Backstory: How the Gas Works Became a Seattle Park Landmark

An abandoned structure at a Seattle park was once a beacon of progress
  • The Gas Works plant at Seattle's Gas Works Park

This article appears in print in the August 2019 issue. Click here to subscribe.

The Landmark. The Gas Works at Gas Works Park
The Location. Wallingford, 2101 N Northlake Way

The Backstory. Most Seattleites are familiar with the iconic industrial remnants that give Gas Works Park its name. But did you know that the structures we see today, perched on the north end of Lake Union, were part of an operation that literally fueled the city in the 19th century? For 50 years, the Seattle Gas Light Company used the 19-acre property for a coal gasification plant, superheating coal in sealed ovens to meet the city’s energy demands. The gas was first used to light the city’s streetlamps and then households, and later was used to fuel cooking stoves and eventually for heating. This gas manufacturing process became noticeably toxic to surrounding soil, water and air, resulting in the plant’s closure in 1956. Eventually, landscape architect Richard Haag transformed the property; it opened as a public park in 1975. While most of the toxic waste underwent bioremediation, some of it was consolidated and capped with clay and soil, creating Kite Hill, another beloved feature of the park today.

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