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Washington State

The History of Seattle

Between 1880 and 1910, Seattle's population grew from 3,500 to 230,000 and several annexations extended city boundaries in all directions. The resulting construction boom displayed some remarkable feats of engineering and civic resolve. To facilitate the northward expansion of Seattle's commercial district, 400-foot Denny Hill was razed and pushed into the Elliott Bay tidelands as fill. Led by city engineers, the project spanned 32 years with its final phase completed in 1930.

In 1917, the Army Corp of Engineers finished the Lake Washington Ship Canal, which provided a water passage from Puget Sound to Lake Union in the heart of the city with continuing passage to Lake Washington on the Seattle's eastern shore. The canal required digging cuts between Salmon Bay and Lake Union at Fremont and between Lake Union and Lake Washington at Montlake (called the Montlake Cut). When complete, the canal permanently lowered the water levels of Lakes Union and Washington by approximately nine feet.

The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, at the western end of the canal near Salmon Bay, were constructed to raise and lower ships (between six and 26 feet depending on the tides), allowing them to pass between fresh and salt water bodies. T oday, the locks are one of Seattle's most popular visitor attractions and offer a visitor center and a fish ladder with public viewing and interpretation.

Seattle's Olmsted-designed park system was built throughout the first four decades of the century. Expanding from the original 1903 master plan of John C. Olmsted (stepson of Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of New York's Central Park) Seattle's 50-mile-long "Emerald Necklace" of parks, linked by scenic waterways and boulevards, unfolded throughout the city. Olmsted also designed the grounds of the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exhibition, a legacy for the design of the University of Washington Campus in Seattle. Following Olmsted's death in 1920, the Olmsted Brothers firm continued consultation on several of the city's parks through the early 1940s.
The Olmsted legacy ranges from small play fields to Seattle's grandest parks including Volunteer Park, Seward Park, Woodland Park and the Washington Park Arboretum.




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Source: Seattle CVB;
Last modified: 20080810
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