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Summary for 14th AVE / Parcel ID 2925049087 / Inv # SPU027

Historic Name: Volunteer Park Standpipe (Water Tower) Common Name:
Style: Arts & Crafts, Arts & Crafts - Craftsman, Other Neighborhood: Capitol Hill
Built By: Year Built: 1906
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.
The Seattle Water Department completed this architecturally distinctive water tower in 1906 to improve water pressure in the high service area of Capitol Hill and to provide an observation deck for Volunteer Park. 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. The reservoir was completed in 1901 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. The same year, a streetcar line was established along the 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. In their 1903 report, the Olmsted Brothers stated that it would be worthwhile to erect an observation tower in the park at the summit of the hill, since the development of the surrounding neighborhood would eventually block distant views. The prominent landscape firm further stated that the tower should be "high enough to obtain the view" and "large enough to accommodate considerable numbers." By 1906, this suggestion had been combined with the need for additional gravity pressure and for more reliable water service for Capitol Hill, resulting in the construction of the Volunteer Park Water Tower as part of the Olmsted Brothers’ design for the park. After the construction of Queen Anne Tanks No. 1 and No. 2 a few years earlier, this 883,000-gallon steel standpipe was the third to be built as part of the new Cedar River Water System. The unique clinker brick exterior and handsome trim elements integrated well with the fashionable residential neighborhood and disguised the tower’s more utilitarian functions. With its sweeping and uninterrupted views, the observation deck provided an additional attraction for this destination park and a popular location for taking photographs of the surrounding area. The architecturally distinctive Volunteer Park Water Tower 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.
Located at the southeastern corner of 48-acre Volunteer Park, this 76-foot water tower is set on a densely landscaped base within the circular drive off the park’s main entrance at 14th Avenue East and East Prospect Street. Built in 1906, the water tower is accessible from either the north or the south sides. Two sets of granite stairs lead straight up to the principal south entrance while the north side has a winding paved path with three stone steps at the top leading up to the north entrance. There are also wide paved walks at the midlevel and around the base of the tower. Capped with a finial ball at its peak, the conical roof, lined with a modillioned cornice, overhangs the circular tower’s clinker brick exterior accented with three stone bands. Narrow arched openings with iron grates pierce the mostly blank exterior walls at intervals, following the path of the two interior staircases. Sixteen larger arched openings line the observation deck level at the top. All window openings have granite sills. There is little on the exterior to indicate that it encloses an 883,000-gallon standpipe with the exception of four small pipes, which protrude from the walls near the base and enter fluted cast iron columns. The north and south entrances are framed by chamfered granite columns set on benched bases and capped by heavy stone pediments incised with "AQUA PURA - MCMVI." A plaque adjacent to the north entrance is a memorial dedicated in 1930 to L.B. Youngs, Superintendent of the Seattle Water Department from 1895-1923. Under his 28-year administration, the Cedar River Water System was planned and installed. Tiled entries with elaborate wrought iron gates lead to the interior, which is nearly filled by the standpipe some 50 feet in diameter. Riveted steel plates, approximately seven feet in height and set in nine bands, comprise the interior tank. Between the tank and the exterior walls, two sets of metal stairs with railings and two intermediate landings wind through the open space up to the observation deck at the top. The double helix stairways, each with 106 stairs, are bolted to the tank and the exterior walls, while the deck is made of concrete arches supported on steel I-beams and retained by steel tension rods. The observation deck has a concrete floor surrounding the top of the tank, which is fenced off at the center and lidded with a standing seam metal cover. The deck is open to the beaded board lined roof composed of steel I-beam roof trusses set in sections radiating from the center. In addition to the 360-degree view out arched window openings covered with metal grates, the deck features a permanent Olmsted Interpretive Exhibit, an overview of the history of the Seattle park system, and a few benches. With the exception of some graffiti and moss on the base of the walls, the water tower is in very good physical condition and retains excellent physical integrity.

Detail for 14th AVE / Parcel ID 2925049087 / Inv # SPU027

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Structure District Status:
Cladding(s): Brick, Metal, Stone Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Other Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Industry/Processing/Extraction - Waterworks Plan: Other
Structural System: Steel No. of Stories:
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Science & Engineering
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Windows: 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 14th AVE / Parcel ID 2925049087 / Inv # SPU027

Photo taken Jul 14, 2000
App v2.0.1.0