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A Visit To The Private Gardens Laid Out By Seattle's Famed Public Park Designers

From time to time, our weekly travel segment "Going Places" likes to highlight getaways that are nearby -- opportunities to escape your routine and "travel" somewhere without having to go a great distance. This week, we're staying in Seattle.

Among the city's famous attributes is its greenspace. The park system was designed in the early part of the 20th century by the Olmsted Brothers firm.

John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. were famed across the country. Their father, Frederick Law Olmsted, designed Central Park in New York City.

But while the brothers are credited with designing much of Seattle's parks, they also did some private spaces.

“There was a wealthy businessman in Seattle. His name was Arthur Dunn, and he contracted with the Olmsted Brothers – the storied Olmsted Brothers firm – and he asked them to set up a garden,” said Beth Weir, executive director of The E.B. Dunn Historic Garden Trust. “And they did.”

What exists now is Dunn Gardens, a nearly 7-acre private preserve in Seattle’s Broadview neighborhood. They’ve been there since 1915.

Visitors to Dunn Gardens are greeted by big white gates.

“The idea of course was that you separate yourself from the world, and you come into another place,” she said.

There are native plantings all along the driveway, which is curved.

“And that’s intentional,” Weir said. “There are no sharp edges in an Olmsted garden. You walk into the gardens and we have what we call ‘Ed’s Cottage.’”

Ed was one of the sons of the Dunn family.

The garden he developed is there, with a great lawn lined with plantings, including a 100-year-old sugar maple, hydrangeas. From there you see a moss garden, with a great lawn just beyond that.

“Every Olmsted garden has a great lawn,” she said.

The gardens hold a spring preview stroll on Sunday, March 18, and are open through the spring and summer for tours and visits.


"Going Places" is 88.5's weekly exploration of travel. Our travel expert, Matthew Brumley, is co-founder of Earthbound Expeditions on Bainbridge Island, which provides small group travel to clients including KNKX. Never miss an episode again. Subscribe to Going Places with iTunesGoogle Play or Stitcher.

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.