The Friends of the Conservatory looks to inspire connection between people and nature at the Volunteer Park Conservatory by fostering public engagement, providing education, and ensuring the preservation of the historic structure and 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, Horticulture, Sustainability and Legacy.
Seattle’s Volunteer Park Conservatory has served a broad and diverse audience, spanning many generations of visitors throughout the past century.
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.
Working closely with the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation, the Friends of the Conservatory engaged in extensive fundraising and was able to fully fund the 1980 – 1985 architectural restoration of the Conservatory building.
Over the years the FOC has continued to evolve, expanding its mission to include financial, educational, and public engagement support.
- Funding the Conservatory’s orchid collection
- Providing descriptive tour materials and environmental education
- Contributing to the Plant Acquisition Fund
Together with Seattle Parks 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. 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.
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 Volunteer Park Conservatory facility is owned by Seattle Parks and Recreation and its collection is maintained by their gardeners.
The Friends of the Conservatory is the official support partner and nonprofit, playing an integral part in stewarding community visitors, providing outreach though docent-led tours, fundraising through plant sales and special events, and providing education through classes for adults and school children.
Powered by Volunteers
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 a Program Director, Marketing Coordinator, and Gift Shop Director.
The Friends of the Conservatory acknowledge that the Volunteer Park Conservatory and much of our community is on unceded ancestral land, the territory of the traditional Indigenous Duwamish Tribe.
Each year the FOC bestows “The Leonard P. Johnson Bromeliad Award” to one outstanding board member or volunteer as a way of honoring Leonard’s tremendous spirit and recognizing those who have demonstrated outstanding contributions to the Conservatory.