In 1892, landscape architect Edward Schwagerl proposed that the city purchase Bailey Peninsula, a rare site where bedrock reaches the surface. At that time, Schwagerl’s proposals were ignored amid suggestions that the peninsula was too far from town. Then, as an outcome of the 1903 report, “A Comprehensive System of Parks and Parkways” by the Olmsted Brothers firm, and their continuing 33 year relationship with the city, the peninsula was acquired in 1911 for $322,000 and named Seward Park after William Seward, the Secretary of State responsible for America’s purchase of Alaska in 1867.
Work began slowly at first on the 300-acre park: a few trails and picnic areas were constructed. Then in 1913, Lake Washington Boulevard was extended from Mount Baker to the park. In 1917, Lake Washington was lowered, creating a grassy meadow leading to a swimming beach; in 1927, a bathhouse was constructed. Post-Olmsted involvement included new fish rearing ponds in 1935, and a Greek-style amphitheater, hollowed out from the south hillside in 1953. An old growth forest of virgin timber and vegetation covers 120 acres on the northern two thirds of the peninsula today and is the largest such stand in the city.