair from downtown. In their annual report, the Board of Park commissioners wrote, "
"Special efforts were made and heavy expenditures were required in carrying out our plan to have our north and south chain of boulevards along or overlooking Lake Washington from the Mount Baker district, north to the Exposition grounds, open for traffic, so that our Eastern visitors might enjoy the beauties of our lake and mountain scenery."

Olmsted's design for Montlake Boulevard called for two feet of turf closest to the private property lines, 8 feet of cement sidewalks, and 14 feet of turf and trees between the sidewalk and street. Between the two 24-foot roadways, he laid out a 54-foot center strip with four rows of tulip trees and small shrubs, with vines running up the trolley and utility poles. The tracks for the trolley line that would run down the center strip were laid flush with the ground level so they would not intrude upon the visual effect of the design.

Olmsted's system plan called for the boulevard to run through the university campus and connect with what is now 17th Avenue NE, and then continue from there to Ravenna Boulevard. After the A-Y-P, the University of Washington Board Of Regents declined to allow the road to cross campus, so the boulevard followed a different route along the shore of Lake Washington on land owned by the state. Montlake Boulevard now a segment of State Route 513. The landscaped center strip is owned and maintained by Seattle's Department of Parks and Recreation.

Montlake Boulevard 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