Seattle Now & Then: Gas Works Park – A Haag Landscape

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: The 1906-07 Gas Works at the north end of Lake Union went idle in 1956 when natural gas first reached Seattle by pipeline. In this photo, taken about fifteen years later, the Wallingford Peninsula is still home to the plant’s abandoned and “hanging gardens of metal.” (Courtesy: Rich Haag)
THEN: The 1906-07 Gas Works at the north end of Lake Union went idle in 1956 when natural gas first reached Seattle by pipeline. In this photo, taken about fifteen years later, the Wallingford Peninsula is still home to the plant’s abandoned and “hanging gardens of metal.” (Courtesy: Rich Haag)
NOW: While the city’s distant skyline has risen in the ensuing 45 or so years, the redeemed industrial sculpture of the Gas Works remains in place. The wasteland of polluted puddles and rusted pipes is now a public park.
NOW: While the city’s distant skyline has risen in the ensuing 45 or so years, the redeemed industrial sculpture of the Gas Works remains in place. The wasteland of polluted puddles and rusted pipes is now a public park.

This week’s ‘then’ appears on page 151 of author Thaisa Way’s new University of Washington Press book The Landscape Architecture of Richard Haag: From Modern Space to Urban Ecological Design. Seattle’s Gas Works Park is Haag’s best-known victory for innovative urban design.  Since 1964. when he founded the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Washington, Haag has gained a warranted admiration that Way has sharply surveyed and illustrated in her new book.

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Click TWICE to widen
Click TWICE to widen

Haag and Way, the latter an associate professor in the department the former founded, stand together at the center of Jean’s Sherrard’s recent repeat of a slide that Haag shot long ago. Way dates it 1969.  Haag was then still scouting and studying for a proposal that one year later would bring him a commission to “prepare a site analysis, program and master plan” for a park on this Wallingford peninsula of 20.5 acres and 1,900 feet of shoreline.  Once he had the Seattle City Council’s unanimous approval, in 1972, Haag added the 45-feet-high green hillock we know and climb, Kite Hill.

A Kite flight from 2006
A Kite flight from 2006

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On the page facing the photograph featured at the top and under a text break titled “New Eyes for Old,” Way explains that “Haag saw the dramatic site for the first time by rowboat on an autumn night and was immediately drawn to the somber black towers of the gas plant.”   She then quotes from a Haag reminiscence that reads

Gas Works at sunset and still on fire. The pencil-scrawled caption on the original slide dates it 1956. The Aurora Bridge marks the horizon.
Gas Works at sunset and still on fire. The pencil-scrawled caption on the original slide dates it 1956. The Aurora Bridge marks the horizon.

somewhat like a revery.  “When I get a new site, I always want to know, figure out, what is the most sacred thing about the site?  Well, this site, without the buildings, there was nothing sacred about it … So I decided that this big tower, the one right behind me, was the most sacred, the most iconic thing on this site, and that I would go down to the wire to save that structure. Then as I got into it more, I thought, that’s kind of silly.  Why wouldn’t you save the one behind it?  You know, husband and wife?”

Frank Shaw titles and dates this "Stacks and Tanks (cracking towers) Feb. 5, 1974. This is a few years after Haag's first visit and inspirations. As other Shaw photos will reveal below 1974-5 was a period of extensive shaping for the new Gas Works Park.
Frank Shaw titles and dates this “Stacks and Tanks (cracking towers) Feb. 5, 1974.” This is a few years after Haag’s first visit and inspirations. As other Shaw photos will reveal below, 1974-5 was a period of extensive shaping and then polishing  for the new Gas Works Park.

Of course, Haag went on from there, preaching to and persuading Seattle to save almost the entire family of our “iron Stonehenge.”  And the consequences have been profound.  Next spring the Gas Works will be featured in a PBS documentary as one of “Ten Parks that Changed America.”  Way describes it as “one of the first post-industrial landscapes to be transformed into public place.”  And with the activism of the Friends of Gas Works Park, the transformation continues.  The Friends expect – and hope – to at last “free the towers,” which is to “Take down that fence that surrounds them.”  The Friends, including Haag, also plan to install a Camera Obscura (you might look it up) in the largest of the preserved generator towers and open an “interpretive center to bring recognition to the preserved structures as a collection of techno-artifacts unmatched in the world.” 

