Home Page
Link to Seattle Department of Neighborhoods home page

Seattle Historical Sites

This application will be offline for Maintenance Saturday Feb 4th from 6am to noon

New Search

Summary for 1400 E Galer ST E / Parcel ID 2925049087 / Inv # DPR095

Historic Name: Volunteer Park Conservatory Common Name:
Style: Other Neighborhood: Capitol Hill
Built By: Year Built: 1912
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the National Register of Historic Places.
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.
The Seattle Parks Department constructed this architecturally distinctive pre-fabricated conservatory in 1912, concluding an eight-year period of Olmsted-designed improvements at Volunteer Park. In the early decades of Seattle’s existence, Capitol Hill was beyond the city limits, remote and inaccessible, heavily wooded and far from the center of the town of about 2000 residents. In 1876, the recently incorporated city purchased a forty-acre tract at the very top of the hill from James M. Colman, a sawmill engineer who later became a prominent real estate developer, for $2000 without specifying the purpose of the purchase. Presumably, the land had been logged of its stand of old growth forest, leaving behind bare patches between the stumps and smaller trees. This tract would later become one of the city’s preeminent parks, known initially as "Lake View Park" in 1887, then "City Park," and finally Volunteer Park in 1901, honoring those who had volunteered for the 1898 Spanish-American War. Further land acquisitions brought the size up to its present-day 48 acres. The Water Department also took an active interest in this hilltop park as a desirable location for a reservoir to provide gravity service to Seattle’s population. The reservoir was completed in 1901 as part of the initial phase of the new Cedar River Water System, which also included Lincoln Reservoir further south on Capitol Hill and Queen Anne Tank No. 1. The same year, a streetcar line was established along the park’s eastern boundary, 15th Avenue East, and real estate developer James Moore began to plat and improve his 200-acre tract as the Capitol Hill Addition. Millionaires’ Row, then the city’s preeminent place to live, also developed along the four blocks of 14th Avenue East immediately south of the park. As the Capitol Hill residential neighborhoods developed and increased the demand for reliable water service, a metal standpipe was built in 1906 to provide additional gravity pressure. In 1903, the city hired the Olmsted Brothers landscape firm to prepare plans for a comprehensive park and boulevard system, including suggestions for improvements to existing parks, with Volunteer Park first on the list. From 1904 to 1912, extensive formal improvements to the park were made, following the detailed plans of the Olmsted Brothers firm, which called for a "metropolitan appearance" due to the park’s close proximity to the downtown hotel and business district. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, Volunteer Park is recognized as possessing the most fully realized design of all the Olmsted plans created for the Seattle parks, boulevards, and playgrounds system. By the late 1880s and early 1890s, the Parks Department had cleared about six acres of brush and immature trees at Volunteer Park in order to plant a nursery. By 1893, a greenhouse and "hot bed" had been built along with a three-room cottage for a caretaker, who had five gardeners to assist him. By 1903, the Olmsted Brothers landscape firm decried the greenhouse, rows of nursery plants, compost yard, superintendent’s residence, park barn, and other service buildings as ugly intrusions into the park. The firm recommended that they should be grouped in some "less valuable" part of the park, such as the northwest corner near the cemetery. In their designs for the improvement of the park, they sited a conservatory at the north end of the park’s concourse drive. While other improvements proceeded, this part of the plan was not implemented until 1912, when a pre-fabricated conservatory building was purchased for some $5000 from the Hitchings & Company firm of New York. After the materials, blueprints, and instructions were shipped to Seattle, Parks Department workers assembled the building on site. Construction of the building cut off vehicular access to the adjacent Lake View Cemetery through Volunteer Park. Additional greenhouses were later constructed to the rear of the conservatory for the propagation and storage of plant materials. Unique in all of Seattle, this architecturally distinctive structure is significant as a local example of a pre-fabricated Victorian greenhouse and for its association with the improvement of the park under the direction of the Olmsted Brothers firm. Hitchings & Company, Fabricators.
Located at the northern end of 48-acre Volunteer Park immediately south of Lakeview Cemetery, this 1912 conservatory faces south on a circular drive containing a statue of William Seward set on a high pedestal at the center. With its long axis oriented east-west, the classic Victorian greenhouse features a large one-story center pavilion flanked by wings leading to smaller end pavilions, measuring approximately 200 feet by 40 feet. A distinctive curved glass monitor roof further distinguishes the center pavilion where a broad walkway leads to the projecting entry vestibule, containing double entrance doors below a decorative fanlight. Separate walkways also lead to the projecting entry porches of the end pavilions, featuring double entrance doors below a simple glassed pediment. The end pavilions also have rear entrance doors covered by small gabled glass roofs supported by elegant scrolled brackets. At each door, a set of concrete steps leads down to the service area at the rear. Set on a high concrete base, the metal and wood frame of the conservatory terminates in a curved glass gable roof over the connecting wings and end pavilions. The roof in these areas has operable windows at the peak to allow for ventilation. Small ball finials decorate the top of each roof end as well as the juncture of the end pavilions with the connecting wings. With the exception of the eastern end pavilion, which contains the Cactus House, most of the conservatory’s glass walls and roofs have been painted an opaque white in an effort to help control the interior temperature. The original leaded glass panes set in steel mullions comprise the majority of the exterior. However, it appears that the windows within the main pavilion have been replaced below the curved roof as well as the double entrance doors. In the top of the entry vestibule, a stained glass canopy by Richard T. Spaulding titled “Homage In Green” was installed in 1981. Raised stone beds supported on metal posts circle the outer walls of all but the center pavilion, which features metal beds enclosed with wire mesh. These secure beds house a rotating display of the conservatory’s Orchid Collection, begun with a donation in 1922. The center pavilion also serves as the Palm House with a constant temperature of 72 degrees. A door at the rear of the center pavilion leads to a poured concrete office wing extending from the rear. The flared and bracketed eaves of its gable roof overhang the unpainted walls, containing a pair of double hung windows on each elevation. The Bromeliad House occupies the western end pavilion with temperatures between 72 and 80 degrees. The adjacent connecting wing houses the Fern House at the same ambient temperature. A Seasonal Display House occupies the connecting wing at the eastern end and maintains at a more cool 65 degrees. Despite the alterations noted above, the conservatory is in good physical condition and retains excellent physical integrity. A complex of connected greenhouses is located in the service area at the rear of the conservatory, which borders along the park’s northern boundary with the cemetery. This gable roof structure has a higher center section flanked by one additional section on the west and two on the east. A tall smokestack in the center section indicates the presence of a furnace or boiler to heat the greenhouses. While the side sections have glass gable roofs set on concrete base walls, the center section is clad with shiplap siding and capped by a corrugated metal roof. The center section is entered through two large paneled wood doors at the center flanked by an original multi-paned window to the right and a single large pane window to the left.

Detail for 1400 E Galer ST E / Parcel ID 2925049087 / Inv # DPR095

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Glass Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Gable, Monitor Roof Material(s): Other
Building Type: Other Plan: Other
Structural System: Steel No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Agriculture, Community Planning/Development, Conservation, Entertainment/Recreation
Changes to Original Cladding: Slight
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Windows: Slight
Major Bibliographic References
City of Seattle DCLU Microfilm Records.
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Sherwood, Don. Seattle Parks Histories, c. 1970-1981, unpublished.
Seattle Department of Parks. Annual report/Department of Parks. Seattle, WA: 1909-1955.

Photo collection for 1400 E Galer ST E / Parcel ID 2925049087 / Inv # DPR095

Photo taken Jul 14, 2000

Photo taken Jul 14, 2000

Photo taken Jul 14, 2000
App v2.0.1.0