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Seattle defeats Bogue Improvement Plan on March 5, 1912.

HistoryLink.org Essay 160 : Printer-Friendly Format

On March 5, 1912, Seattle voters reject the Bogue Plan -- named after Virgil Bogue (1846-1916), the municipal planning director -- by a 10,000-vote margin. It would have established Seattle's first comprehensive plan and a variety of improvements, including a civic center in the new Denny Regrade area.

Seattle voters had authorized a Municipal Plans Commission on March 8, 1910. The Commission retained Virgil G. Bogue, a respected harbor planner and civil engineer and colleague of the Olmsted Brothers, to prepare a detailed plan to guide Seattle's future development. He submitted his proposal on August 24, 1911 -- it described an ambitious set of improvements including a giant train station on the south shore of Lake Union, a Civic Center complex of government buildings in the recently leveled Denny Regrade, a rail transit line linking Seattle and Kirkland via a tunnel beneath Lake Washington, and possible acquisition of Mercer Island as a city park.

Bogue's audacious scheme triggered a vociferous debate pitting urban Progressives, led by city engineer R. H. Thomson (1856-1949) and the Municipal League, against the business establishment, which feared that the Plan would shift the city's commercial district north and devalue its downtown holdings. Seattle's three daily newspapers editorialized against the Bogue Plan, and public confusion over its unspecified implementation costs contributed to its defeat on March 5, 1912, by a vote of 24,966 to 14,506.

Richard C. Berner, Seattle 1900-1920: From Boomtown, Urban Turbulence, to Restoration (Seattle: Charles Press, 1991), 105, 149; Walt Crowley, "Seattle That Might Have Been," The Seattle Times, September 17, 1972.

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Related Topics: Government & Politics | Infrastructure |

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Proposed Grand Central Station on South Lake Union, from Virgil Bogue's 1911 Plan of Seattle
Illustration from Plan of Seattle, 1911

Virgil Bogue slices into Queen Anne hill, Political cartoon, 1912
Courtesy MOHAI

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