WEB EXTRAS

I’ll drop in another photo of Richard and Thaisa, standing amongst the concrete supports for the old rails:

DSC_6858

How ’bout you, boys? Anything to add?

How can we not but follow your lead dear Jean Randall. (Is that one “L” or two?  You were using it regularly, you have told me, as a child, but now the gender ambiguous J or G word/name has long since taken over for the rugged Randal or Randall.)  Ron has put up the first list of linkable features, the more recent ones  that have appeared earlier as a main course for our weekend brunches since about 2008.   Following that we will attach some older but still relevant – by place or subject  – features and conclude with an incomplete exhibit of Frank Shaw’s many hasselblad recordings of the Gas Works in the 1970s.   In 1976 he changed from naming it the Gas Plant Park to Gas Works Park.

 a-king-gas-3247-blog

Then: Photographed from an upper story of the Ford Factory at Fairview Avenue and Valley Street, the evidence of Seattle's explosive boom years can be seen on every shore of Lake Union, ca. 1920. Courtesy of MOHAI

THEN: This portrait of the Seattle Gas Company’s storage tank dates from the spring of 1907, which explains its somewhat steeper topography. Between 1908 and 1911, both Republican Street, here on the right, and 9th Avenue N. were lowered to a grade close to that of Westlake Avenue, which is behind the photographer.

THEN: Photographed in the late 1950s, the floating restaurant’s huge on deck hooligan got no competition as yet from the Space Needle (1962) in breaking the horizon.

THEN: The rear end of the derailed trolley on N. 35th Street appears right-of-center a few feet east of Albion Place N. and the curved track from which the unrestrained car jumped on the morning of August 21, 1903. (Courtesy, Fremont Historical Society)

THEN: From the Fremont Bridge, this subject looks northwest across the torrent that followed the washout of the Fremont Dam in the early afternoon of March 13, 1914. Part of the Bryant Lumber and Shingle Mill appears left-of-center. The north end of the Stone Way Trestle appears in the upper right corner. (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archives)

THEN: Looking west down Ewing Street (North 34th) in 1907 with the nearly new trolley tracks on the left and a drainage ditch on the right to protect both the tracks and the still barely graded street from flooding. (Courtesy, Michael Maslan)

THEN: A.J. McDonald’s panorama of Lake Union and its surrounds dates from the early 1890s. It was taken from First Hill, looking north from near the intersection of Terry Avenue and Union Street. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)

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ABOVE: Still on fire in 1947, and BELOW: silent and waiting for an as yet unknown fate ca. 1960.   The aerial is from the local police department.  The department’s harbor patrol had its Lake Union port beside the west side of the Gas Works.

x -Police-aerial-Gas-Works-web

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Around 1980 the Webster and Stevens collection was given to the Museum of History and Industry on a grant from Pemco. The familiar "W&S" is hand written onto the corners of many thousands of negatives. I think it is something like forty thousand of them. Here's four of them, joined for a 1910 pan of Lake Union - including the Gas Works, far left - taken from the most northeasterly knoll on the summit of Queen Anne Hill. I used the most northerly negative for a now-then repeat in Pacific on June 12, 1983. It is featured next.
Around 1980 the Webster and Stevens collection was given to the Museum of History and Industry on a grant from Pemco. The familiar “W&S” is hand written onto the corners of many thousands of negatives. I think it is something like forty thousand of them. Here’s three of them, joined for a 1910 pan of Lake Union – including the Gas Works, far left – and taken from the most northeasterly knoll on the summit of Queen Anne Hill. I used the most northerly negative for a now-then repeat in Pacific on June 12, 1983. It is featured next.  Click to enlarge the above and the below.

clip 1910 GAS-WORKS-Park-fm-Q.A.-6-12-1983-WEB

Another from Queen Anne Hill, this time by the Ballardian photographer named Turner. Courtesy, Fairlook Antiques.
Another from Queen Anne Hill, this time by the Ballardian photographer named Turner. Courtesy, Fairlook Antiques.
This one from ca. 1960. The I-5 Freeway Bridge pylons are in place. Courtesy, Lawton Gowey.
This one from ca. 1960. The I-5 Freeway Bridge pylons are in place. Courtesy, Lawton Gowey.

