Seattle’s Northwest Parks & Boulevards: Olmsted’s Park System Expansion

Mobile Workshop

This mobile workshop highlights northwest Seattle’s parks and boulevards, tracing the historic legacy of the Olmsted Brothers’ work here. Beginning with the boulevard connecting the University District to Green Lake, the tour will visit a variety of landscapes and park types. Green Lake and Woodland Parks were part of the original 1903 Olmsted Park and Boulevard Plan. In 1908, the firm was hired again to incorporate newly annexed areas, including the Ballard neighborhood, into a supplementary park plan.

The parks, playfields, boulevards, and viewpoints were developed according to plans developed by the Olmsted Brothers and advice provided to the Department of Parks between 1903 and 1912. The tour will begin near the University of Washington, and follow Ravenna Boulevard to Green Lake Park. From there, the tour will stop at two locations in Woodland Park, then follow a boulevard segment running down Phinney Ridge to Ballard, where it will visit playfields, viewpoints, and a beach park on the shore of Puget Sound. This tour will include short walks in several of the parks.

Please note: Though this tour should be fully accessible, it may involve some walking over areas of uneven ground. Participants should wear comfortable yet sturdy walking shoes. Walks should be less than one mile long in total.


  • Outline the Olmsted philosophy of providing open space for all people, which is built on the belief that a city park should provide “the prospect of coming together, all classes largely represented” and the Olmsted’s brothers aim for an egalitarian society that would be made more robust through common use of public spaces.
  • Discuss how communities can successfully partner with local park agencies to advance the work of preserving or revitalizing the historical heritage of its public spaces.
  • Identify how the Olmsted landscape design heritage and its “genius of place” approach creates a sense of being immersed in, and enveloped by, nature.
  • Discuss the historical, architectural, and geographical dimensions of Seattle's northern parks and boulevards, developed between 1903 and 1912 by the Olmsted Brothers.