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Capitol Hill Conservatory


Capitol Hill -- it can be sleazy, dirty, and overrun with homeless people. It’s liberal, gay friendly, and colorful. It’s not your typical family, cul-de-sac community nor does it top the list of “must see” Seattle destinations. Yet many families do gather in this distinctive community, and those who find their niche in the oddity of Capitol Hill are likely to never emerge. Located right in the heart of Capitol Hill is Volunteer Park, a large, sprawling green space with playground equipment, trails, a museum, but perhaps most notably the Volunteer Park Conservatory. The conservatory stands out in a sea of Capitol Hill chaos as the Mecca of tranquility, for within the paned glass walls, even the toddler I was accompanied by was cast under the spell of serenity.

The outside of the Conservatory modeled after London's Crystal Palace

Volunteer Park Conservatory, a Victorian Greenhouse, was built in 1912 and styled after London’s Crystal Palace. From the outside looks are deceiving, but step inside the humid interior and suddenly you are led into the depths of a dense, tropical rainforest. Thousands of plants fill the rooms and their colors range from muted greens to flaming pinks. Waterfalls and chimes echo throughout as you make your way into the labyrinth of rooms and passageways.


The plant species are so varied that walking past one room of lush ferns you may suddenly find yourself in another room surrounded by desert and cacti. The plants are beautifully maintained and well cared for by a team of Seattle based gardeners. The gardeners grow most of the plants from seeds, others are donated, and due to the Conservatory’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Plant Certification, they collect illegally imported plants confiscated by U.S. Customs.


Outside the greenhouse glass you can then wander about the park and admire some of the native plant species to the area. It’s not quite the Washington Arboretum, but definitely more family friendly.

Usually appearances are deceiving. A newly transplanted Seattleite or tourist may take one look at Capitol Hill and head for the cleaner cut communities like Ballard or Wallingford. But doing so would mean missing out on experiencing one of Seattle’s most prominent cultures. Looking past face value, one can stumble across great finds such as Volunteer Park. Don’t let the surface fool you, but instead step out of your comfort zone and see what discoveries are hidden before you.

Posted by Jennylynn 11:00 Archived in USA Tagged ecotourism

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