Freeway Park in Seattle was added to the National Register of Historic Places two months ago on December 19th, 2019.
That’s great news and is important for the future of the park, but I have to admit that reading about it gave me an odd feeling. I think of national historic places as being actually old, like buildings from the 1800s.
Freeway Park is still a sorta new park in my mind because I remember it being built when I was a teenager living in Edmonds. If it’s now historic that means I’m getting old!
At that time the park was daring and innovative. Freeway Park was completed in 1976 and was the first park in the world to be built over a freeway. Part of the NRHP nomination stated, “The park was not only a victory over the nation’s growing freeway system,” it also “served as an example of the power of public involvement in urban planning.”
The park has suffered from a lot of deferred maintenance in recent decades. More than a decade ago proposals were made that would have significantly altered the park’s character, including removing two of the water features and several retaining walls.
Thankfully the proposals didn’t go anywhere, and now the park is protected. With Freeway Park listed on the NRHP, any work done must comply with the Secretary of Interior’s Standards and Guidelines for the Treatment of Historic Properties, as well as specific guidance in the Secretary of Interior’s Guidelines for the Treatment of Cultural Landscapes. The park’s unique character and design will be preserved.
The Freeway Park Improvement Project is now underway with funds obtained for restoration and rehabilitation. The project is currently in the final phase of the development and design process and construction is slated to begin this summer.