Gas Works Park in Seattle, Washington is a 19.1 acres (77,000 m2) public park on the site of the former Seattle Gas Light Company gasification plant, located on the north shore of Lake Union at the south end of the Wallingford neighborhood. Gas Works park contains remnants of the sole remaining coal gasification plant in the US. The plant operated from 1906 to 1956, and was bought by the City of Seattle for park purposes in 1962.
The park opened to the public in 1975. The park was designed by Seattle landscape architect Richard Haag, who won the American Society of Landscape Architects Presidents Award of Design Excellence for the project. It was originally named Myrtle Edwards Park, after the city councilwoman who had spearheaded the drive to acquire the site and who died in a car crash in 1969. In 1972, the Edwards family requested that her name be taken off the park because the design called for the retention of much of the plant. In 1976, Elliott Bay Park was renamed Myrtle Edwards Park.
Gas Works Park incorporates numerous pieces of the old plant. Some stand as ruins, while others have been reconditioned, painted, and incorporated into a children's "play barn" structure, constructed in part from what was the plant's exhauster-compressor building. A Web site affiliated with The Seattle Times newspaper says, "Gas Works Park is easily the strangest park in Seattle, and may rank among the strangest in the World."
Gas Works Park also features an artificial kite-flying hill with an elaborately sculptured sundial built into its summit. The park was for many years the exclusive site of a summer series of "Peace Concerts." These concerts are now shared out among several Seattle parks. The park also has for many years hosted one of Seattle's two major Fourth of July fireworks events; in 2009 it was the sole such event. The park is the traditional end point of the Solstice Cyclists and the start point for Seattle's World Naked Bike Ride.
Present appearance and characteristics :
Though gas production ceased in 1956, the buildings and manufacturing structures were still intact in 1962 when the City of Seattle began purchasing the abandoned gas works. The $1,340,000 purchase price was provided by Forward Thrust bonds, and H.U.D. payments were made from 1962 to 1972, and the debt was retired.
The abandoned gas-production plant and its land were deeded to the City of Seattle in 1975, the same year Gas Works Park (GWP) opened to the public. The park site consists of 20.5 acres (83,000 m2) of land projecting 400 feet (120 m) into Lake Union with 1,900 feet (580 m) of Shoreline. The site is bordered by Northlake Avenue at the north and abuts Lake Union on the East and South. The Wallingford neighborhood sits to the North. Immediately adjacent to the park are remnants of the industrial development of the area. The industrial dominance is rapidly being replaced by retail development. North of N .40th St. the area is predominantly a residential neighborhood.
The park is entered through a landscaped parking area or through the Burke-Gilman Trail, a bike and walking path which connects Puget Sound to Lake Washington. Dividing the parking area from the park is a grassy berm and rows of trees demarcating the old railroad right of way. The park is composed of seven areas: Earth Mound, North Lawn, Towers, Prow, Picnic Lawn and Shelter, Play Barn, and South Lawn (Figure 7). The Earth Mound, Prow, and Lawns are open areas intended for passive and active recreation, and offer magnificent views. The Towers, Play Barn, and Picnic Shelter are adapted from the original manufacturing structures.