A glimpse into the past – new buildings for visitors and crew

August 4th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff
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Looking east, new sewer lines were installed behind the old apartment (aka barn).

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

The first buildings to be added to the grounds of the Washington Park Arboretum were begun in 1985, as defined in the Jones and Jones Master Plan Update for the Washington Park Arboretum. It took almost ten years for the building plans to be finalized and the funds to be raised. The public building was named the Donald B. Graham Visitors Center, and it housed offices, meeting spaces, public information space and a gift shop.

The Arboretum Foundation conducted the fund raising campaign, with the City of Seattle Parks Department supervising the project.

The original Works Progress Administration-constructed office/crew building was razed. A near-by large barn/apartment building was converted into the current crew headquarters and shop, with the upstairs apartment eventually being converted to office space. A new machine storage shed was added and the terrain of the land greatly changed.

The photographs taken March/April 1985 show sewer work and the building foundation and beginning walls of the storage shed. The new facilities were dedicated in 1986.

 

 

 

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Looking north to the new shed under construction and re-purposed apartment (aka barn).

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Walls for the new storage shed being poured.


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A glimpse into the past – Joe Witt in the “pit house”

July 1st, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

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Joseph A. Witt inspecting seed flats and cuttings in the “pit houses” of the University of Washington Greenhouses at Washington Park Arboretum. April 1976,

This photograph taken in April 1976, shows Joseph A. Witt inspecting seed flats and cuttings in the “pit houses” of the University of Washington Greenhouses at Washington Park Arboretum. Joe, as he preferred to be called, was a prominent staff member of the Arboretum for more than 30 yrs. Officially the Curator, he was also appointed as a Professor of Urban Horticulture at the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture, when it officially opened in 1980.

Joe was a “people person” and was instrumental in assisting the Arboretum Foundation in starting many programs, including encouraging volunteers, “fun days” in weeding, and other educational events. As curator, he was in charge of bringing many new plants into the collection and for the leadership of the UW grounds crew. He was an expert on the horticultural and native flora of the Pacific Northwest. He was renowned and sought-after for his teaching of plant materials, both to UW students and to thousands of horticulturists who came to the Arboretum during his tenure. He also experimented with plant breeding and many of his unnamed rhododendron hybrids still “lurk” within the Arboretum collections. He named many plants and the famed Acer tegmentosum ‘Joe Witt’, a highly striped form of the Manchurian Stripebark Maple, is now  found in increasing numbers on Seattle streets.

His widow, Jean, still active in her mid-90’s, was a keen iris breeder and together they were well known and respected in the native and hardy plant societies of the world. I personally remember several memorable field study trips to the Cascades and east side of Washington in the early 1980’s, whereby Joe spoke about the plants and Jean spoke about the geology. As Joe approached retirement age, he was stricken with cancer and died in May 1984, a great loss to the Northwest horticultural community. However, his legacy lives on.

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Joe and Jean Witt, Arboretum Foundation Annual Dinner, June 1972


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A glimpse into the past – a view of MOHAI before SR 520

June 3rd, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

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In the Montlake Section in the Washington Park Arboretum looking NE down the site of the canal fill, with the Museum of History and Industry in the background.

This photo of the Montlake Section in the Washington Park Arboretum was taken September 10, 1953. The label states that you are “looking NE down the site of the canal fill, with the Museum of History and Industry in the background.” It is suspected that the small trees on the right are Japanese Cherry trees, which were later moved into the Quad on the University of Washington campus. A few of the conifers on the left side of MOHAI are probably in the wedge of UW property still evident as you currently exit the SR 520 ramp. When SR 520 was built in the early 1960’s, this entire area was destroyed in order to make the approach to the ramps and the new floating bridge. In the very near future, the newest SR 520 bridge and interchanges will take away the remaining area plus MOHAI itself.

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A glimpse into the past: a 1950′s view from the lookout

May 6th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

This photograph, taken on April 4, 1950, is located somewhere to the left of the location of the Lookout Shelter. It points southwest. Originally, the hillside held a large collection of Ceanothus, but they were killed during severe winters and never replaced. If one looks closely you can see “tracks” on Azalea Way, the outline of Arboretum Creek, and East Lake Washington Boulevard. It appears there is one house on the lower level of Interlaken Boulevard East, and of course, many homes on the slopes of Capitol Hill are easily seen.

Looking southwest to Lake Washington Blvd and Capitol Hill from Ceonanthus area by the Lookout Shelter

Looking southwest to Lake Washington Blvd and Capitol Hill from Ceanothus area by the Lookout Shelter

 

The kiosk at the intersection of East Lake Washington Boulevard and Interlaken Boulevard East is visible. Note how open the area is with small collection plantings and few towering native trees. This was taken before the construction of the Japanese Garden.

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A glimpse into the past: the early years of FlorAbundance

April 2nd, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John A. Wott, Directory Emeritus

The first major plant sale in Seattle (now called FlorAbundance) was sponsored by the Arboretum Foundation as a fund raiser for what was then the University of Washington Arboretum. The sales were originally held in a small building called Floral Hall, which later burned down. As the plant sale grew, it was moved to the small cluster of buildings on the northern end of the Arboretum.

