Gas Works Park
Gas Works Park in Seattle, Washington.
Gas Works Park is a ca. 20-acre public park located on the north shore of Lake Union at the south end of the Wallingford neighborhood. It is recognized in the National Register of Historic Places. Aside from the machines and structures of the former gasification plant, the location offers a stunning panorama of the Seattle skyline. If you can, wait till the lights start coming on at dusk!
History and Transformation
In the early 20th century, Seattle Gas Light Company purchased the land. They built a gas manufacturing plant in what was then a highly industrial area. At the time, it was the largest private utility in Seattle.
The plant produced illuminating gas, so-called because it was used for lighting. Later, the gas was also used for cooking, refrigeration, and heating homes and water. Hence, the origin of the park’s name — Gas Works Park. The gas was originally generated from coal. Production later switched to oil gas generators.
Gas production operations ceased in 1956. In 1962, the City of Seattle began purchasing the area. The transfer was completed and the park opened to the public in 1975.
The Play Barn
The building known as the Play Barn dates to the original coal-gas facility and was constructed of wood. It features the former pump house, ca. 7,340 square feet and boiler house, ca. 5,720 square feet. Their wood frames remain intact and in place on concrete slab foundations.
The former boiler house was turned into a picnic shelter. The tubes of one former boiler remain in place at the eastern end of the building. They are an impressive display of technology from days-passed.
The former pump house showcases most of its machinery still in place. It features pumps, piping and also its old 3,000 hp compressor. An old smoke arrestor hood has been refurbished as a play structure for climbing.
Kite Hill offers stunning views and a fascinating history to its visitors. Thousands of cubic yards of rubble from old gas plant buildings were covered with fresh top soil, sewage sludge, and sawdust. What sounds gross at first was a successful early attempt of bioremediation. It is a natural way to decontaminate soil and groundwater. The area offered plenty of both from past days of gasification plant operation. Today, Gas Works Park is fully decontaminated and covered with lush green field grass.
Once visitors have reached the top of the hill, they are met by an unexpected artpiece — a sundial. It was created by two local artists, Chuck Greening and Kim Lazare. Their material of choice was concrete, which they delineated with rocks, shells, glass, bronze, and many other materials. The sundial tells time by using the body of the visitor as the gnomon. The viewer’s shadow tells the time of day and the season.