‘Olmsted in Seattle’ Shines Light on History of City Parks

Local historian Jennifer Ott explores Seattle’s Olmsted-influenced parks, boulevards and green spaces in her new book

By Daria Kroupoderova

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October 31, 2019

This article originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of Seattle Magazine.

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

To say Jennifer Ott is an environmental history buff is an understatement. She fell in love with the subject in college, after attending the first day of a seminar on the topic led by American historian Richard White at the University of Washington. “I was completely captivated,” Ott says.

More than 20 years later, Ott is still hooked. She has built a career on her passion for environmental history, most recently working as the assistant director of HistoryLink, a Seattle-based online encyclopedia of Washington State history.

Ott’s latest project for HistoryLink, Olmsted in Seattle: Creating a Park System for a Modern City (University of Washington Press, November 16, $29.95), explores how John Charles Olmsted of the Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm, best known for New York City’s Central and Prospect parks, shaped Seattle’s green spaces and neighborhoods. Her previous involvement as a board member with Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks (FSOP) piqued her interest in the Olmsted influence in Seattle. She realized that with more than 85 parks, playfields and parkways designed or influenced by the Olmsted vision, there was an important story to tell. “It’s such a complicated story, and everybody has a slightly different version of it,” Ott says. “People don’t understand the breadth of the park system and how much of an Olmsted influence there is.” 

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