Plan of Civic Center Project (1911)

In 1909, the Municipal League of Seattle, made up of various civic and commercial interests, actively lobbied the city government for a plan similar to the Plan of Chicago. By 1910 Seattle chartered an official Municipal Plans Commission, which in turn hired civil engineer Virgil Bogue to produce a plan, completed in a year. In many ways, the Plan of Seattle (1911) was as elaborate and exhaustive as the Plan of Chicago. Like Chicago, Seattle was a fast-growing city looking to clean up its waterfront, rationalize its transportation network, and prepare for future growth, and Bogue’s plan addressed these issues in depth. But Bogue’s plan also involved leveling parts of hilly central Seattle to construct a grand, beaux-arts civic center. A circular roadway (center left) would surround the civic center, and a broad boulevard would connect it to an equally imposing railway station (center right) with diagonal streets radiating out from both.

Questions over cost and the uncompromising nature of the plan doomed it, however. Bogue insisted the civic center be built as envisioned, despite the expense of leveling the location. The plan also included language making elements of it binding; if voters approved the Plan of Seattle, they would have to pay for it. These demands divided the civic community, while newspapers editorialized against the plan. In a referendum on March 5, 1912, voters decisively rejected the plan, 24,966 voting no to only 14,506 voting yes. Subsequent plans would take into account the Plan of Seattle’s failure at the ballot box, and adapt accordingly.

 

PRINT

Berner, Richard C. Seattle in the Twentieth Century. Seattle: Charles Press, 1991.

Blackford, Mansel G. The Lost Dream: Businessmen and City Planning on the Pacific Coast, 1890–1920. Columbus, OH, 1993.

Bogue, Virgil G. Plan of Seattle: Report of the Municipal Plans Commission Submitting Report of Virgil G. Bogue, Engineer, 1911. Seattle: Lowman & Hanford Co., 1911.

Wilson, William H. “How Seattle Lost the Bogue Plan: Politics versus Design,” Pacific Northwest Quarterly 75 no. 4 (October 1984).

 

WEB

Bogue , Virgil G. Plan of Seattle: Report of the Municipal Plans Commission Submitting Report of Virgil G. Bogue, Engineer, 1911. Seattle: Lowman & Hanford Co., 1911. https://archive.org/details/planseattlerepo00bogugoog

"Plan of Civic Center Project,” in Virgil G. Bogue, Plan of Seattle: Report of the Municipal Plans Commission submitting Report of Virgil G. Bogue, Engineer, 1911. Seattle: Lowman & Hanford Co., 1911. Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, The Art Institute of Chicago