Volunteer Park Reservoir, 2000. Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, 148588.
02695-43_SMA Volunteer Park

Volunteer Park (Seattle)

by Jennifer Ott
Listen (English Only)

Volunteer Park was designed by John Charles Olmsted, stepson and nephew of Frederick Law Olmsted who is famous for his work in Central Park, the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and the Biltmore Estate, among many other projects. John Charles, who carried on the Olmsted legacy after his stepfather retired, developed Seattle’s park and boulevard system in 1903. It includes neighborhood parks, playfields boulevards and parkways, and large parks, such as Woodland Park, Seward Park, and, of course, Volunteer Park.

Volunteer Park is the crown jewel of Seattle’s Olmsted park and boulevard system. Today, it is the most developed and intact Olmsted-designed park in Seattle, with sweeping drives, grand trees, a stunning vista, and acres of green lawns that provide a relief from the noise and crowds of the city streets. It is an excellent example of the naturalistic and pastoral style, with more formal design elements near the concourse that runs along the ridge of the hill. Olmsted completed a plan for the park in 1904 and made some revisions for a 1909 plan. Construction of the park according to that plan was completed between 1909 and 1912. Since then, it has been one of Seattle’s favorite outdoor destinations and it has evolved with the addition of new buildings, changes to structures and facilities, and the addition of sculptures and memorials.

The history of the city is woven into the landscape of the park in the same way that the park is woven into the life of the city.

Learn More about Volunteer Park at HistoryLink.org

Walking Distance: .85 mile
Google Transit Directions: Bus Routes

The wheelchair accessible path can be found on the south side of the museum’s front lawn.

The wading pool is generally open on sunny days when the temperature is forecast to be 70 degrees or above. Check Seattle Parks and Recreation’s  website for more details.

The path from the Carriage Drive to the Amphitheater is steep. It may be easier to approach the stage from the uphill side, on the path to the Lily Pond..

The water tower is not ADA accessible. If you would like a printed version of the information panels about Seattle’s Olmsted legacy that are on the observatory level, please contact the Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks.

Tour Stops

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