Gasworks Park sits on site that was once owned by the Seattle Gas Light Company as part of their gasification plant. For years the site was used for gas production, but in 1975, the land was repurposed as a public park and opened to Seattleites. What makes this park unique though is what was left behind – ruins of the massive old industrial equipment dotting the grounds of the park.
Production of gas at the site continued until 1956, and debate over the future use of the site raged on for the next 15 years while the gas works sat intact. By the time development on a park at the site began, it was recognized that these old structures were the last remaining gasworks, and the movement to preserve them began. The park opened later with the preserved, historic gasworks intact on the park grounds.
There were initial worries about contamination, but tests have shown that it’s a safe place. However, tar will occasionally seep up from some sites in the ground, but it is quickly contained and eliminated.
One might assume that the presence of this equipment might be an eyesore in an otherwise beautiful lakeside park, but it is actually quite the opposite. Given the scenery at most parks, Gasworks is a spectacular departure. There are still plenty of grassy knolls, foot paths, and shady trees, but they’re all overshadowed by the presence of the immense, rusting, industrial equipment. Sure, the equipment is a little eerie, but it adds drama and intrigue to an otherwise pedestrian park setting. Because of its unique look, Gasworks often makes ‘best of’ parks lists.
Aside from the gas towers, there was one other site that immediately caught my attention – the earth mound. The mound is a manmade hill created out of the rubble from the foundations of the buildings that used to sit on the site. A popular place to fly kites, the top of the mound is capped with a sundial.
On the sunny Sunday morning that I visited, the park was filling with sun revelers laying out on the lawn, families bringing picnics, young couples going for a walk on Lake Union, and photographers entranced by the old equipment.
Even though the gas structures are protected by barbed-wire fences and ‘no trespassing’ signs, this hasn’t stopped some neer’do’wells from leaving their own personal ‘mark’ on the historic structures. While I disagree with the graffiti on the gasworks, the urge to climb in and around them is hard to resist – the structures look like a giant, rusty, industrial playground for adults. Maybe it’s best that fence was in my way.
Behind one of the gas towers is a converted and refurbished barn that houses picnic areas and a kids playground. You can make it out in the background of the picture above.
In a city not especially known for it’s sunny days, Seattleites know how to make the most of the few days of sunshine that they do get. I was lucky enough to experience one of these beautiful days on my visit and spending a couple hours at Gasworks park was a great way to soak in the beautiful weather, the views of the city, and a little history as well.