Seattle Parks and Recreation and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) are working together to replace the old, green and white street signs on Seattle’s historic Olmsted boulevards with brown and white signs to make them easily recognizable.
The idea for the brown and white signs originated with a set of recommendations the Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks (FSOP) made after the 2003 Seattle Olmsted Park System Centennial celebration. Among the recommendations was to make the Parks-owned boulevards easier to identify by replacing the green signs with brown ones. FSOP is a nonprofit organization that supports the preservation of our unique Olmsted landscapes and raises awareness of the Olmsted philosophy of providing open space for everyone.
When SDOT was working to identify projects for the proposed Bridging the Gap Levy approved by Seattle voters in 2006, FSOP, through Seattle Parks and Recreation, asked if the replacement could take place in the context of the street sign replacement project, which will take place over several years. SDOT agreed.
The sign replacement is under way and the signs will appear on these boulevards:
- Cheasty Blvd.
- Hunter Blvd.
- Interlaken Dr. E
- Lake Washington Blvd.
- Magnolia Blvd. W
- Montlake Blvd.
- Mt. Baker Blvd.
- Puget Blvd. SW
- Queen Anne Blvd.
- Ravenna Blvd.
- 17th Ave. NE
- Volunteer Parkway
Creation of the park and boulevard system
In 1903 and 1904, John Charles Olmsted, Jr. of the Olmsted landscape architecture firm in Brookline, MA, came to Seattle at the behest of the Seattle Board of Park Commissioners, who believed hiring the prestigious firm would lend an air of excellence to our growing city. The elder Olmsted, Frederick Law Olmsted, and his son led the nationwide movement to provide accessible, beautiful, and healthful green spaces for everyone to enjoy. After surveying the city on foot, trolley, and boat, and studying already-identified park and trail plans, Olmsted presented his “Comprehensive System of Parks and Parkways” to the City in July of 1903.
Of the plan, Olmsted said the “primary aim should be to secure and preserve for the use of the people as much as possible of these advantages of water and mountain views and of woodlands, well distributed and conveniently located.” He encouraged the city to move swiftly to acquire as much land as possible, especially “all the borders of the different bodies of water.”
That plan, adopted by the Seattle City Council in October 1903, forms the basis for today’s extensive, 6,200-acre park and boulevard system. The principles the Olmsteds tended to follow were to give each park an individual identity suited to its location and topography; to use well-integrated native plantings; to frame curving paths and boulevards with sensitivity to pedestrians; and to use wooden structures where possible. A prominent feature of the plan is the 20-mile long landscaped boulevard system that links most of the parks, playgrounds, playfields, and greenbelts identified in the plan.
For more information on Seattle’s Olmsted legacy, please see http://www.seattle.gov/parks/parkspaces/olmsted.htm or www.seattleolmsted.org, and for information on the national Olmsted legacy, please see http://www.olmsted.org.