Jack Block Park: A Window on the Port of Seattle

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The Port of Seattle container yard stretches into the distance framed by the West Seattle Bridge and a container crane.

Most landscape architects are familiar with Seattle’s Gas Works Park. Designed by Richard Haag, Gas Works Park and several German parks launched a new design movement that preserved and celebrated industrial landscapes. However, Seattle is filled with parks that not only celebrate past industrial activity but provide a window onto working industrial landscapes.

My favorite example is Jack Block Park in West Seattle. Like many of Seattle’s industrial parks, Jack Block is hidden behind railroad tracks and freight containers. The only sign of the park is an arched gate and a road winding away into the Port of Seattle’s train yard. Following this road, visitors find themselves immersed in an island of green on the edge of Elliot Bay with stunning views of the Port of Seattle and downtown.

This week’s sketch was done on the Jack Block Park observation platform. The platform offers a 180 degree view of Elliot bay and is a perfect place to watch the parade of freighters, ferries, cruise ships and pleasure craft using the port. The sketch shows the view to the south, dominated by the Port’s container yard and cranes with the West Seattle Bridge in the distance.

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A train car waits to be loaded in the Port of Seattle’s train yard.


The Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal

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A ferry unloads cars at the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal.

Since ancient times, the Puget Sound has served as a highway for maritime traffic. Before the arrival of Europeans, the Seattle harbor served as a center of trade for the native Salish. A busy trade route ran along the Puget Sound carried by cedar canoes.

Shortly after the arrival of European settlers, the first passenger fleets on the Puget Sound were started in the 1850s. Known as the Mosquito Fleets, each private fleet was made up of a variety of steam powered boats. In the pre-freeway era, these steam ships filled the need for fast and cheap transportation across and along the Puget Sound.

Following World War 2, the Mosquito Fleets saw a gradual decline as the car replaced the fleet as a convenient means of travel in the Puget Sound area. However, the demand for transportation across the Puget Sound and to the Sound’s many islands remained. Since bridges were not practical the Washington State Department of Transportation launched its first car ferry across the Puget Sound on June 1, 1951.

Today, Washington State operates the largest ferry system in the United States. The Washington State Ferry fleet contains 22 ships with stops at 20 terminals. This week’s sketch shows the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal in West Seattle. This terminal provides access to Vashon Island and the City of Bremerton.

To learn more about the Washington State Ferry System visit here

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A ferry waits to load cars.


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