Backstory and Context
The National Register of Historic Places listed Dunn Gardens is the former summer estate of Arthur G. Dunn and his family, the grounds of which were designed by the Olmsted Brothers in 1915 [1; 3]. Dunn Gardens, which is the best-preserved Olmsted-designed residential estate in Seattle, is open for public tours on select days and for special events [1; 2].
About Dunn Garden
Arthur G. Dunn (1861-1945) moved to Seattle from Cape Vincent, New York in 1889 at the suggestion of his friend, Elton Ainsworth, with whom he went into business in fish canning [1; 2; 3]. After making his fortune, Dunn bought half of a 20-acre property owned by another friend and businessman, John Agen, just outside the city limits of the time. The property offered Puget Sound and Olympic Moutnain views, wooded slopes, and the opportunity to keep a cow and chickens—evidently a priority for Dun [2; 3]. In 1915, Agen an Dunn hired the Olmsted landscape architectural firm (designers of Central Park in New York) to design their adjoining properties, and architect Charles Gould to design their families' summer houses. The Dunn property featured a central Great Lawn, flower gardens and flowering srhubs, woodlands with winding paths, a garage and caretaker's cottage, a vegetable garden, and a croquet lawn. In addition to the native evergreens, Dunn requested the planting of decidious trees reminiscent of his East Coast childhood. Dunn was an accomplished horticulturalist, himself, a member of the Seattle Garden Club, and supervised the plantings personally [1; 3]. Dunn built his daughter, Dorothy, a house on the grounds near the croquet court in 1940, upon her engagement to Emery Bayley; she lived at this location until 2003, when she died . Until Arthur's death in 1945, the Dunn family used the property as an annual summer retreat .
The property was split among four of Dunn's five children. In
1947, Dorothy's brother and Arthur's son, Edward Bernard Dunn, converted the
garage into a permanent home, where he lived until his death in 1991 . A
third permanent home replaced the summer house, which was destroyed by an
infestation of carpenter ants in 1949 . A banker by trade, Edward Dunn, a
veteran Naval officer of World War II, was, like his father, was interested in
gardening. He cultivated the woodlands around his home at Dunn Gardens with
winding trails, hybrid rhododendrons, and native woodland plants, on which he
became an expert [1; 3]. As President of the Seattle Arboretum Foundation in
the 1950s, he helped develop Seattle's Japanese Garden, and was Preseident of
the American Rhododendron Society in the 1960s, receiving the Gold Medal from
the latter society in 1971, as well as a hybrid species named after him, the
"Ed Dunn" Rhododendron [1; 3]. Meanwhile, Dorothy Dunn Bayley
replaced her roses with heather and lilies, and added a water feature of a
fountain, pond, and sundail, designed by Fujitaro Kubota (1879-1973), a
Japanese immigrant and respected designer of Seattle's Kubota Gardens [1; 3].
Ed Dunn established the E. B. Dunn Historic Garden Trust, which now owns and
manages Dunn Gardens, which are now listed on the National Register of Historic
Places. The gardens are managed by resident curators Charles Price and Glenn
Withey, and part of Ed Dunn's former home has been converted for use as a
lecture hall and classroom, and the gardens are open for public tours on select
days, as well as for special events [2; 3].