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Summary for 12th AVE / Parcel ID 2925049087 / Inv # SPU026

Historic Name: Volunteer Park Reservoir Gate House Common Name:
Style: Beaux Arts - Neoclassical Neighborhood: Capitol Hill
Built By: Year Built: 1901
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the National Register of Historic Places.
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.
In 1901, the Seattle Water Department completed this gate house in conjunction with the adjacent 20,500,000-gallon reservoir as part of the initial phase of the new Cedar River Water System, which also included Lincoln Reservoir further south on Capitol Hill and Queen Anne Tank No. 1. In the early decades of Seattle’s existence, Capitol Hill was beyond the city limits, remote and inaccessible, heavily wooded and far from the center of the town of about 2000 residents. In 1876, the recently incorporated city purchased a forty-acre tract at the very top of the hill from James M. Colman, a sawmill engineer who later became a prominent real estate developer, for $2000 without specifying the purpose of the purchase. Presumably, the land had been logged of its stand of old growth forest, leaving behind bare patches between the stumps and smaller trees. This tract would later become one of the city’s preeminent parks, known initially as "Lake View Park" in 1887, then "City Park," and finally Volunteer Park in 1901, honoring those who had volunteered for the 1898 Spanish-American War. Further land acquisitions brought the size up to its present-day 48 acres. The Water Department also took an active interest in this hilltop park as a desirable location for a reservoir to provide gravity service to Seattle’s population. When the city purchased the park property in 1876, there was no stated intention of locating a water facility there, but many must have realized the potential over the years due to its elevation. When plans for the Cedar River Water System developed late in the 19th century, the site was identified as an excellent location for Seattle’s first intermediate service reservoir. The Volunteer Park Reservoir was built at the same time as the Lincoln Reservoir, the city’s first low service reservoir, and Queen Anne Tank No. 1, the city’s first concrete and steel standpipe, in order to serve the city’s intermediate elevation needs. 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. The same year the reservoir was completed, a streetcar line was established along Volunteer Park’s eastern boundary, 15th Avenue East, and real estate developer James Moore began to plat and improve his 200-acre tract as the Capitol Hill Addition. Millionaires’ Row, then the city’s preeminent place to live, also developed along the four blocks of 14th Avenue East immediately south of the park. In 1903, the city hired the Olmsted Brothers landscape firm to prepare plans for a comprehensive park and boulevard system, including suggestions for improvements to existing parks, with Volunteer Park first on the list. From 1904 to 1912, extensive formal improvements to the park were made, following the detailed plans of the Olmsted Brothers firm, which called for a "metropolitan appearance" due to the park’s close proximity to the downtown hotel and business district. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, Volunteer Park is recognized as possessing the most fully realized design of all the Olmsted plans created for the Seattle parks, boulevards, and playgrounds system. The reservoir and gate house were completed two years before the Olmsted Brothers landscape firm recommended and designed improvements to Volunteer Park. However, they were fully integrated into that plan, which provided for sweeping views to the west across the reflecting waters of the reservoir from the park’s concourse drive. As the Capitol Hill residential neighborhoods developed and increased the demand for reliable water service, a metal standpipe with a clinker brick exterior was built in 1906 to provide additional gravity pressure to the high service area. Construction of this 883,000-gallon steel standpipe also followed the recommendations of the Olmsted Brothers, which called for an observation tower in the park. In 1918, the Water Department announced its intention to build a second reservoir in Volunteer Park to meet the demands of a growing city. Public opposition and finally a court decision in 1920 brought an end to this ill-conceived idea. With its Beaux Arts or Eclectic Classical stylistic influences, the architecturally distinctive Volunteer Park Reservoir Gate House is significant for its design and for its associations with the development of Seattle’s water system and with the improvement of the park under the direction of the Olmsted Brothers firm.
Designed with Beaux Arts or Eclectic Classical influences, the one-story gate house or valve house occupies an oval footprint and sits on a high concrete base within the walls of the 20,500,000-gallon reservoir located near the intersection of 12th Avenue East and East Prospect Street. The building measures approximately 48 feet by 26 feet. The now infilled arched window openings are set in walls embellished with simulated stone courses below a plain band of concrete, which lines the upper portion. The walls terminate in a dentilled overhanging cornice surmounted by a low parapet wall. Centered on the south elevation, the slightly projecting entrance bay features an arched opening within a rusticated surround. The opening has been infilled partially and contains modern double entrance doors. Decorative concrete pillars frame the flight of concrete steps leading to the doors. The gate house is topped with modern telecommunications equipment and a video camera. Concrete stairs lead into the reservoir adjacent to the gate house’s east side, and a ramp leads down to the reservoir on the west side. Within the reservoir, a small stand pipe adjacent to the east of the gate house has water bubbling from the base. This reservoir and gate house are very similar if not nearly identical to the 1901 Lincoln Reservoir located further to the south on Capitol Hill. Despite the alterations noted above, the gate house retains fairly good physical integrity. However, the gate house also shows some signs of deterioration, such as spalling, cracks, and rust jacking.

Detail for 12th AVE / Parcel ID 2925049087 / Inv # SPU026

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Concrete Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Industry/Processing/Extraction - Waterworks Plan: Other
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Science & Engineering
Changes to Original Cladding: Slight
Changes to Windows: Extensive
Changes to Plan: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
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 12th AVE / Parcel ID 2925049087 / Inv # SPU026

Photo taken Jul 14, 2000
App v2.0.1.0