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First appeared in Pacific, September 1, 1991.
First appeared in Pacific, September 1, 1991.

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clip shed .Gasworks-307-Latona-WEB

First appeared in Pacific November 26, 2006.
First appeared in Pacific November 26, 2006.

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First appeared in Pacific, December 15, 1985.
First appeared in Pacific, December 15, 1985.

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clip dry-dock-Lake-Union-Dry-Dock-web

Firs t appeared in Pacific, July 25, 1993.
Firs t appeared in Pacific, July 25, 1993.

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clip Casey-Jones-GasworksWEB

First appeared in Pacific December 22, 2002.
First appeared in Pacific December 22, 2002.

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First appeared in Pacific, March 25, 1990.
First appeared in Pacific, March 25, 1990.  In the years following, the “now” has changed dramatically although I believe its basic timbers are the same as those built long ago by Western Cooperage. As has the Marine Corps Reserved Center, now home for MOHAI, which follows.  (I can easily correct this if I’m corrected. )

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First appeared in Pacific, May 19, 2002.
First appeared in Pacific, May 19, 2002.

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First appeared in Pacific March 8, 1987.
First appeared in Pacific March 8, 1987.

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A FEW OF FRANK SHAW’S “GAS PLANT”

Franks Shaw's first slide of the future Gas Works Park date from Feb. 5, 1974. He has titled this one "stacks and tanks (cracking towers).
Franks Shaw’s first slide of the future Gas Works Park date from Feb. 5, 1974. He has titled this one “stacks and tanks (cracking towers).

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Shaw's caption reads "Brick Building & Pipes at Gasplant Park, Feb. 5, 1974."
Shaw’s caption reads “Brick Building & Pipes at Gasplant Park, Feb. 5, 1974.”

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Shaw writes "cluster of stacks at Gasplant Park, Feb. 5, 1974."
Shaw writes “cluster of stacks at Gasplant Park, Feb. 5, 1974.”

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"Tanks and Buildings complex, Feb. 5, 1974."
“Tanks and Buildings complex, Feb. 5, 1974.”

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Two days later Frank Shaw returned to his "Gasplant Park" to continue his recording. This one is titled "broken windows in Gasplant park bldg. Feb. 7, 1974."
Two days later Frank Shaw returned to his “Gasplant Park” to continue his recording with some details. This one is titled “broken windows in Gasplant park bldg. Feb. 7, 1974.”

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Shaw writes "counterbalance assembly in Gas Plant Bldg. Feb. 7, 1974.
Shaw writes “counterbalance assembly in Gas Plant Bldg. Feb. 7, 1974.

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"Pile of pipe at Gasplant Park, Feb. 7, 1974."
“Pile of pipe at Gasplant Park, Feb. 7, 1974.”

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"Brick building under cracking tower, Feb 7, 1974."
“Brick building under cracking tower, Feb 7, 1974.”

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"Cracking tower Gasplant Park, Feb. 7, 1974."
“Cracking tower Gasplant Park, Feb. 7, 1974.”

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This is the last, I believe for now, of Frank Shaw's shots on the Wallingford Peninsula in early February, 1974. And it is a wonderful one, I think. There between the couple is another symbol of the time, the great Grandma Cookies neon roof-top sign at the northeast corner of 34th Street and Wallingford Avenue. Once-upon-time Seattle's dada-novelist Tom Robbins considered it one of our great local landmarks, a ready-made seen from far across the lake and over the Gas Works too.
This is the last, I believe for now, of Frank Shaw’s shots on the Wallingford Peninsula in early February, 1974. And it is a wonderful one, I think. There between the couple is another symbol of the time, the great Grandma Cookies neon roof-top sign at the northeast corner of 34th Street and Wallingford Avenue. Once-upon-time Seattle’s dada-novelist Tom Robbins considered it one of our great local landmarks, a ready-made seen from far across the lake and over the Gas Works too.  (The time has come for me to nighty-bears two flights up from my basement deposit.  I will return with some more and later Shaw Gas Works slides tomorrow (sunday) afternoon . . . Back at 1:30 pm Sunday the 13th.  Good luck.  I’ll attach some more on Grandma’s Cookies at the bottom, including a black-white photo of Shaw’s taken from the Kite Hill when a crane is removing the cherished – by some – neon letters of the sign.

