Elisabeth C. Miller Library

Oral History Complementary Documents

Participants in the University of Washington Botanic Gardens’ oral history project provide diverse insights into the rich and complex history of the Washington Park Arboretum, the Arboretum Foundation, and the Center for Urban Horticulture. This supporting collection, compiled from materials in the archives at the Elisabeth C. Miller Library and papers at the Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden, is intended to illuminate some of the topics and themes discussed in the oral histories. The documents in this collection provide historical context and unique insights, as well as a starting point for further research.

Washington Park Arboretum and Arboretum Foundation History

Title Description Creator Date
Our 25th Anniversary: Early Days of the Arboretum A short history of the founding and early development of the arboretum. Ihrig, H.G. 1959
The Value of the Arboretum to Seattle In the Winter 1959 edition of the University of Washington Arboretum Bulletin, Philip W. Bailey, a member of the Arboretum Foundation’s Board of Directors, praises the arboretum as a refuge from the “clatter and closeness of the city,” an antidote of quiet, solitude, and open space. Bailey, Philip W. 1959
A History of the Arboretum Foundation and Its Unit Council In the Fall 1985 edition of the University of Washington Arboretum Bulletin, longtime Arboretum Foundation member Lee Clarke wrote this brief history of the foundation, its activities, and its accomplishments and impact. Clarke, Lee 1985
Minutes of the Arboretum Foundation Long-Range Planning Committee, 1987-1990 Over the course of three years, the committee met to develop a 25-year vision for the Arboretum. The members sought views on the role and future of the Arboretum and the foundation from people affiliated with the city of Seattle, University of Washington, and the Arboretum. These minutes capture the evolution of the committee’s discussion and the development of the long-range plan. Washington Park Arboretum Foundation Long-Range Planning Committee 1987-11-10-1990-07-18
Long-Range Plan of the Arboretum Foundation This plan resulted from three years of work by the Arboretum Foundation’s Long-Range Planning Committee. The plan provides an overview of the state of leadership and management, funding, and public support for the arboretum, as well as the membership, publications, and structure of the foundation. It made recommendations that later were enacted, including creation of a deputy direction position within the Center for Urban Horticulture to focus specifically on the arboretum; an update to the arboretum master plan; and creation of an executive director position to lead the foundation. Arboretum Foundation 1990-10
Letter from Clement Hamilton, director of Center for Urban Horticulture, proposing John Wott for role of Arboretum director In this 1993 letter to Arboretum Foundation President Mary Thorne, the director of the Center for Urban Horticulture, Clement Hamilton, outlines his expectations for the development of the arboretum and the role of the Foundation. Two proposals in particular stand out: to name a director specifically to manage the arboretum and to develop a new arboretum master plan. Both of these ideas were proposed in the foundation’s 1990 long-range plan, and both came to pass. Hamilton, Clement W. 1993-02-18
Washington Park Arboretum and The Arboretum Foundation Historical Summary A brief timeline highlighting significant events in the history of the arboretum and the Arboretum Foundation up to 2000. Arboretum Foundation 2000-06
Speech by Duane Kelly for the Arboretum Foundation annual meeting, June 11, 2010 In these remarks, delivered to mark the foundation’s 75th anniversary, former Arboretum Foundation president Duane Kelly describes important moments and turning points in the history of the arboretum and the foundation, including the hiring of Brian Mulligan as arboretum director in 1946, the work of the foundation’s long-range planning committee in the late 1980s, and the process of creating a new arboretum master plan. Kelly, Duane 2010-06-11

