This postcard shows Volunteer Park in Seattle as it was prior to when the new art museum was built in 1933. There was a Seattle Fine Arts Society as early as 1905. Forty-five acres of land for the park was purchased by the city in 1878 from a sawmill company for the sum of $2,000. The park was originally called City Park but was renamed in 1901 to honor those who served in the Spanish American War. As with several other parks this one uses a design by the Olmsted brothers.
Volunteer Park Conservatory
The white structure at the upper right of the postcard is the Conservatory. It is a beautiful glass greenhouse in the Victorian-style modeled after London’s Crystal Palace and was completed in 1912. There have been repairs and restorations since that time but the original design has been retained. The continued efforts of the Friends of the Conservatory have allowed visitors to wander through this large greenhouse free of charge. There are numerous plants from cacti to orchids and ferns as well as an indoor pond with fish.
Inside looking out
Outside looking in
Inside the greenhouse
The SAM Asian Art Museum, Volunteer Park
Close up view of decorative work on the doors to the musem.
The reddish-brown building at the right middle of the card was replaced in 1933 by the current building and is where the Seattle Art Museum’s (SAM) Asian art collection is now on display. There are pieces of public art on the steps. These are replicas of the original stone camels—the originals were moved to the downtown SAM, inside the building to help preserve and protect them from erosion.
Thing Two and Thing One on a stone camel at Volunteer Park, 2007
It is a tradition for people, especially children, to climb and sit on the camels. The original camels have a very shiny, smooth space between the humps where hundreds of visitors have sat.
Close up of one of the camels
On the grounds visitors will find the big black donut. Today the Donut is between the two Koi ponds shown on the card. The large pool at the middle left of the card is one of several reservoirs that supply water to city residents. It is one of the few remaining uncovered reservoirs in the city.
Thing One and Thing Two in the Donut, 2007
The large body of water at the upper left of the postcard is not connected to the reservoir but is part of Puget Sound.
Looking at the card I wondered if the birds-eye view might have been taken from the water tower that is not shown on the postcard but is situated about where I think the photo was taken. So I decided to go to the park and climb up into the tower and take a picture of what it looks like today. The stairs are inside the tower and curve around the holding tank. There are three landings with about 30 stairs to each flight. The views are gorgeous from all the windows. Mrs Gimlet went with me and we both got some great pictures. It was something I had never done before and wanted to do proving to be well worth the climb up and down the approximately 100 steps. It was a beautiful sunny but cold day.
One of the Koi ponds with the Water Tower in the background
Water tower, Volunteer Park
Aerial view from water tower.
Today there are many more trees and they have grown up too tall now but this is essentially the same view as on the postcard and was taken from the observation level of the water tower. The Conservatory can be seen in the upper middle of this photo with the current museum on the right. The Koi ponds, Donut and pathway are obscured by the trees.
For more historical information about Volunteer Park see: