In 1903, John Charles Olmsted spent several weeks in Seattle consulting with the Board of Park Commissioners. The result: on October 19 of that year the Board accepted the report, “A Comprehensive System of Parks and Parkways” by the Olmsted Brothers. So began a relationship between the city and the Olmsted firm that would span 33 years, concluding with the firm’s proposals for Washington Park Arboretum.
The original goal of the plan was to locate a park or playground within one half mile of every home, with a 20-mile landscaped boulevard as both its dominant feature and connective tissue. Testimony to the public support that the plan generated, within ten years following its submission most of the land was secured. In all, the firm designed 37 parks and playgrounds including Colman, Frink, Green Lake, Interlaken, Jefferson, Mt. Baker, Seward, Volunteer, Washington Park and Arboretum, and Woodland parks, as well as Lincoln Park (now known as the Bobby Morris Playfield), Hiawatha Playground, and Lake Washington, Magnolia, and Ravenna boulevards.
Today, the Friends of Seattle's Olmsted Parks, a group founded in 1983 to promote awareness, enjoyment, and care of the city's Olmsted parks and landscapes, plays a key partnership role with the city. The system was listed in the Washington Heritage Register in 2017, and is currently under review for nomination in the National Register of Historic Places.