One of the many perfections of the Shafer Baillie Mansion location is our proximity to Volunteer Park, the “jewel of the Seattle parks system.” Just a block north of the Mansion is the park entrance and in particular, the iconic Water Tower. This brick tower, erected in 1907, is a major neighborhood landmark as well as being functionally important. Situated as we are at the peak of Capitol Hill, the additional height of the tower affords our neighborhood what little water pressure we enjoy. (Actually, the excellent water pressure at the Mansion is the result of a big electric pump in the basement, but that didn’t come along until our extensive renovation and complete replumbing in 2005.)
But for visitors, the best part of the Water Tower is the fact that it is open to the public. It is well worth climbing the 107 steps to the observation deck at the top, for one of the best free 360 degree views of the Seattle area. In addition to the sublime view, there is historical information not only about Volunteer Park, but about the key role of the Olmsted Brothers landscape design firm in laying the early foundations of the Seattle parks system as a whole. The Olmsteds were the First Family of landscape design in the US, with family members and their various firms responsible for Central Park in New York, key elements of the National Park system, and many other renowned designs. In Seattle they not only created much of the early city park system, but also the design of beautiful neighborhoods such as The Highlands and the Mt. Baker neighborhood.
But one word of caution for your visit to the Water Tower. A member of our family, visiting from out of town, went for a walk one morning and decided to climb the tower. However, she found the door at the bottom locked. A helpful Seattle parks employee told her that the door at the back side of the tower was open, so she went around back and proceeded to the top. After enjoying the view for a while, she headed back down the stairs– only to find she had come down to the locked front door! So, back up 107 steps and back down the other stairs!