Home Page
Link to Seattle Department of Neighborhoods home page

Seattle Historical Sites

New Search

Summary for 3601 BEACON AVE / Parcel ID 1624049270 / Inv # 0

Historic Name: Beacon Hill North Reservoir Common Name:
Style: Other - Industrial Neighborhood: Beacon Hill
Built By: Year Built: 1911
The Seattle Water Department completed construction of this 61,000,000-gallon reservoir in 1911 along with its 49,000,000-gallon twin to the immediate south. These reservoirs and the shared gate house were built as part of the Cedar River Water System No. 2, which also included a second pipeline from the Cedar River and the reservoirs and their appurtenances at Green Lake and Maple Leaf. Construction of the Cedar River water system had commenced in 1899 after Seattle residents voted in 1895 for the approval of bonds to finance the system. On January 10, 1901, water began flowing from the Cedar River into Seattle’s system carried by a newly completed 28.57-mile pipeline to the new Lincoln and Volunteer Park reservoirs. This new system had a capacity of 23.5 million gallons per day. Over the next ten years, the city’s population increased from 80,600 in 1900 to 237,194 in 1910, greatly increasing the demand for water all over the city. In 1908, construction began on a second pipeline and the reservoirs, which would be supplied by it. On Beacon Hill, the City had already purchased 235 acres from the State of Washington in 1898 for purposes of a reservoir and cemetery. Situated to the east of the reservoirs’ site, the route of both Cedar River pipelines became Beacon Avenue. The pipeline alignment straightened an existing meandering road along the ridge of Beacon Hill and split the large site into two roughly equal halves. At the time, there were also plans to construct a large steel standpipe about 300 feet southeast of the reservoirs, however these plans were later abandoned. In 1909, the City decided to transfer the 137 acres not used for the reservoir and pipeline facilities to the jurisdiction of the Parks Department, which later purchased the property and developed it into Jefferson Park. While the Olmsted Brothers firm prepared the plans for the new park, the Beacon Hill reservoirs were not integrated into the park design, as were the reservoirs at Lincoln and Volunteer Parks. On June 21, 1909, the second pipeline went into service, providing an additional 45 million-gallon per day capacity to meet the water needs of a fast-growing Seattle. Within two years, the Beacon Hill reservoirs were completed. With a combined capacity of 110,000,000 gallons, the low service Beacon Hill reservoirs served the immediate area as well as all of West Seattle at the time of their construction. At that time, cast-in-place reinforced concrete construction was done with site-made concrete, which was hand-mixed and poured in small batches. This method resulted in great variations in the quality of the materials and in on-going maintenance problems, requiring extensive repairs over the years to repair the damage and deterioration. While the North Reservoir continues in operation today, the South Reservoir was taken out of service in 1979. The Beacon Hill North Reservoir is significant for its associations with the development of the Cedar River Water System No. 2 and with the growth and development of Seattle’s water system.
Completed in 1911, this 61,000,000-gallon reservoir occupies the northern half of a large fenced site shared with an empty 49,000,000-gallon reservoir on the southern half. This grassy site is roughly bounded by 15th Avenue South on the west, by Beacon Avenue South on the east, by South Spokane Street on the north, and South Dakota Street on the south. The site is part of a larger parcel of City-owned property located on either side of Beacon Avenue South. The Jefferson Park Golf Course occupies the majority of the remaining portions. However, other City facilities include Fire Station No. 13, Jefferson Community Center, Jefferson Park Lawn Bowling, and the Parks Department Horticulture Facility. The two reservoirs share a 1911 pump station, which is located between the reservoirs on the western side of the fenced site. This reservoir is wider by one third than its smaller neighbor to the south. A one-foot curb surrounds the mostly square reservoir, which features curved corners and gently sloped walls covered with a plastic liner. A jet at the center of the reservoir spouts water. Grass grows to the very edge of the reservoir’s curb, while a dirt road encircles both reservoirs. A high berm supports the reservoir on the north, and west sides. The mostly flat site allows for spectacular views of downtown Seattle and the Space Needle to the northwest. New fencing under construction will reduce the enclosed area of the reservoir site and allow for greater access. The North Reservoir received a flexible lining for the bottom in 1980, and the liner is reaching the end of its useful life. The future plan is to retire the north reservoir and fix the south reservoir by lining the bottom and placing a floating cover on top. This reservoir provides Cedar River water to the 316-foot elevation pressure zone of the industrial area south of Yesler, into the Rainier Valley, Harbor Island and Alki Point.  Beginning in 2006, this reservoir was decommissioned, demolished and backfilled with soil.

Detail for 3601 BEACON AVE / Parcel ID 1624049270 / Inv # 0

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Structure District Status:
Cladding(s): Concrete Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): None Roof Material(s): None
Building Type: Industry/Processing/Extraction - Waterworks Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories:
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Science & Engineering
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
Sherwood, Don. Seattle Parks Histories, c. 1970-1981, unpublished.
McWilliams, Mary. Seattle Water Department History, 1854-1954: Operational Data and Memoranda. Seattle, WA: Water Department, City of Seattle, c1955.
Seattle Water Department. Annual report / City of Seattle, Water Department. Seattle, WA: 1908-1965.

Photo collection for 3601 BEACON AVE / Parcel ID 1624049270 / Inv # 0

Photo taken Nov 07, 2000
App v2.0.1.0