word has it that Seattle hosts one of the most impressive Fourth of July fireworks displays. the best vantages for the show are from Gas Works Park on the northern shore of Lake Union – once home to a gasification plant for Seattle Gas and Electric and made famous (to my generation) by ’10 Things I Hate About You.’
even as Seattle Gas & Electric purchased the land for industrial use, the promontory and its commanding views of downtown Seattle were recognized as an ideal setting for a park. the coal gasification plant operated from 1906 to 1956 and, at its peak, served more than 43,000 customers and employed more than 130 people in crews running around the clock. the rising cost of operating a coke oven prompted the city to convert to natural gas and shutter the plant in 1956.
starting in 1962, the city began to purchase the abandoned buildings with an eye to convert it into a park. initially, it was named for the woman who spearheaded the project, but her family requested it be changed after it became clear that many of the gas works structures would remain on the site. (another park in Seattle is now named for her.) advocates successfully campaigned that, as the last gas works in the country, the city had a unique opportunity to preserve the structures for their historic and architectural value. some of the structures remain as they stood while operating (e.g. “in ruins”), others were painted and refurbished to became part of a children’s play area and picnic shelter.
in order to make the land safe for public use, remediation techniques sought to “clean and green” the land; the soil was bioremediated with 18 inches of sewage sludge and sawdust, which allows grass to grow throughout the park.our vantage point for the fireworks was on the side of the Great Mound, an artificial hill designed with kite-flying in mind. the mound was formed with rubble from structural foundations covered in topsoil and topped with a sundial designed by local artists. we even saw a few kites out during the afternoon as we waited for the fireworks to start!