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From 1911, the Bogue Plan speaks

The nearly 100-year-old "city beautiful" plan for the city, never adopted, still holds a worthy reminder.
Bogue1-216x300.jpg
The nearly 100-year-old "city beautiful" plan for the city, never adopted, still holds a worthy reminder.

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 that commissioned Bogue's work. For many years, I have used the plan as a coffee table provocateur. But in the days since the election I took a new look — and saw some messages from history.

The Bogue Plan is a classic 'ꀜCity Beautiful'ꀝ document of the era, emphasizing the grand boulevards of a Civic Center never achieved, new, numbered highways and rapid transit, parks and port facilities, all premised on 'ꀜthe development of the Civic Idea, old as the human race'ꀝ — building to accommodate 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 reshaping, beginning with the 'ꀜtestimonies of the dim ages'ꀝ which brought us 'ꀜearth mounds of America and the lithic structures of Stonehenge.'ꀝ

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'ꀙs title page and reproduced below — reminding Seattle always to dream.

Bogue 1

  

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From 1911, the Bogue Plan speaks

About the Authors & Contributors

Chuck Wolfe

Chuck Wolfe provides a unique perspective about cities as a London-based urbanist writer, photographer, land use consultant and former Seattle land use and environmental attorney.