UW News

March 31, 2005

Sylvan Theater undergoing needed restoration

Work in the Sylvan Theater, originally scheduled for last October, is now in full swing. The secluded grove — featuring a natural stage and four columns from the original territorial university building downtown — is closed for renovation.

The work, which the project’s landscape architect, Susan Black, called “a historical restoration project,” includes removal and replanting of trees and other plant life as well as some improvements for the grounds.

Original plans called for the removal of 37 trees, some because they were diseased and some to allow more light into the space. However, according to Associate Construction Manager Becki Eatch, budgetary concerns led to a scaling back of the plans (which is the reason the project was delayed) and only 17 trees were to be removed.

Most prominent among those trees are the Lawson cypress behind the columns on the Stevens Way side of the grove. They will be replaced by Siberian spruce, a tree that is not susceptible to the fungus that had killed some of the cypress. Diseased cedar trees on the Rainier Vista side of the grove will also be replaced.

The four elm trees near the Drumheller Fountain entrance will get some extra protection with the erection of a short pedestrian fence. The idea is to keep people from walking on the trees’ roots on their way into the grove.

Other improvements planned include:

  • Replacing the dirt path around the grove’s perimeter with an asphalt one.
  • Replacing the wooden steps leading up to the stage with two sets of concrete steps with handrails.
  • Installing an underground drainage system to prevent the lawn from getting soggy and to allow a bit heavier use.
  • Installing an improved, water-efficient irrigation system

While the work is going on, the columns and the memorial benches in the grove are being protected.

Work in the grove should be completed by the end of May, Eatch said. However, the grove will remain closed to give the new plantings a chance to take root.

“There will be absolutely no usage up until the start of fall quarter,” said Jon Hooper, supervisor of the Outside Maintenance Zone, which is responsible for the rental of all outdoor facilities on campus. “After that, we’ll monitor the condition of the site and decide whether it can be used or not.”

That may put a crimp in some people’s plans, because the grove is the most heavily used outdoor space on campus and is particularly used for graduation ceremonies. But Hooper said potential renters are being directed to spaces such as Grieg Garden, the Quad and Rainier Vista.

“Long term, the Sylvan Theater is going to be a much better space because of this work,” he said. “The path and the steps will make it more accessible and the new drainage system will keep it drier.”

The Sylvan Theater could be closed until next January, Hooper said.

For a more detailed look at this project, see our original story at http://admin.urel.washington.edu/uweek/archives/issue/uweek_story_small.asp?id=2173