Structure Type: built works - recreation areas and structures; landscapes - parks - urban parks

Designers: Olmsted Brothers, Landscape Architects (firm); Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. (landscape architect); John Charles Olmsted (landscape architect)

Dates: constructed 1905

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2451 Delmar Drive East
Interlaken, Seattle, WA 98102

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Building History

This 51.7-acre park was first configured by Seattle's Assistant Engineer (and later one-term Mayor) George Cotterill (1865–1958), who laid out a circuit of trails throughout the city to accommodate the bicycle craze that lasted between 1895-1905. Advances in chain-drive transmission systems and the invention of pneumatic tires by Dunlop and Michelin fueled the popularity of the 1890s "safety bicycle," a smoother-riding alternative to the older, more dangerous, high-wheel or "penny-farthing" bicycles of the 1880s. Chicago, with over 70 manufacturers, became a major bicycle manufacturing center, but, the market quickly saturated, the craze diminished significantly by 1905. (See "Chicagology: Bicycle Manufacturers,"Accessed 11/18/2014.)

Cotterill's network of early bicycle paths became crucial for later street planning in Seattle. The Magnolia Historical society has stated in its monthly newsletter: "George F. Cotterill... was a founding member of the Queen City Road Club and was involved in surveying and designing a 25 mile bike path system in late 1800s and early 1900s that laid the ground work for the city’s future boulevard system (including Magnolia Boulevard)." (See Monica Wooton, "Bicycle Paths/Bicycle Mayors,"Accessed 11/14/2014.) By 1900, the City of Seattle had accumulated large tracts donated for public parks, most notably parcels for Woodland and Washington Parks. Pressure grew for city government to systematize its holdings, to improve accessibility and enhance park usage.

The city contracted with the landscape architecture firm, the Olmsted Brothers, of Brookline, MA, to create such a interconnected park system. Using the bike path blueprint, the Olmsted Brothers prepared a City Park Plan for Seattle's Board of Park Commissioners, an "emerald necklace" of parks lining the waterfronts and other sites with picturesque vistas. To enable access to the parks, the Olmsteds developed a wooded boulevard system that connected many of them. "Within Seattle's emerald necklace, they envisioned Interlaken Park to be the connector between Washington Park (Arboretum) to Volunteer Park. Historian of Seattle's parks, Donald Sherwood, wrote: "This branch from Washington Park to Volunteer Park was recommended by the Olmsteds and identified in 1903 as the Volunteer Hill Parkway. At that date the property was owned by many, but their holdings were tracts not yet subdivided into lots. The Olmsteds advised immediate acquisition to head off ill-advised attempts to subdivide the ridges and ravines which had been allowed to return to the their 'natural' state--second growth forest. 'Interlaken' must have been a popular name for this area for it was quickly adopted in 1905 as the name of the new park...." (See Donald Sherwood, "Interlaken Park,"Accessed 11/18/2014.) As Sherwood pointed out, the name "Interlaken" probably referred to the picturesque Swiss resort situated between Lakes Thun and Brienz in the Bernese Oberland. The evolution of Seattle's park and boulevard system helped distinguish it as a place to live, impressing tourists visiting the city for the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, and fueling rapid growth during 1900-1910 era.

PCAD id: 19466