Manito Park on the city’s South Hill has long been the jewel of the Spokane parks system. It has several theme gardens, trails and landmarks, as well as a team of gardeners growing flowers in greenhouses that are supplied to other parks around the city.
But by the 1960s, the city of Spokane was in the midst of a beautification campaign that would culminate in the world’s fair in 1974.
The city of Spokane ran a park bond in June 1968 that voters turned down. Part of that proposal was rebuilding the 1910 greenhouse that sat at the north end of Duncan Gardens. The building, which was used to propagate flowers for Manito and other parks, had rotten structural beams, and the redwood stringers between the panes of glass were on the verge of collapse.
It wasn’t until 1972 that the Park Board came up with a way to pay for the replacement. The estimated $100,000 cost was covered by a $50,000 anonymous donation, another $20,000 from the parks budget, plus $30,000 from the Park and Recreation Foundation, which raises money for the park system. The Comstock Foundation would later kick in $30,000 as costs ran over the initial estimates.
The likely source of the anonymous donation was Dr. David W. Gaiser, a wealthy physician and surgeon who sat on the Park Board for 18 years. Former Parks Director Hal McGlathery said “he rarely spoke, but when he did, people listened.” And when Gaiser saw a need in the parks system, he often quietly wrote the check to cover some or all of the cost. After the Japanese garden at Manito, opened in 1970, experienced vandalism, he donated $15,000 to install a fence around it.
The doctor, who served as a physician in Spokane from 1936 to 1971, loved flowers and had an elaborate greenhouse at his Cliff Drive home. He donated generously to many causes, including his alma maters Whitman College and Harvard University.
Shortly after Gaiser’s death in 1985, the Park Board voted to name the greenhouse after him. “He did a tremendous amount for the parks in Spokane,” said board member Don Woods at the time. “The Manito greenhouse was one of the things he especially loved."