As high Victoriana goes in Tacoma it’s hard to outdo the Seymour Conservatory at Wright Park. The Gilded Age architectural ornament was part of a collection of trophies, events and civic oddities that were assembled in the park during the first decade or so of the 20th Century including a captured two ton bronze cannon from the Spanish Armada, a bust of Norwegian surrealist Henrick Ibsen, the Clinton Ferry statuary complete with heartbreak back story and a speech by Teddy Roosevelt given from a mammoth cedar stump bandstand in 1903.
The 1908 conservatory is the same age as Stadium High School and it originally presented a set of stylish Corinthian facades at each entry in true Victorian fashion. Today it’s a little like a Tiffany lamp with its patina removed by an overly tidy but well meaning butler. It’s interesting to compare the elegant glass lantern garden house with Peter Sanberg’s building at 15th and Pacific (DaVita), which was built at the same time. One was built by a high socialite who would become mayor on a morality platform and the other by an underworld raconteur who taunted the establishment by telling reporters he was building a nine story brothel. They were both studies in glass, one looking back into the formality of the past and the other towering over a city with a skyline about to rise.