The view from Plymouth Pillars Park is a postcard of booming Seattle, and it will keep changing dramatically.

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Sketched April 23, 2018

Plymouth Pillars Park, a small Capitol Hill park wedged between Boren Avenue, Pike Street and Interstate 5, may have one of the most bizarre viewpoints in Seattle.

Four Roman-style columns stand on the edge of a slope overlooking the freeway, the Convention Place Station and the Denny Triangle.

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Seattle Times news artist Gabriel Campanario has been capturing Seattle's places and people in hand-drawn sketches for more than a decade. To see past columns, visit the Seattle Sketcher home page. Prints, notecards and a book of Campanario’s sketches are available for sale through The Seattle Times store. You may also fill out an illustration request to order a specific image.

If the pillars seem out of place, it’s because they are. They belonged to the nearby Plymouth Church, which was demolished and rebuilt after sustaining serious damage during the 1965 Puget Sound earthquake.

The view from this odd spot is a postcard of booming Seattle. New glass residential and office towers loom over a few old buildings like the Paramount Theatre and the Camlin Hotel. The recently topped 45-story Hyatt Regency hotel is one of the latest additions to the skyline.

This is a view that will keep changing, especially when the Convention Place Station right across I-5 is demolished and the expansion of the Washington State Convention Center is completed.

It could change even more if a citizen-led initiative to cover I-5 with a lid comes to fruition. (Funding for a lid feasibility study is one of the public benefits that may result from the Convention Center expansion.)

A lid would create a new public space downtown – just like Freeway Park did back in the mid-1970s – and stitch together the neighborhoods severed when the freeway was built.

As I looked around and sketched the contrast between the elegant Roman columns and the mumbo jumbo of overpasses nearby, I tried to imagine how Plymouth Pillars Park would feel if the freeway was covered and out of sight. The viewpoint effect would be lost, but the elegant columns gifted to the city by Plymouth Church’s congregation could serve as a gateway to a much more livable space. That would be a more fitting purpose for these underappreciated urban ruins.

Here are more sketches, these ones in good, old-fashioned black and white:

The 1928 Olive Tower is visible toward the bottom of the Boren Avenue overpass that connects Denny Triangle with Capitol Hill.
The 1928 Olive Tower is visible toward the bottom of the Boren Avenue overpass that connects Denny Triangle with Capitol Hill.

 

A view of Plymouth Pillars Park from the intersection of Boren Avenue and Pine Street. The streets draw a perfect “X” over the freeway.
A view of Plymouth Pillars Park from the intersection of Boren Avenue and Pine Street. The streets draw a perfect “X” over the freeway.