Washington Park Arboretum 1970’s Management and Financial Controversy

Title Description Creator Date
Report of the University Committee on the Arboretum This report outlines the University of Washington’s perception of the arboretum’s purpose, the university’s stake in and use of the arboretum, and some of the issues that would come to a head in the early 1970s, leading the university to propose fencing part of the arboretum. The report also outlines a proposal for a floral hall complex, never built, that would have included space for offices, instruction, and display. University of Washington 1967-07-27
Report on the Arboretum in Reponse to Inquiry from the Legislative Budget Committee of May 12, 1972 to the University of Washington In July 1972, the University of Washington prepared this report at the state’s request after budget cuts in 1971 resulted in reduced funding for the arboretum. The report outlines the complex history of the arboretum’s development, management, and finances, as well as the university’s perception that under current conditions, the arboretum was of little use for the UW’s main purposes: scientific research and instruction. University of Washington 1972-07-10
University of Washington Second Report to the Legislative Budget Committee on the University of Washington Arboretum After the University of Washington outlined issues and conflicts concerning the arboretum in a July 1972 report, the state Legislative Budget Committee asked it to make a proposal to resolve the issues. In October 1972, the university produced this report, which the university’s concerns about management and use of the arboretum, called for a lease agreement with the city, and proposed fencing a portion of the arboretum and construction of a building complex to provide office, classroom, and laboratory space. This report set off two years of debate among the university, the city, and the public about the role, use, and purpose of the arboretum. The debate culminated in a citien initiative to prohibit fencing, fees, and construction of university facilities at the arboretum; a letter of clarification between the city and university about operations and maintenance of the site; and the decision that the arboretum would serve primarily as display area for the university, rather than a research area. University of Washington 1972-10-16
Brief summary of events in debate about arboretum’s future, Winter 1972 The President’s Message at the front of the Winter 1972 edition of the Arboretum Bulletin was devoted to a brief update on questions about the future management of the arboretum in the wake of a University of Washington report in October 1972. The report outlined the university’s concerns about management and use of the arboretum, called for a lease agreement with the city, and proposed fencing a portion of the arboretum and construction of a building complex to provide office, classroom, and laboratory space. Putnam, John A. 1972
The Role of the Washington Park Arboretum in Public and Community Services Dale Cole, Joseph Witt, and Steven Archie from the University of Washington wrote this policy statement in response to the debate about the management, purpose, and future of the arboretum that began in the wake of the university’s proposals in October 1972. They describe the history and potential future of public service at the arboretum, the purpose and rationale for the university’s proposals, and the university’s relationship to the arboretum. Cole, Dale; Witt, Joseph A.; Archie, Steven G. 1972
City of Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Agreement Between City of Seattle and University of Washington for Use and Operation of Washington Park This document outlines the proposed terms of an agreement between the City of Seattle and the University of Washington concerning the Washington Park Arboretum, and the expected effects of the agreement. It also provides an overview of issues that led to negotiation of the lease, including shortcomings in the original 1934 agreement and cuts in the university’s 1971-73 budget. The proposed lease faced opposition from citizens and was never adopted. City of Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation 1973-08-03
The Big Steal A flier produced in 1973 by the Arboretum Park Coalition, a group of citizens who opposed a draft lease agreement between the University of Washington and the City of Seattle. Among other things, the agreement would have allowed the university to proceed plans to construct a building and a fence or other barrier around the Arboretum. The flier urges the public to attend a hearing scheduled for October 3, 1973. Arboretum Park Coalition 1973
Preserve Open Space Park Lands: Initiative to Protect and Preserve Public Rights and Access to the Arboretum in Washington Park The Arboretum Park Coalition circulated this initiative petition (Initiative 2) in opposition to a proposed lease agreement between the City of Seattle and the University of Washington that would have allowed part of the arboretum to be fenced. The initiative received sufficient signatures to proceed, and the city and university decided to abandon the lease proposal. The City Council approved the initiative as Ordinance 103667 (Council Bill 95405) on August 12, 1974, without putting it on the ballot. The ordinance remains in effect today as it was written, except for a later amendment to the section on fees; see sections 18.16.10-18.16.40 of the Seattle Municipal Code. Arboretum Park Coalition 1974
Council Resolution 24646, adopting clarifications to the 1934 arboretum agreement This resolution was passed by the Seattle City Council on August 12, 1974, at the end of two years of debate about the role of the arboretum, a university proposal to fence part of the arboretum, and a proposed lease agreement between the city and the university. With this resolution, the city approved, in lieu of the lease, a clarification of its original 1934 agreement with the university. The resolution notes that in the letter, the city and university agree the arboretum “will be essentially a display area,” rather than a research site. City of Seattle 1974-08-12
Letter of Clarification of the 1934 Agreement between the City of Seattle and the University of Washington This letter was signed by the City of Seattle and the University of Washington on August 23, 1974, at the end of two years of debate about the role of the arboretum, a university proposal to fence part of the arboretum, and a proposed lease agreement between the city and the university. The letter clarifies the original 1934 agreement between the city and university; it defines maintenance responsibilities, states that the arboretum will be for growth and display of woody plants and for public service, and places limits on construction of buildings at the arboretum. 1974-08-23
President’s Message in Aboretum Bulletin about 1974 Letter of Clarification In the Summer 1974 edition of the Arboretum Bulletin, Arboretum Foundation President N. Stewart Rogers briefly described the meaning and impact of the Letter of Clarification between the city and the university. Rogers, N. Stewart 1974

