About Quizzes

Volunteer Park

The center of Seattle's park system for more than a century, Volunteer Park was first called City Park. In 1878, the City of Seattle acquired roughly 45 acres from a sawmill engineer for $2,000. The municipal government began to clear the land in 1891. After the turn of the last century, improvements saw a rapid increase, when Seattle created an extensive network of parks. In 1901, City Park was renamed “Volunteer Park” to honor the men who had enlisted to fight in the Spanish-American War. In 1903, the Olmsted Brothers, America's most famous landscape architects, issued a comprehensive plan for parks, boulevards, and playgrounds throughout Seattle. Featuring classic examples of their late-Victorian urban style of park design, their proposal that included an observation tower became fact in 1906, when the city built a water tower whose public deck provided panoramic views of downtown, the harbor and the Cascade and Olympic Ranges. After a period of six years, beginning in 1906, the citizens of Seattle authorized several million dollars in bond issues to fulfill most, though not all, of the Olmsteds' proposals for Volunteer Park and the rest of the city. Since that time, Volunteer Park has received a number of additions, a conservatory for exotic plants, five supporting greenhouses, an art museum specializing in Asian art, and a sculpture, “Black Sun, “by Isamu Noguchi. The Conservatory, first proposed in 1893, was not completed until 1912. The City of Seattle purchased the Conservatory design and framework from Hitchings Company of New York. Seattle Parks Department staff erected it. In 1922, greenhouses were built to grow and propagate plants in support of the conservatory and annual flower production for general public display use. As time passed, the Conservatory fell into disrepair. The public became aware of the problem by the alertness of the Friends of the Conservatory and the City’s desire to maintain that historical site. Funds were made available for the renovation of the structure beginning in 1980. Renovation of various portions is ongoing. The conservatory buildings and staff today remain under the auspices of the Seattle Parks Department. The Conservatory is a registered U.S. Fish & Wildlife Department repository for confiscated plants seized from attempted, illegal, import activities. Such restricted plants as orchids, cacti, and cycads are received from USFW agents, kept in quarantine for 30 days, and then must remain in the Conservatory collection thereafter. They may not be sold, only traded to other botanical gardens, and used for propagation. Major floral displays change with the seasons making this greenhouse a year-round delight. Some of the foliage plants shown are easily recognized as common houseplants, for example "Aluminum Plant," Peperomia, Begonia, and Coleus. There is also a 75-year-old Jade Plant that blooms from November to January. The unusual form, structure, and size of the cacti and succulents present an intriguing plantscape. The historic Lake View Cemetery, situated just north of the Park, is the scenic resting place of Seattle's pioneers - the people whose names now grace the city's streets, parks, and buildings. Jointly owned and maintained by the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Water Department, today the 48-acre site remains Seattle's most intensively used park, welcoming those interested in flora, fine arts, recreation, or simply a quiet break from a busy city.