On Monday afternoon, Lewis and Clark students trekked up the “Tiger Trail” on their way home from school, oblivious to the history just over their shoulders.
The parks-owned staircase cuts by the Moore-Turner Heritage Gardens where presidents and royalty once walked.
“Teddy Roosevelt and the Queen of Romania, both visited,” said Linda Yeomans, of the Friends of the Moore-Turner Heritage Gardens.
She pointed to the tea house at the top of the steep 180-degree incline.
“That’s where ladies had tea and played bridge.”
The Moore-Turner mansion (which stood where the current parking lot exists) was demolished in 1940, and the grounds fell into disrepair.
If not for the ice storm of 1996, this historic landscape may have been lost forever.
When city crews began to clear the downed trees and branches from the site adjacent to the Corbin Art Center, they found the remains of a garden first built by Frank Rockwood Moore and later redesigned by Sen. George Turner.
Original rock terraces, paths, stairways, ponds and a reflection pool were gradually uncovered, as were the remains of a tea house and pergolas.
The Spokane Parks and Recreation Department and the Spokane Park Board, with the help of a financial gift from philanthropist Myrtle Woldson, began the rehabilitation process of the hillside garden landscape.
Dedicated volunteers helped with the restoration and formed the Friends of the Moore-Turner Heritage Gardens.
On Sept. 21 and 22, the group will host the fifth annual Art in Bloom event to raise funds for the continuing restoration and preservation of the site.
The fundraiser brings together local artists’ works and floral arrangements inspired by the artwork.
Board president Colleen Snow said this year roughly 35 pieces of fine art will be available for purchase, as will more than 20 floral arrangements. In addition, eight vendors will be on hand.
“Originally, we featured quilts and fiber arts, but we’ve evolved to fine art,” Snow said. “Several florists have participated for all five years, donating their time and their talent.”
Over the years, the organization has raised funds to repair staircases, fix pond leaks and add fencing. Volunteers give tours and help maintain the gardens, which are on the Spokane and Washington registers of historic places.
“The Moore-Turner Heritage Gardens is the largest heritage garden east of the Cascades in Eastern Washington, and the first and only public-owned heritage garden in Spokane,” Yeomans said.
The 7-acre terraced gardens featuring basalt stone walls, a reflection pool with a Mask of Pan fountain and a larger pond that U.S. Sen. George Turner once stocked with trout, was designed by landscape architect Hugh Bryan in 1911.
The site has been meticulously restored to the 1911 time period thanks to color-tinted photos from Bertha Turner’s scrapbooks, discovered at the WSU Archive Library
During the growing season French lilacs, peonies, roses and irises abound. Ivy spills over the basalt walls and each set of steps lead to breathtaking city views.
“It’s one of the largest residential heritage gardens in the U.S., said Yeomans.
In addition to Art in Bloom, the Friends of the Moore-Turner Heritage Gardens host a yearly Traditional English Tea to raise funds.
The gardens are open to the public from May through October, although in September they’re only open on weekends.
“I’m an avid gardener,” Snow said. “But for me this is all about the history of the earliest years of Spokane.”
“It’s so cool to see plants here that started growing in the 1800s,” she said. “We want to celebrate these gardens.”
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