Volunteer Park (Seattle)

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Volunteer Park
Volunteer Park Seward.jpg
Volunteer Park (Seattle) is located in Washington (state)
Volunteer Park (Seattle)
LocationBetween E. Prospect and E. Galer Sts., and Federal and E. 15th Aves., Seattle, Washington
Area48.4 acres (19.6 ha)
Built1901
ArchitectOlmsted Brothers; Bebb & Gould
Architectural styleModerne (art museum)
NRHP reference #76001894[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPMay 3, 1976
Designated SEATLNovember 2011[2]

Volunteer Park is a 48.3-acre (19.5 ha) park in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Washington, USA.

History[edit]

Volunteer Park was acquired by the city of Seattle for $2,000 in 1876 from J.M. Colman. When Seattle Cemetery became Denny Park in 1884, the bodies interred there were moved to Washelli Cemetery, at the site of the future park.[3] It soon became apparent that the land would be better suited to park use and the bodies were moved once again, to Lake View Cemetery and the park renamed Lake View Park.[4] This caused considerable confusion and the park was renamed City Park in 1887. J. Willis Sayre, a Seattle theatre critic, journalist, and historian, who had fought in the Spanish-American War, actively lobbied local officials to rename it once again, as Volunteer Park, to honor the volunteers who served in the war.[5]

Volunteer Park is one of the crown jewels of Seattle’s Olmsted park and boulevard system. The Board of Park Commissioner brought John Charles Olmsted, of the Olmsted Brothers, Landscape Architects firm to Seattle in 1903 to design a park system to provide open space for the city and to help guide development in the rapidly growing city. In his first comprehensive plan, Volunteer Park served as the central park of the system because of its location close to downtown.[6]

Hired that same year to develop plans for Volunteer Park, Olmsted and his associates studied the landscape and built the plans around its natural beauty. Taking advantage of its ridgetop location, Olmsted ran one axis of the park’s plan along the top of the hill, laying out a concourse running north and south through the park. It is lined with an allé of chestnut trees stretching between the two ends of the drive. A second axis runs through the city’s municipal water system reservoir, which had been built in 1901. At the intersection of the two axes, he located a concert grove, pergola, and terraced planting beds flanked by lily ponds.[7]

On the eastern side of the park, paths looped around the concert grove and connected the interior of the park with the streetcar stop at 15th Avenue East and East Prospect Street. Large lawns surrounded by planting beds and groves of trees filled the interior. Multi-layered plantings filled planting beds on the perimeter of the park on the east, south, and west, to buffer the park from the city beyond its borders.[8]

On the western side of the park, the landscape featured lawns and more wooded areas. A carriage drive looped down the slope and around the reservoir connecting with the concourse drive at its northern and southern ends.[9]

The original 1904 plan had a small playground for little children at the northwest corner of the park. It included a shelterhouse with restrooms and a covered area that provided a seating area for caregivers as their charges enjoyed the sandboxes, swings, “Little Folks Lawn,” and wading pool. A revised 1909 plan added a playground for larger children at the request of playground advocates. Neighbors objected to its location because of the potential for noise and it was moved to the northwest corner of the park.[10]

The northern edge of the park is largely reserved for the work areas of the park. The caretaker’s cottage, the greenhouses, and other facilities are located along the northern fenceline. The conservatory was added in 1912, built from a kit purchased from the Hitchings Company of New York.[11]

The pergola Olmsted sited on the concourse featured a “concert grove” on its east side. It is shown on Olmsted plans as a cluster of trees adjacent to a covered shelter in the middle of the pergola. In 1915, the Park Department built a bandshell, designed by prominent Seattle architect Carl Gould, on the edge of the lawn north of the reservoir. Olmsted objected to its siting there because of its intrusion on the greensward – the great lawn, but it better served the type of musical performances that were popular at that time. It was a wooden structure and had to be torn down in 1947 because of rotted timbers. A new stage structure, designed by Rich Haag, was built in 1971.[12]

