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Looking Back: A History of the Washington Park Arboretum

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The Arboretum a Century Hence
Herbert Gowen's Vision

In 1931, the Arboretum and Botanic Garden Society of the State of Washington published Bulletin No. 1, a brochure which included a foreword written by the Reverend Herbert H. Gowen, D.D. Reverend Gowen, a passionate supporter of the Arboretum, helped establish the University's Department of Oriental History, Literature, and Institutions, which later became the Jackson School of International Studies. The following is an excerpt from his foreword:

herbert gowen 1932.jpg

Reverend Herbert H, Gowen, Seattle, 1932
Museum of History & Industry, Seattle; All Rights Reserved, 1974.5923.42.1

Sometimes the activity of the present may be stimulated by the projection of ourselves forward into a vision of the future. The following vision, however, placed just a century hence, need not be so long delayed. If we rise to our present opportunity, the present generation need not be denied the beauty and the usefulness of the Lake Washington Arboretum as here foreseen:

The years have rolled by. It is A. D. 2031. Gone are the untended and undeveloped places of yesterday, at least along the shores of Lake Washington. Bordered with lily and lotus blossoms, with water-plants native and foreign, the lagoons wind in and out where the lush green willows dip their long tresses delicately; where the brilliant foliage of maple lingers; where the lilacs and bamboos glass themselves; where wild cherry and plum, wild currant and huckleberry reflect themselves in the water like broken rainbows; where fish, even to the lordly silversides, disport themselves; where the white swans float, the gray goose calls, and ever and anon the wild ducks rise to wing.

From all over the temperate zone trees, flowers and shrubs have added their beauty to that of our native varieties. The blue spruce of Colorado and the spruce of Norway fraternize with our beloved Douglas fir. Grassy avenues lead through drooping hemlocks mingled with pines, the purple-berried juniper and the lacey-mantled cedar, even the cedars of distant Lebanon. Against the background of evergreens gleam the white star-blossoms of the dogwood and the creamy clusters of mountain ash or elder. Although more intimately withdrawn, the spreading, stately elm, the madrona, so showy of trunk and so glistening of foliage, the alder, the oak and the maple invite visitors to their friendly shade.

Through the boles of forest trees there drift the sunset tints of massed rhododendrons and the richness of the mountain laurel. On open hillsides burn the azaleas of every hue, their fragrance spilled as it were upon the soft south winds. There are also shaded retreats of coolness, where streamlets sing over mossy boulders; shaded retreats revealing to the seeker mazes of delicate ferns, shy wind-flowers, trilliums and erythroniurns, and that gift of the fairies, the calypso and its kin. Through the vales and little dells, and up the hillsides, wind beautiful walks, now crossing a rustic bridge, now passing beneath a graceful arch, now skirting the broad waterways and bubbling brooks. Alluring ways lead to sunken gardens, where beauty and sweetness are subtly distilled - where the gentian drops its veil of tangled blue and alpine shrubs from every land lend a sturdy background to anemones, muscari, campanulas, primulas, saxifrages, veronicas, and all the rest.

Only a short distance away is the physic garden, where grow the healing plants of every continent. Here also is the Pharmaceutical College, which, by reason of worldwide research, has served its part in alleviating and eliminating human ills and the ills to which other forms of life arc heir.

Need we speak of the roses - countless roses, growing in dignified formality of tree or bush, climbing the pillared pergolas, sending forth their confused and pervading odors. Arbor and trellis trail with creepers, familiar and strange alike - starry clematis, wisteria with pendulous plumes of white and lavender, and the homelike honeysuckle. On gently sloping terraces fruit trees and vines will bend beneath their luscious burden. The whole place is filled with the song of birds and the humming of industrious bees. Splendid of raiment, the pheasant-cock struts with his harem, coveys of quail make their leisurely way from copse to copse, bright eyes - all unafraid - peep out from covert and tree-top. In peace and security man's friends of air and field and wood and water dwell here as in a sanctuary.

Crowning the mild eminence once known as Foster Island an architectural group dominates the scene. The great glass dome is that of the Administration Building. Close by are the Library, the Museum, the Herbarium, and the great conservatories for the rarer plants - all alike bowered in shrubbery and flowering vine. Along with ample provision for flower shows and botanical exhibitions are committee rooms and, of course, the auditorium. There are also buildings devoted exclusively to the study and development of new forms of flora. That the life of man may be enriched there is here the fusion of all that is best in science and industry as well as in art.

Meanwhile, the great University remains, with its witness to the pioneer days of the Greater Seattle. The ivy-covered buildings have increased in number, while some have grown almost venerable, for the sake of the multitudes who seek knowledge within their halls. The hum of the many-towered city is distinctly heard, linking man's industrial activity with the beauties of Nature and the fruit of his highest culture. The waters stretch like a gleaming girdle towards the blue-green of the enveloping forest. Beyond all are the mountains, with their brooding sentinels of eternal snow. And above all our sublimest Rainier - "the Mountain that was God" - looks down upon a dream come true.