There is no other park that tickles my fall fancy quite as much as Wright Park. I’ve yet to find another place that encapsulates Autumn so perfectly for me as grabbing a coffee on a crisp sunny day and walking amongst the giant trees whose leaves paint the ground in shades reminiscent of a fiery sunset – bright yellows, pumpkin oranges, and deep reds.
Near the end of September, the leaves begin to change color and the park turns into a leaf-filled wonderland of absolute Autumn excitment. By mid-October, the trees are in full swing and the ground is covered in piles of leaves just begging to be jumped into. No matter if it is my first time visiting for the season or my 18th, I am in full-on fall mode when I arrive. I kick up leaves, jump on piles, make leaf snow angels – the absolute works.
Wright Park, in the heart of Tacoma, was originally developed in 1886 and spans 27 acres, or 10 city blocks of pure magic. I began writing this post with the intention of geeking out over trees and my favorite time of year, but it slowly became a small ode to Tacoma and the park’s history – which I can geek out on at an equally high level. The Tacoma Public Library is a treasure trove for historical-fiends such as myself, and while exploring their collections, I found a few neat pictures that are a blast from the past. Throughout this post, there are a few side by sides from their image archives and my day in the park. I’m always enthalled with pictures from over 100 years ago of the spaces I still love today. In a fast-paced world, it’s nice to see that somethings remain as good as the day they were made.
BUT LET’S TALK ABOUT THESE TREES…
I lived on one side of the park during college and on the other side for a short time before moving up to Seattle, and yet, in the 8 or so years I’d lived in Tacoma, I never took notice of the trees in the park. I mean, I clearly am in love with them, but I didn’t really look at them. The other day, my friend and I walked through the park and read a sign we’d passed so many times before and it informed us that in 1903, President Teddy Roosevelt himself addressed the good people of Tacoma in front of the Red Oak that stood just a mere hundred yards from where we were standing.
How did I never know this!? Teddy Roosevelt is my favorite president! I love trees!
We walked up to this apparently famous tree and read the lovely little sign attached to it and soon realized that ALL the trees had a little sign on them, with each specifying the type of tree, its native country, and the year it was planted. And to just throw me for another loop – there were 600 trees in the park! 600! And there are 130+ species throughout the park!
My mind was blown.
As you can imagine, my excitement level was clearly on the up and up and I rode that high for the rest of the afternoon; clumsily running between trees, picking up different leaves and, of course, jumping in colorful (and yes, probably very dirty) piles that were just too good to pass up.
Don’t worry, I recognize that I am geeking out HARD over these trees and that it’s a little weird, but I can’t help myself, I just really like plants. In fact, I’m currently sitting in a coffeeshop with my newest plant sitting on the table with me. But I mean, just look at that beauty below. In my defense, I walked from my apartment to the farmer’s market and stopped for coffee on the way back. I don’t just casually carry large plants around (though I’m not entirely opposed to it either).
THE TREE HUNT
In any case, we explored the park with new eyes and set upon what felt like a very important mission: Find All the Trees. If there was ever a mission for me to embark on, this was it. This was my time to shine, and you better beleaf it when I say I shined bright. I was galloping between trees and reading the signs like I finally stumbled on the final X on a map. Only there were 130 X’s involved…
Okay, so I didn’t find all 130 species of trees, but I think this is a good foundation for my valient efforts.
W. W. SEYMOUR BOTANICAL CONSERVATORY
The fall fun didn’t stop there. After passing the lovely W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory for years, we finally meandered inside. I’m not sure if I thought it was closed all this time or just a very pretty glass building, but having never stepped foot inside the conservatory until just the other day still baffles me beyond belief. In the spirit of fall, they even had it decked out for Halloween when we visited!
The conservatory was originally built in 1908, which is heavily reflected in its Victorian-style details. The conservatory’s wings and 12-sided dome are made of nearly 3,500 glass panes and its permenant collection houses approximately 500 plant species. It also rotates floral displays throughout the year. (Good to know…)
Really not sure who is cuter, these ladies outside the .conservatory in 1940 (left), or myself and my friend, who looks like he’s seen better days probably closer to the 1840s (right).
A WALK IN THE PARK
I’m happy that I moseyed back down to my former stomping ground and strolled through my favorite park during my favorite time of the year. Although I love visiting new places, sometimes going back to old places is just as good, and in the case of Wright Park, it felt as new as the day I first saw it.