Glimpse into the past – What a difference a day makes!

There is a song which I used to sing all the time, “What a Difference a Day Makes”! Every day, the news is filled with stories about new plans to increase density and building heights in the city of Seattle, and especially in the University District. The University of Washington has just released a new Campus Master Plan which also increases building density and height.

Aerial view of University of Washington Campus, 1940
Aerial view of University of Washington Campus, 1940

Recently I found the above aerial photo of the University of Washington, taken in 1940, almost 80 years ago. The photo below is current and taken from the UW Campus Master Plan. Can you imagine how many more changes will occur in the next 80 years, or even 40?

The UW moved to this location in 1909, upon the end of the Alaska Yukon Exposition. By careful analysis of the photo, you can find Suzzallo Library, Anderson Hall, and the original steam chimney at the heating plant. Husky Stadium is a mere shell. Several of the early faculty and administrators had proposed that an arboretum be placed on the new campus. Today, the Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College is one of the only arboreta entwined on a college campus, and Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana, has recently declared its campus as the Purdue Arboretum.

But as we know, a university is usually better at “growing” buildings than trees. As the UW campus grew, it was proposed the arboretum be placed on the open land leading down to the Montlake Cut. However, as seen in the historic photo, a golf course won out. Eventually, the UW Medical complex arrived.

Just four years before this photograph was taken, the City of Seattle and the University of Washington had signed an agreement to place an arboretum and botanical garden into Washington Park. It was originally known as the University of Washington Arboretum.

A comprehensive Master Plan for the Washington Park Arboretum, known as the Greenprint, was unanimously passed by Seattle City Council as well as the UW Board of Regents in 2001. This should serve us well as a guide for the future of the Washington Park Arboretum, which also faces increased use by hundreds of additional Seattle residents.