Rizal Park (Seattle)

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 4/05/2001
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 3168

Dr. Jose Rizal Park is perched on the northwest crest of Seattle's Beacon Hill, where it enjoys sweeping views of downtown Seattle, Puget Sound, and the Olympics. The park is located on land acquired by the City of Seattle in 1917 to build retaining walls, terracing, and drains in places where the regrading of Dearborn and Jackson streets had left the north slope of Beacon Hill unstable. The park site remained undeveloped until 1971, when the Parks Department built a parking area and viewpoint along 12th Avenue S. The park was named for Dr. Rizal in 1974 at the request of the Filipino Alumni Association. The name honors the Filipino intellectual and nationalist executed by Spanish authorities in 1896, and also recognizes the Filipinos who migrated to Seattle beginning around 1900 after the U.S. took possession of the Philippines.

Park on the Hill

In the 1910s, Seattle embarked on a series of public works projects to reduce the grades on Dearborn and Jackson streets north of Beacon Hill. These excavations left that side of the hill unstable, and in 1917 the city condemned property for retaining walls, terracing, drains, and parks. By 1919, the city felt it had taken too much property and the city engineer allowed the platting of the Golf Heights Addition subdivision out of the park areas. Streets conformed to the new contours of the hillside. In 1928, the city council donated 12 acres of the property for a U.S. Marine Hospital (later U.S. Public Health Service Hospital), which was completed in 1934.

In 1971, undeveloped property was turned over to the Parks Department when it was determined that the original 1917 ordinance providing for parks took precedence over the 1919 plan for development. The Parks Department constructed a parking area and viewpoint along 12th Avenue S. This was quickly taken over by patrons of the Public Health Service Hospital and traffic became an issue.

Dr. Jose Rizal

In 1899, after the Spanish-American War, the United States took possession of the Philippine Islands from Spain. Filipinos began moving to the U.S. for economic opportunities. In Seattle, they endured racial discrimination along with other Asians and African Americans. Many Filipinos found work in the fish canneries of the Northwest and Alaska.

In 1973, the Filipino Alumni Association petitioned the city to honor the hero of Philippine independence, Dr. Jose Rizal (1861-1896). Rizal was born a subject of Spain and was educated as a physician in the Philippines and Europe. He wrote two novels that criticized Spanish rule of the Philippines. He also published work showing the history of the Philippines prior to subjugation by Spain. His advocacy for the Philippines and Spanish reforms resulted in his execution by Spanish authorities in 1896.

The Beacon Hill park was named after Dr. Rizal in 1974 and formally dedicated in 1981. Rizal Park features a play area, picnic tables, woods, and panoramic views of Seattle, the Olympics, and Puget Sound.


Don Sherwood, "Rizal Park," Interpretive Essays on the History of Seattle Parks, bound handwritten manuscript dated 1977, Seattle Room, Seattle Public Library; Andrew Hedden, "Filipino Americans and the Making of Seattle's Dr. Jose P. Rizal Bridge and Park," University of Washington Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project website accessed October 11, 2018 (http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/rizal_report.htm#_ednref44). Note: This essay was revised on October 26, 2011, and corrected on October 11, 2018 and June 1, 2021.

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