Off hand I can’t remember using the word gossamer in describing a building but it certainly fits the Seymour conservatory in Tacoma’s treasured Wright Park. The structure was a gift to the City from Mayor William Wolcott Seymour in 1908 and its butterfly wing lightness is unmatched by any other city landmark. There is a buzz right now around the plans for its restoration and the ideas about how it might be expanded without extracting a cost in green space from the park. A skilled preservation architect has been working on the plans and one of the exciting opportunities is to restore the missing Corinthian order facades that originally graced the entries to the botanical structure. The first two photographs show them in their classical formality, like Greek temples holding down a wire frame dirigible. By 1940 the sculpted wooden features were gone and something of the elegance and politeness of the greenhouse was lost. That theatrical moment when you stepped through the city and into the garden went away but it may come again.

This seems to go with that…

“I sit beside the fire and think
Of all that I have seen
Of meadow flowers and butterflies
In summers that have been

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
In autumns that there were
With morning mist and silver sun
And wind upon my hair

I sit beside the fire and think
Of how the world will be
When winter comes without a spring
That I shall ever see

For still there are so many things
That I have never seen
In every wood in every spring
There is a different green

I sit beside the fire and think
Of people long ago
And people that will see a world
That I shall never know

But all the while I sit and think
Of times there were before
I listen for returning feet
And voices at the door”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

Written by tacomahistory

This site is about the way history, in this case of a city and it's surrounds, is remembered or recorded in stories and small bits of memory. It's also about the way images and stories go together, how they inform and enrich each other and how we as thinking people fill in the content between a narrative and a visual document. So here is my city in time past, the way it looked and the people and events that create its character. For more than 20 years I have taught a 5 credit course on the History of Tacoma at the University of Washington Tacoma. With an average of 30 or 40 students a year, each doing a research paper as their primary focus for the course, I have benefited from many paths of inquiry and many researched and assembled stories. Here are some of them in the retelling along with the treasures of photographs and images in the collections of the Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma Public Library, University of Washington Digital Archives, Washington State Archives at the Office of the Secretary of State, Library of Congress, Washington State University, Alaska State Library, and many other archives, libraries and private collections.

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