Elisabeth C. Miller Library History

Title Description Creator Date
Book Collections from the Washington Park Arboretum Writing in the Arboretum Bulletin, Lyn Sauter announces the establishment of the Elisabeth C. Miller Library and describes how the arboretum’s book collection developed over the years. Sauter, Lyn 1984
New Horticultural Librarians This brief article in the Arboretum Bulletin introduces Laura Lipton and Valerie Easton, the Elisabeth C. Miller Library’s first librarians. 1985
Questions received at the Elisabeth C. Miller Library, May-December, 1986 A list of topics that librarians at the Miller Library helped patrons find information about in the library’s early days. Topics include “hearty plants which will grow in a zoo in Jerusalem,” “everything on growing apples,” and “slugs — info about their structure, habits, etc.” 1986
Questions received at the Elisabeth C. Miller Library, August-December, 1987 A list of topics that librarians at the Miller Library helped patrons find information about in the library’s second year. Topics include “Ivy — poisonous to cattle?,” “How to move 3 large Houseplants across country in mid-December,” and “Voodoo Lily: Is it worth growing” 1987
Letter from Elisabeth C. Miller to “Mr. Molbak.” A photocopy of a handwritten letter, dated Sept. 3, 1992, from Elisabeth C. Miller to a Mr. Molbak — likely Egon Molbak, founder of Molbak’s nursery in Woodinville. In the letter, she describes the value of the Miller Library to local gardeners, and asks for his support for a new donation program to help sustain and expand the library. “I keep remembering that a library prevails forever,” she writes. Miller, Elisabeth C. 1992-09-03
Draft letter to Northwest Horticultural Society by Elisabeth C. Miller This text, written and edited on the back of a large manila envelope, was found in Elisabeth C. Miller’s papers at the Miller Botanical Gardens in The Highlands. It appears to be a draft letter to the members of the Northwest Horticultural Society, in gratitude for a contribution to the Miller Library. In it, Miller describes the value of the library, the Center for Urban Horticulture, and the horticultural society itself. Miller, Elisabeth C. Undated
More articles on Library history

Sample of Elisabeth C. Miller’s Personal Papers

Title Description Creator Date
List of plants Elisabeth C. Miller ordered for her garden This invoice shows a list of plants Elisabeth C. Miller purchased for her garden in The Highlands, categorized into “first choice,” “second choice” and “third choice”; in the margin are notes Miller penciled in about where in her garden she intended the plants to go. Miller, Elisabeth C. 1973-01-17
Letter from Elisabeth C. Miller to Dr. Harold Tukey Elisabeth C. Miller wrote this letter, dated April 20, 1985, to Dr. Harold Tukey, director of the Center for Urban Horticulture, in response to an invitation to serve as horticultural advisor for plantings in the CUH courtyard. A list of plant ideas for the courtyard was found among Miller’s papers at the Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden. Miller, Elisabeth C. 1985-04-20
Elisabeth C. Miller’s ideas for the Center for Urban Horticulture’s courtyard This handwritten list of plants and locations was found among Elisabeth C. Miller’s papers at the Miller Botanical Garden in The Highlands. The list probably dates to 1985, when Miller was invited to serve as horticultural advisor for plantings in the courtyard. Miller, Elisabeth C. 1985
Handwritten planting list by Elisabeth C. Miller Elisabeth C. Miller wrote out this four-page list of areas in her garden and plants for each site. Many are crossed out or have other marks beside them. This is one of many plant lists Miller wrote on various scraps of paper — in calendars, on the backs of envelopes, on blank greeting cards. Miller, Elisabeth C. Undated
A collection of Elisabeth C. Miller’s (Betty) published articles are available on the Miller Botanical Garden website.

Arboretum Bulletin articles and Arboretum Foundation minutes reproduced with permission.

Special thanks to Katie Mayer for planning, researching and assembling the Oral History Complementary Documents digital collection.