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An eager crowd of shoppers line up waiting to get into the 1982 FlorAbundance sale. Photo by John A. Wott.

When the Graham Visitors Center and its larger parking lots were opened in 1986, this increased the available sale area. Eventually the sale outgrew this location as well. First, it was moved to an outdoor area on the Naval Station Puget Sound grounds where the volunteers almost froze with the cold winds. Then for several years it was held in the E-1 Parking lot on the University of Washington campus.   Although the parking lot had plenty of space, it also had hot sun, beating winds, and no shelter from heavy rains. It also had little electricity and water. After the Puget Sound Naval Station was “given” to the City of Seattle and become Warren G. Magnuson Park, Building 30 became an ideal home for many years. While that building underwent renovation during 2012 and 2013, the sale returned to the Arboretum. This year, FlorAbundance will again return to Building 30 at Magnuson Park.

For many years, the Plant Sale was managed through the Unit Council, an organized sub-group of the Arboretum Foundation. The many AF Units were represented in the Unit Council. The AF members often raised the plants which were sold, or the chair of each section (e.g. trees, perennials) secured those plants from nurseries. Today it is primarily a vendor’s sale composed of area nurseries and garden centers.

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A sale volunteer decked out in a floristic fancy hat. Photo by John A. Wott

Both pictures were taken by me on May 5, 1982 during the first sale I attended. The first shot shows the line-up of attendees at the entrance from Foster Island Drive onto Arboretum Drive. When the rope was dropped, there was a massive stampede to grab the most unusual plants. For many years, after that, it was my privilege to manage the massive line-ups for the cashiers. The second picture features Lee Clarke, a long-time volunteer (and resident poet). Many of the volunteers loved to dress up and wear fancy hats. They obviously enjoyed the customers and working for the Arboretum and its sales.

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A glimpse into the past: A view of Azalea Way 70 years prior

March 7th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

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Azalea Way from Lake Washington Boulevard. Photo by H. G. Ihrig 1944

This view looks from Lake Washington Boulevard toward the southern end of Azalea Way. The photo was taken by H. G. Ihrig in May, 1944. It shows the opening of Arboretum Creek along Azalea Way as it flows north from the culvert under Lake Washington Boulevard. Note the large weeping willow trees as well as the large open grass path we all know as Azalea Way. The wooden bollards with the long grass growing under them are also noteworthy of the time.

On the extreme left is the entrance to East Interlaken Boulevard. The small kiosk located at the intersection was built by the Works Progress Administration crew. The kiosk was later destroyed and removed.

The intersection appears much the same today, with a few minor changes. Besides being widened, formal concrete curbs along Lake Washington Boulevard have been added.

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A glimpse into the past – Rhododendron Glen before the canopy filled in

February 6th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

Today it is difficult to find much open space when you walk about the Washington Park Arboretum. Often you have trouble seeing the sky. I have often heard visitors remark, “How I love the Arboretum, it never changes, only seasonally.” Several years ago, I had a gentleman tell me that he drove through the Arboretum daily and it had not changed a bit in 25years. It is interesting how subtly plants go up and around us, without us realizing it – that is, until we need to prune or remove them.   Plants, particularly conifers, in the Northwest can grow almost every day of the year, anytime the temperature is above 40 degrees F. No wonder we have such large conifers!

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View east from Interlaken boulevard toward Rhododendron Glen 7-16-1948

This is a picture taken July 16, 1948, soon after the Washington Park Arboretum officially began. It was taken from the lower part of East Interlaken Boulevard looking east across Lake Washington Boulevard. In the center is Rhododendron Glen. Look at the sparseness of trees and shrubs and you can actually see the “Glen” from East Interlaken Boulevard. You can also see the small meandering stream coming down the hillside and the small pond along Azalea Way.

Today the curatorial and maintenance staffs need to manage the growth of the plants, the collections and the native matrix (native trees that are not accessioned). It is a challenge to allow enough space for plants to grow to their intended size and shape. They make decisions on pruning and removal on a daily basis. The decisions they make enable us to enjoy the true beauty of each plant as well as the beauty of the panorama.

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A Glimpse into the past: Dedicating the Douglas Research Conservatory

January 6th, 2014 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

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Douglas Research Conservatory in May 1989

On June 29, 1988, the Douglas Research Conservatory was dedicated.  It was a state-of-the-art facility for plant propagation, research, and horticultural education. The facility was made possible through a one million dollar donation from the estate of the late Neva Douglas, daughter of the University’s Metropolitan Tract developer, John Francis Douglas. The gift was given in memory of Douglas and his wife, Neva Bostwick Douglas. The facility featured 5000 square feet of glass-house space and 8000 square feet for support facilities. It included a laboratory, classroom, growth chambers, storage, experimental construction spaces, and offices.

The Douglas’ son, James B. Douglas, was the developer of Northgate and many other shopping malls. He was instrumental in directing the gift, along with his son, James C. Douglas of San Diego, CA. It also show-cased innovative computer technology, which monitored and controlled vents, fans, temperatures, and other events throughout the glass houses.

