By John Wott, Director Emeritus
In those divisive times of the late 1960’s and 1970’s, many new ideas began to form regarding how to live on, properly use, and safeguard the resources on our earth. This included groups from the “flower children” to academics. Learned horticulturists, botanists, and academics in the Northwest created a plan which called for the creation of a new academic unit at the University of Washington to be called the Center for Urban Horticulture. It would be different from traditional production horticulture which had been taught for hundreds of years. Instead it would bring disciplines together which seldom or never interacted.
The Center for Urban Horticulture, the first of its kind in the world, and thereafter copied around the world, officially began its life when Professor Harold B. Tukey, Jr, from Cornell University arrived as its founding director in May 1980. Dr. Tukey’s family, including father and brothers, were well known in the horticulture academic arena. He first worked along with an administrator, Sally Dickman, in an office in Anderson Hall on the UW campus. He also was UW director of the Washington Park Arboretum and directed that staff, headed by Joseph A. Witt, curator. In 1981, two new faculty arrived: myself, John A. Wott, from Purdue University in April, and James A. Clark, from Rutgers University in June.
The initial promise of full state funds soon evaporated as the State of Washington rapidly slipped into a recession and all hope of state funds for building and future program building was futile. Never daunted, Dr. Tukey, aided by the good will of Provost George Beckman (who did provide what seed money he could), along with community horticulture stalwarts such as Elisabeth Carey (Betty) Miller began a campaign to raise the millions of dollars needed privately. As you now see today, they were successful. CUH, now a part of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, is an invaluable resource in the Northwest as well as nationally and internationally.
The accompanying pictures show scenes from the Ground Breaking Ceremony for the original Merrill Hall in 1983.