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May 6

Seattle, Washington

Gas Works Park

This former coal gasification plant found a curious second life as a popular public park. 

Gas Works Park rises above the north shore of Lake Union, a vaulted rampart of rusted towers and pipelines that serve as a testament to a bygone industrial age.

Once a productive coal gasification plant, the curious structure has been preserved and repurposed as a public park since its closure in 1956.

The plant primarily provided the city with gas for energy during its half-century of operation. It was officially acquired by the City of Seattle in 1962. Landscape architect Richard Haag piloted the development of the project, and eventually went on to win an American Society of Landscape Architects Presidents Award for his design. Haag and his team were responsible for retaining most of the plant’s original structure, as well as introducing oil-degrading enzymes into the surrounding area to stimulate the breakdown of toxic contaminants in the soil.

Nowadays, Gas Works Park has been expanded into seven sections open to the public, although much of the works remains fenced off due to safety concerns (forming what has been beguilingly described as the plant’s “forbidden zone”). The park hosts everything from free concerts to athletic competitions to kite-flying and live action roleplaying tournaments. It remains one of the most popular free spaces in Seattle, and stands as a uniquely captivating draw to both locals and tourists alike.

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