An effort by the Washington State Art Association to build a museum in the park was rebuffed in 1910.[13]Olmsted argued that, “Volunteer Park is obviously a landscape park – not an ornamental public square nor primarily a public playground. The conclusion is evident that the proposed art museum is not suggested as a means for the public to enjoy the landscape of the park… Owing to its size and style of architecture, the art museum is in no way to be subordinate to the park landscape, but on the contrary the museum would completely dominate a large part if not the whole of the park… destroying much of the landscape value of this park.[14] The issue would arise again, however, when the Fuller family offered to donate the funding for construction of a museum for the Seattle Art Institute. The Park Department accepted the offer and the Seattle Art Museum was built in 1932. It would serve as home to the Seattle Art Museum until 1991, when a new building was constructed in downtown Seattle. The Volunteer Park building became the new home of SAM’s Asian art collections and was renamed Seattle Asian Art Museum.[15]

Features[edit]

Volunteer Park Reservoir, 2015
Volunteer Park Water Tower, Seattle, WA

The park includes a conservatory (a designated city landmark[16]), completed in 1912; an amphitheater; a water tower with an observation deck, built by the Water Department in 1906,[17] a fenced-off reservoir; the dramatic Art Deco building of the Seattle Asian Art Museum (a designated city landmark[18]); a statue of William Henry Seward; a memorial to Judge Thomas Burke;[19] and a sculpture, Black Sun, by Isamu Noguchi (colloquially referred to as "The Doughnut") around which a scenic view of the Seattle skyline that prominently includes the Space Needle can be seen, as well as several meadows and picnic tables. The wading pool is operational in the summer months and operated daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Volunteer Park is also well known for its extensive dahlia garden in season. There are also Koi ponds at the park which contain fish during the summer months.

Events[edit]

The park hosts various free concerts and outdoor theater events throughout the summer.[20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. ^ Community Advocacy: Volunteer Park Seattle Landmark Designation Archived 2014-03-17 at the Wayback Machine, Historic Seattle, undated (part of 2012 Awards list). Accessed online 2012-12-10
  3. ^ City of Seattle Ordinance 642, “An Ordinance creating Washelli cemetery and setting apart and dedicating the grounds for the same,” passed February 6, 1885.
  4. ^ City of Seattle Ordinance 877, “An Ordinance converting Washelli cemetery in the City of Seattle into a public park, and providing for the removal of the bodies of persons burned therein and for the purchase by the city of the burial lots therein owned by private person,” passed October 4, 1887.
  5. ^ HistoryLink - Sayre, James Willis (1877-1963), retrieved 2018-12-23
  6. ^ Volunteer Park Landmark Nomination, 2011, Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks, p. 5 (PDF), retrieved 2018-12-23
  7. ^ Volunteer Park Landmark Nomination, 2011, Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks, p. 6-8 (PDF), retrieved 2018-12-23
  8. ^ Volunteer Park Landmark Nomination, 2011, Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks, p. 6-8 (PDF), retrieved 2018-12-23
  9. ^ Volunteer Park Landmark Nomination, 2011, Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks, p. 6-8 (PDF), retrieved 2018-12-23
  10. ^ Volunteer Park Preliminary Plan, 02695-06, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site
  11. ^ Volunteer Park Preliminary Plan, 02695-06, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site
  12. ^ Volunteer Park Landmark Nomination, 2011, Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks, p. 103-105 (PDF), retrieved 2018-12-23
  13. ^ October 24, 1910, Board of Park Commissioners Minutes, Volume 5, 5800-01 Board of Park Commissioners Minutes, Seattle Municipal Archives, Seattle, Washington.
  14. ^ John C. Olmsted to J. T. Heffernan, October 11, 1910, Box 53, Folder 9, 5801-01 Don Sherwood Parks History Collection, Seattle Municipal Archives, Seattle, Washington.
  15. ^ Volunteer Park Landmark Nomination, 2011, Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks, p. 39, 107 (PDF), retrieved 2018-12-23
  16. ^ Landmarks Alphabetical Listing for V, Individual Landmarks, Department of Neighborhoods, City of Seattle. Accessed 28 December 2007.
  17. ^ http://www.seattle.gov/parks/park_detail.asp?id=399#about
  18. ^ Landmarks Alphabetical Listing for S Archived 2011-07-21 at the Wayback Machine, Individual Landmarks, Department of Neighborhoods, City of Seattle. Accessed 28 December 2007.
  19. ^ Volunteer Park, Seattle Parks and Recreation (official site). Accessed 2015-09-13.
  20. ^ http://www.volunteerparktrust.org/calendar.html. Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 47°37′49.5″N 122°18′56.1″W / 47.630417°N 122.315583°W / 47.630417; -122.315583