Somehow my father–an urban planning professor–once obtained the copy of the the 1911 Bogue Plan of Seattle owned by J.W. Maxwell, who served on the Municipal Plans Commission representing the Seattle Clearing House Association as a member of the Plan’s “Location, Width and Girth of Arterial Highways Committee”.
For many years, I have used the Plan as a coffee table provocateur. But after seeing the sidewalks in Greenwood last night after the votes came in, I took a new look–and saw some messages from history.
The Plan is a classic “City Beautiful” document of the era, emphasizing the grand boulevards of a Civic Center never achieved, new, numbered highways and rapid transit, parks and port facilities, premised on “the development of the Civic Idea, old as the human race”–building to accomodate future population.
After all, Virgil Bogue was an engineer of some repute and veteran of railroad and port design and construction. For him, the Civic Idea was building, constructing and rehaping–beginning with the “testimonies of the dim ages” which brought us “earth mounds of America and the lithic structures of Stonehenge”.
Nearly 100 years later, we struggle with the legacy of such plans, and how to achieve their unrealized grandeur while remaking their Robert Moses outcomes. Bogue did not mention walkable neighborhoods, compact development or much green outside of large parks. Many would call the vision bold, yet hardly sustainable.
Still, he left a message–facing the Plan’s title page and reproduced below–reminding Seattle always to dream.