Long before it became fashionable to be green, Seattle was—and continues to be—a green city. And one of the most beloved public gardens in the city, if not the entire Pacific Northwest, is the Washington Park Arboretum.
In 1900, Pope & Talbot, a prominent lumber company, donated acreage to the City of Seattle that became the core of Washington Park. The Arboretum was created in 1934, when the City of Seattle and University of Washington—through the College of Forestry—agreed to design, construct, plant and manage an arboretum in the park. The Arboretum was originally designed by the Olmsted Brothers firm, and was developed in the 1930s with WPA funds and labor.
The Arboretum—which turns 75 this year—is 230 acres, and features 26,000 trees, shrubs and vines of more than 4,600 types from around the world. As of today, 130 of these are on the Endangered Species list. The Arboretum holds nationally significant collections of maple, oak, holly, pine, and magnolia, including the recently installed Pacific Connections Garden, the first eco-geographic garden. The Arboretum continues to be co-managed by the University and the City and remains a jewel of the Pacific Northwest thanks to the cooperation between:
- The University of Washington Botanic Gardens (UWBG), now part of the University's newly created College of the Environment. UWBG owns, manages, and maintains the entire plant collection, estimated to be valued at $82 million, and runs education programs designed for all ages in the Arboretum.
- Seattle Parks and Recreation, which owns most of the land and buildings and takes care of the park functions.
The Arboretum Foundation, a private, non-profit organization that provides significant financial and volunteer support for the enhancement of the Arboretum.
The Arboretum has flourished for 75 years; with community involvement this will continue. To support the Arboretum, contact the UW Botanic Gardens at 206-543-8616.
Jon Marmor is managing editor of Columns.