The Metropolitan Tract was given to the University of Washington in 1861 and was its original site until 1895. The Tract has long been the financial heart of downtown Seattle. The Tract’s business success began in 1907. In the ensuing 20 years, the Douglas Metropolitan Building Company constructed 13 major buildings, including the White Building (1909) and the Skinner Building (1927).

The Douglas Research Conservatory was the last major building built and dedicated at the Union Bay site at the Center for Urban Horticulture.

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A Glimpse into the Past – Azalea Way before the Azaleas

November 7th, 2013 by UWBG Communication Staff

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

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Grading Azalea Way in the Washington Park Arboretum circa 1938

Seventy-five years ago, work was beginning on the creation of the “University of Washington Arboretum” in Washington Park, as the Dawson/Olmsted plan had been accepted.   This month’s photo was taken by Frederick Leissler, landscape architect for the Seattle Parks Department, labeled as 1938-39.  It shows the grading to create Azalea Way.   Leissler actually developed the first preliminary sketches in 1934 for a comprehensive plan of the Arboretum, but the sketches were not accepted.

Scot Medbury, in preparation for his M.S. thesis (The Olmsted Taxonomic Arboretum and its Application to Washington Park, Seattle; 1990) interviewed Leissler shortly before the landscape architect’s death. Copies of Leissler’s archives are available in the Miller Library.   The Leissler plan, along with several others including one by Otto Holmdahl, were not accepted.  The accepted plan was funded with a $3000 gift from the Seattle Garden Club, which hired James Dawson of the Olmsted Brothers firm.

Leissler wrote the description on the back of the photo, giving the details, “In the Grading of ‘Azalea Way’, over 50,000 cu. yds. of dirt was moved and several thousand cu. yds. of cow manure and peat moss worked into the soil”.  (signed Fred Leissler, Asst. Dir.)   This was no small feat back in 1938.

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Described by Leissler: “In the Grading of ‘Azalea Way’, over 50,000 cu. yds. of dirt was moved and several thousand cu. yds. of cow manure and peat moss worked into the soil”

As we meander along the three-quarter mile path today, we are indebted to those persons of vision who created one of the world’s most magnificent grass public walkways.  I am reminded of a warm July afternoon in the mid-1990s, when members of the Board of Directors from the Huntington Botanical Garden practically all lay prone in the middle of Azalea Way, in awe of this green oasis bordered by statuesque Northwest conifers. Today thousands of Northwest residents and visitors make this a regular walk.  The next time you walk Azalea Way, why not wonder what those creators might be saying if they “walked beside you today!”  Do it soon!

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A glimpse into the past – 60 years of beekeeping at the Arboretum

October 4th, 2013 by UWBG Communication Staff
A few of Moen's original bee hives. Photo courtesy of Arboretum Foundation

A few of Moen’s original bee hives. Photo courtesy of Arboretum Foundation

By Director Emeritus John Wott

The Puget Sound Beekeepers have long been involved with the Washington Park Arboretum. When retired Coast Guard Captain Carl Henry Moen was looking for a location for the fledgling Beekeepers Association hives in the 1950s, he made a deal with Arboretum Director Brian Mulligan to place 10 towering hives in a hidden location in the Arboretum (still located there today!). They actually started with 6 hives, which they purchased for $10.00 each from a beekeeper’s widow. Brian was delighted to have bees in order to make sure the many bee-pollinated plants in the Arboretum would bear fruit and seeds.

Captain Moen, a native of Toledo, OH, became interested in bees at the age of 19. When he retired from the Coast Guard in 1954, his wife Laura and he moved to Seattle, where he actively pursued for 40 years the caring, teaching, and rescuing of bees. He often appeared on TV and was known to drive for miles in order to rescue a hive in a bewildered homeowner’s house or garden.

In a 1980’s news story, Captain Moen said he had hived 1118 swarms, and had directed 1138 swarms to members in over 25 yrs. He was known to deal with 200 swarm cells per day. His grandson in 2002 recalled seeing the back of Captain Moen’s Dodge Dart full of dead bees. Family folk lore says that he placed a queen bee in the casket of a deceased friend so that the friend would always have bees and honey on the other side. The Captain died in 1991 at the age of 91.

Photo courtesy of Arboretum Foundation

Photo courtesy of Arboretum Foundation

The site of the Arboretum hives was updated in 2002 when the Beekeepers Association moved their monthly meetings back to the Graham Visitors Center where they still meet. Since then, the site has been continually updated and cared for by the Association. The bees are an important part of the life cycle of many Arboretum plants, and are often used in the children’s programs.

Captain Moen always claimed that the honey made from in the Arboretum hives was the best, because the bees “sampled” so many different plants. Next time you  are in the GVC, stop by the Gift Shop and purchase some Arboretum honey, still  sold in many seasonal variations. Better yet, join the Puget Sound Beekeepers Association and own your own personal bee hive.   (Pictures, Arboretum Bulletin 64:2, Summer 2002.)

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