First Year Programs

Drumheller Fountain: The World’s Fair and the Olmsted Plan

Between June and October of 1909, the University of Washington campus hosted the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, a World’s Fair that attracted more than 3.5 million visitors. Fredrick Law and John C. Olmsted, who had previously been contracted to design Seattle’s park system, were hired by A-Y-P officials to design the exposition grounds. Their plans centered around constructing a grand central avenue featuring a picturesque fountain and delivering a stunning view of Mount Rainier. More than a century later, Rainier Vista persists as one of the University of Washington campus’ most defining features.

As part of the Olmsted Brothers’ plan, a central fountain called Geyser Basin was installed on Rainier Vista and included an inner pond and an outer “ring” of water  The outer ring was removed after the fair, and the concrete pool bore the moniker “Frosh Pond” for several decades. Drumheller Fountain received its current name in 1961, when Joseph Drumheller donated the central fountain machinery to honor the university’s centennial. 

In addition to the fountain, the 1909 exposition propelled several magnificent buildings and structures designed in the French Beaux-Arts classical style. Almost all of these structures were designed to be temporary and were demolished in the years after the A-Y-P.  Of more than two dozen buildings erected for the fair, only two - Architecture Hall and Cunningham Hall - remain on campus today.  

View additional source image credits.