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Dunn Gardens

Dunn Gardens

Sometimes you will find the most amazing surprises right in your backyard. Today we found the Dunn Gardens.

I had heard of the garden but never really knew much about it. We stopped by their booth at the Seattle Flower Show this year and picked up a brochure. We realized the garden was located in Broadview neighborhood of Northwest Seattle.

The Dunn Gardens was the summer estate of Arthur G Dunn Sr. Dunn Sr had made his fortune in the early 1900's in the Northwest fishing cannery industry. His friend, John Agen, owned 20 acres just north of the city limit. The land had been recently logged with expansive views over the Puget Sound. Agen convinced Dunn to build a summer home on half of the property. It would provide a nice retreat from his home in the city on First Hill.

Dunn Gardens
The Olmsted Brother landscape architecture firm was very active in Seattle region in the early 1900's. They designed the majority of Seattle Parks, created a master plan of parks and boulevards that run along Lake Washington and designed the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in 1909. They also designed The Highlands, an exclusive gated community just north of the city limits. Agen and Dunn hired the firm to landscape their summer estate in 1916.

The plan took advantage of the natural features of the property. Paths and drives curve through the property opening to vistas and small garden rooms. It included a croquet court and a tennis court although the tennis court was never build. Dunn requested that the plantings included several Eastern deciduous trees to remind him of New York state. There were also groupings of bulbs, shrubs and other flowering trees. Arthur Dunn supervised and did much of the original plantings enjoying his garden and summer estate until his death in 1945.

Over the years several houses were built on the property. A separate house was built for his daughter Dorothy. The main house was replaced in 1949. It was moved a bit east in the property and a large meadow lawn area replaced the original summer home.

After Dunn's death, the property was split among his children. The eastern parcel was sold to developers but the remaining 8 acres are still intact. His second son, Edward, was also an avid gardener and spent much of his time turning his portion of the property into a wonderland of rhododendrons and woodland plants. Dorothy renovated the croquet garden and hired Fujitaro Kubota designer of Kubota garden to design in install a series of ponds.

Today, the gardens are maintained by the E.B. Dunn History Garden Trust and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

You can only visit the garden on a tour. The weekends were booked but they also have tours on Thursday and Friday. These are a great way to take advantage of a more quiet tour. We met our docent in a lovely garden room off the garage. After a brief overview of the history of the garden, we headed out along the path to the west. Most of the views of the Puget Sound are long gone. But there is no need for a vista since most of what you want to see is right there along the paths.

The Rhododendrons were is full bloom. There are several large 'loderi' hybrid Rhododendrons lining the first meadow after leaving the patio. We had just missed the Erythronium revolutum. They must have been spectacular since lined many of the woodland paths. But there were many triliums still in bloom. The Podophyllum pleianthum was also spectacular. The croquet court is now bordered with heathers and a summer perennial bed. New landscaping is going in around the house that was formerly Dorthy's home.

I really enjoyed the pond garden. The water cascaded down the ravine with benches placed on small shelves for relaxing and reflection. We will return again to see the different seasons.

Dunn Garden Website
History of Dunn Gardens from HistoryLink
Olmsted Park Plans Cybertour from HistoryLink

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 4, 2007 2:37 PM.

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