Conservatory making small steps toward self-sufficiency

As the Friends of the Conservatory gear up for a Valentine’s Day wine and chocolate tasting fundraiser inside Volunteer Park’s 100-year-old greenhouse, the Seattle Parks facility is making some small steps toward self-sufficiency.

Last week, we told you about the new pay station — actually, there are two — inside the Volunteer Park Conservatory as Parks hopes the facility can cover about 40% of its $420,000 operational budget one $4 admission at a time. Parks is also “abrogating” the Conservatory’s full-time gardener position to reduce costs.

Event rentals could also provide support for the Conservatory’s bottom line. The Seasonal House has been reconfigured including the removal of some plants and installation of cobblestone pavers to smooth out the surface. Benches have also been added to the space. Parks tells us that DPD is looking at allowing larger events in the space — but, for now, you’ll have to plan an intimate affair of 12 people or less. Weddings have been the most typical use thus far, a Parks spokesperson said.

The new, event-friendly layout (Images: CHS)

Meanwhile, a more ambitious effort to support larger events remains on the back burner. Though some planning has begun on a project that would alter around 1,200 square feet of the Conservatory, Parks said there is no funding at this point for a large events tent recommended by the consultant hired to pull together the facility’s financial overhaul.

Things will hopefully be sweeter at next Thursday’s Friends of the Conservatory benefit. The group has started a capital campaign to raise funding to contribute to a needed $3.5 million overhaul to portions of the 100-year-old building. The group is also looking for a new executive directorStephen Hall, who joined the group as executive director late last year, has apparently stepped down.

Make a toast to your sweetie at the Valentine’s Day Wine and Chocolate Tasting at the Volunteer Park Conservatory

Before you head out for that romantic dinner, bring your Valentine to the Volunteer Park Conservatory, 1400 E Galer St., on Thursday, February 14 for a wine and chocolate tasting!

The Friends of the Conservatory and Seattle Parks and Recreation are sponsoring the event, which will feature four varieties of Wilridge Wines matched with Theo Chocolates and Divine Chocolates at tasting stations throughout the Conservatory. Non-alcoholic beverages are available too. This event is for people 21 and older. 

Entry times are at 5, 6 and 7 p.m. and tickets are $25 per person or $20 per member of the Friends of the Conservatory. Tickets are available at the Conservatory Gift Shop (, which is open Tuesday – Sunday from 10 a.m. to  3:30 p.m.; at Brown Paper Tickets (; or at the door.

For more information about Theo Chocolate, please  visit; about Divine Chocolate,; and for Wilridge Wine, visit

Proceeds of the event support the Friends of the Conservatory, formed in 1980 to help sustain the Conservatory’s legacy through financial, educational, and events support. The FOC is currently mounting a capital campaign for renovation of the east wing and the east production house, which are also supported by City funding.

What? A Conservatory post without flowers? Never

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4 thoughts on “Conservatory making small steps toward self-sufficiency

  1. It may seem counterintuative, but I’ll visit more often knowing that there’s a financial plan in place..and a secure donation point, which assures that my $ will be received and accounted for. It’s about time.
    “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”……

  2. I realize that changes must be made to make the Conservatory fiscally sustainable, but eliminating the gardener position seems unwise, as does reducing the density of plants in the seasonal area. Who will now take care of the incredible specimens that are there? These decisions mean that the management is shooting itself in the foot. The Conservatory will be less interesting and less well-cared-for, and that will reduce attendance.

  3. This made me wonder if they shouldn’t get little drones like the ones in “Silent Running” to take care of the plants and such. They don’t need Bruce Dern at all.

  4. Just took a look from the outside;when I walk I don’t take a purse. The gardens in the formerly gorgeous magical space are now stocked with potted plants in plastic, and the wonderful center is paved over, a parking lot for people. Who needs plants? And the gardener who used to make this a wonderful, amazing space is gone.
    Why don’t we make the playgrounds self-supporting next?