The Friends of the Conservatory

This is the sixth of an eight-part series on our blog, highlighting Historic Seattle’s 2015 Preservation Award recipients. The awards were presented at our 7th Annual Preservation Awards Ceremony on May 12, 2015, at the Good Shepherd Center.

Community Advocacy Award

The Friends of the Conservatory, Volunteer Park

Friends of the Conservatory logoThe Community Advocacy Award went to The Friends of the Conservatory, Volunteer Park for its tireless efforts in advocating for the restoration of the Volunteer Park Conservatory.

The Volunteer Park Conservatory has stood as a beloved community icon in the Olmsted Brothers-designed Capitol Hill park since 1912. Listed on the National Register and designated a Seattle Landmark, the Conservatory is one of the few remaining original Victorian public glass houses in the country. It houses an outstanding tropical plant collection, hosts classes and day camps for school-age children, and provides space for art classes, events, and public gatherings.

Formed as a non-profit organization in 1980, the Friends of the Conservatory (FOC) grew out of a 1978 citizens’ campaign to restore the physical structure of the Conservatory. The restoration process has been a phased and sustained effort led by the FOC as successful advocates in grassroots campaigns to keep the Conservatory open.

For the third and final phase of the Conservatory’s 25-year restoration project, the FOC (with the Seattle Parks Foundation as fiscal sponsor), in partnership with Seattle Parks and Recreation, led the Restoration Action Campaign which raised almost $3 million in capital funding to restore the East Wing and Seasonal and Cactus houses, and to build a new production house. Completed in 2014, the project replaced the aging wood glazing system and reinforced the structural framework. Precise replicas were fabricated in long-lasting extruded aluminum to match the original historic structure.

The members of the 2014-2015 FOC Board of Directors are: Rudi Opderbeck (President), Tim Motzer (Treasurer), Mike Cory (Secretary), Christie Aesquivel, Bob Jenkins, Gayle Macy, Christine Peterson, Kenneth Taylor, Audrey Van Horne, Dave Blythe, and Sara Chapman. Honorary Board members are Henry Kuharic, Rich Lang, and Ivan Von Katzen.

FOC staff: Executive Director Anthonio Pettit, Administrative Executive Audrey Meade, Gift Shop Director Chrissa Nordquist.

Supporting Partners: The Friends of the Conservatory; Seattle Parks and Recreation; Seattle Parks Foundation; Adam Young Architecture & Design, LLC; Biwell Construction Inc.

Top left photo by Eugenia Woo