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This Shaw surprised me. It reveals that external restoration with coloring has begun on the machinery as early as early 1974.. Shaw captions this "orange-colored machinery Gas Plat bldg, Feb. 7, 1974."
This Shaw surprised me. It reveals that external restoration with coloring has begun on the machinery as early as early 1974.. Shaw captions this “orange-colored machinery Gas Plat bldg, Feb. 7, 1974.”

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More colored machines more than two years later. Oct. 20, 1976.
More colored machines more than two years later. Oct. 20, 1976.

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The 'Heliark' (barge AFL-767, April 30, 1978
The ‘Heliark’ (barge AFL-767, April 30, 1978

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Shaw's caption reads "Crowd at Peace Concert, Gasworks Pk. Aug. 22, 1982." Not so long ago. This is the last of the colored Shaw's we are putting up. There are other. The return to Grandma's Cookies follows.
Shaw’s caption reads “Crowd at Peace Concert, Gasworks Pk. Aug. 22, 1982.” Not so long ago. This is the last of the colored Shaw’s we are putting up. There are other. The return to Grandma’s Cookies follows.

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GRANDMA’S COOKIES (MORE TO COME)

SHAW'S Grandma Cookies taken from Kite Hill. When I find the date I'll add it. But note the infancy of Haag's landscape for the parking lot, which is now a groomed forest.
SHAW’S Grandma Cookies taken from Kite Hill. When I find the date I’ll add it. But note the infancy of Haag’s landscape for the parking lot, which is now a groomed forest.

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I took this sunset detail of the south facade of Grandma's on September 26, 2006.
I took this sunset detail of the south facade of Grandma’s on September 26, 2006, probably from a moving Volvo..

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Asbestos removal from the south facade of Grandma's Cookies on July 12, 2014. This was taken from the passenger window of a moving Dodge.
Asbestos removal from the south facade of Grandma’s Cookies on July 12, 2014. This was taken from the passenger window of a moving Dodge. I held my breath.

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OTHER LOCAL GAS PRODUCERS

3. Gas-Plant-on-Elliott-with-Magnolia-and-GN-Pier-frm-Q.A.WEB

First appeared in Pacific April 7, 1996
—– First appeared in Pacific April 7, 1996
From along the future Elliott Avenue
From along the future Elliott Avenue-

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Another from Queen Anne Hill.
Another from Queen Anne Hill.

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QUIZWIN A PRIZE TO BE CHOSEN BY JEAN SHERRARD, PERHAPS SOMETHING FROM THE FORSAKEN ART COLLECTION!  WHERE IS THIS STANDPIPE?  FIRST IDENTIFIER GAINS THE PRIZE – AND WINS IT TOO – ON A COMBINATION OF GOOD FORTUNE AND INTELLIGENCE.

The original photograph is dated November 20, 1910, and where is it?
The original photograph is dated November 20, 1910, and where is it?

 

6 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Gas Works Park – A Haag Landscape”

  1. Back in 1958-59 I worked for Puget Planners (headed by John Nordmark). We were located in a grey house in the 1700 block on Dexter. Does anyone have any more information on what has happened to the firm, John Nordmark, and that grey house?

  2. Great informaie site… I am trying to research a Photograph I have dated May 1906 named ‘ Opening of Gas Works’ it shows 40 or so well dressed men in suits and hats, with some names written under the photograph… I wonder if its the men who were involved indesigning/ building the Gas works….. but I cant find any names of photos like it…

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