Jefferson Park Municipal Golf Course (Seattle) opens on May 12, 1915.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 2/24/2001
  • Essay 3014

On May 12, 1915, the Seattle Parks Board opens the Jefferson Park Municipal Golf Course on Beacon Hill. It is the first municipal golf course in Seattle and the third golf course in King County.

Jefferson Park was originally owned by the Territory (later state) of Washington to support the state university. In 1892, a hospital for patients with contagious diseases was built there. In 1898, the state sold 235 acres to the City of Seattle for $11,711. The city planned a drinking water reservoir and a cemetery. The cemetery was never built.

In 1908, the Olmsted Brothers submitted a supplement to their Comprehensive System of Parks and Parkways for Seattle. The plan specified a playfield on the east side of Beacon Avenue on Beacon Hill. That year two reservoirs for water from the Cedar River were completed.

In 1909, the city transferred 137 surplus acres to the Parks Board, which named it Jefferson Park after the nation's third president. Prisoners from the Municipal Workhouse and Stockage worked off their sentences by clearing the land of trees.

Golf was growing in popularity in the U.S. and the Park Board modified the Olmsted proposal and planned an 18-hole golf course. The isolation hospital posed an obstacle to development since there was no place to move the patients. In 1914, the Firland Sanitarium, which had opened north of Seattle in 1911, provided the contagious patients a new home.

The course was run by professional golfer Joseph Jefferson who worked there until 1944. Years later, Jefferson recalled, "When I came here first, the game was new ... [and most of the people] had hardly the faintest idea of how to hold a club. Those were the palmy days for the pro and lessons were booked a week in advance" (Sherwood). Jefferson supervised course maintenance. The fairways were trimmed with horse-drawn mowers and grazing animals.

That first year, 26,309 players visited Jefferson Park.


Don Sherwood, "Jefferson Park Golf Course," in "Interpretive Essays of the Histories of Seattle's Parks and Playfields," Handwritten bound manuscript dated 1977, Seattle Room, Seattle Public Library.
Note: This essay was corrected on May 1, 2003.

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