ABOUT THE FRIENDS OF THE CONSERVATORY
Seattle’s Volunteer Park Conservatory serves a broad and diverse audience, spanning many generations of visitors throughout the past century—from Capitol Hill natives seeking tranquility and respite from hectic urban bustle, to travelers from around the globe who make their Seattle visit a little more memorable. While many who visit are interested in the world-class botanical collection which is carefully curated in the Conservatory’s five display houses, others are interested in the architecture and history of the century-old structure which stands as a reminder of a bygone Victorian age. Volunteer Park Conservatory is owned and operated by Seattle Parks and Recreation.
The Friends of the Conservatory (FOC), a 501(c)(3) non-profit, plays an integral part in stewarding these visitors, providing outreach and education though docent-led tours, plant sales, special events, and interpretative classes for adults and school children, as well as an “Urban Safari” summer camp for grade school youth. The FOC has a dedicated volunteer base, logging 3,500 volunteer hours each year. The FOC is governed by a volunteer board of directors and has three part-time paid employees including an executive director, administrative executive, and gift shop director.
Formed as a non-profit organization in 1980, the FOC grew out of a 1978 citizens’ campaign to restore the physical structure of the Conservatory. The Victorian glass building had stood for 65 years at the north end of Volunteer Park, the site approved by the renowned Olmsted brothers’ landscape architecture firm in the early 1900’s. By 1978 the Conservatory’s glass panes and wood/iron framework had deteriorated so badly the building had to be closed during high winds.Cooperating with the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation, the FOC sponsored the 1980 – 1985 architectural restoration of the Conservatory building.
From its beginning as an emergency restorer, the FOC has continued to evolve, helping the Conservatory fulfill many facets of its mission, including financial, educational, and events support. The FOC helps fund the Conservatory’s orchid collection, pays for descriptive tour materials and environmental education, and contributes to the Plant Acquisition Fund.Together with Conservatory staff, the FOC also organizes educational activities and hosts events, such as the popular annual holiday open house and the plant sales in May and September.
In 2012, The FOC Events Committee sponsored and commemorated the Conservatory’s centennial anniversary with a variety of celebratory and interpretative events throughout the year. The culmination of this auspicious milestone was a “Victorian Day in the Park” in August. Visitors of all ages and backgrounds were treated to period costume, a croquet tournament, live music and box lunches and given a glimpse of Seattle as it may have appeared in 1912. All of the events emphasized the importance and cultural significance of Volunteer Park Conservatory as well as need for preservation as we enter its second century of operation.
As advocates, the FOC has been successful in grassroots campaigns to keep the Conservatory open, through engagement with the Seattle City Council and Parks Department, The FOC was also the genesis of the Restoration Action Campaign which raised capital funding to restore the Conservatory’s Seasonal and Cactus houses, as well as the upper east multipurpose space, completed in 2014.
The mission of the Friends of the Conservatory (FOC) is to advocate and encourage preservation, public participation, and education with respect to the Volunteer Park Conservatory and its plant collection. The FOC is a community non-profit organization that supports the Conservatory in cooperation with the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation.
The FOC seeks to embrace our relationship with Volunteer Park Conservatory and the community with our core values Education, Advocacy, Outreach, Sustainability and Legacy.