Glimpse into the past – Mrs. Sawyer’s Bench

By John A. Wott, Director Emeritus

Today’s visitors to the Washington Park Arboretum walk past historical artifacts not knowing why they might be there.  One of those is the Memorial Fountain dedicated to the late Mrs. W.W. Sawyer, along Arboretum Drive E. opposite Rhododendron Glen.

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Finished fountain, bench and plantings. Photo by J. A. Wit

An article written by J. A. Witt, in the Arboretum Foundation Bulletin Summer (24:3, pg. 62) chronicles its dedication on Monday, February 21, 1961.  Mr. Sawyer and members of the Maude Sawyer Unit (No. 19), who made a handsome donation for its construction, were present.

“This charming and practical memorial….was designed by Dr. Donald J. Foote, a former member of the University of Washington’s Architect’s staff.  It was constructed by personnel from the mason’s shop of the UW Physical Plant Department, using granite blocks for the wall as well as the fountain basin.”  The site also originally had special collection plants of Berberis aquifolium ‘Compacta’ and Sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna, surrounded by three camellia.

A series of pictures shows the site before, during its construction, and today. Like most artifacts in the WPA, they are in a state of decline. Twenty years ago, the running water fountain was changed to a hand-manipulated one. Later, the water was entirely stopped. The granite portion is still proudly standing and is easily seen.   Budget cutbacks in both state and city budgets do not provide funds to maintain these historical landmarks which are usually removed when they fall into total disrepair.

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View on March, 11, 1958. Photo by J.A. Witt

 

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Construction September 30, 1960. Photo by J. A. Witt
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Construction September 30, 1960. Photo by J. A. Witt
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Construction October 3, 1960. Photo by J. A. Witt
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Mrs. Sawyer’s memorial bench today, May 6, 2015. Photo by J. A. Wott

One Response to “Glimpse into the past - Mrs. Sawyer's Bench”

  1. Another interesting story, thank you! It is distressing, however, to read how the failure of leadership and absence of stewardship at the city and university have allowed this gift to decline in utility: “…Budget cutbacks in both state and city budgets do not provide funds to maintain these historical landmarks which are usually removed when they fall into total disrepair.”

    A generous donor came forward with a project that was appropriate and embraced only to have it fade away for lack of funds. The stone will be there forever but Seattle and the university won’t? We are being failed by these organizations and their ‘leaders’.