The mossy, old boiler house, slowly sinking into the water-logged ground...
This morning, an article about the historic Winters House in Bellevue being on the way for light rail construction caught my eyes in The Seattle Times. I drive regularly past the building, but being a rather ugly, Spanish Mission style house from the 1920s, it has never really roused my interest. Behind the house, the Winters had a nursery that grew and sold azaleas, daffodils and irises from the 1920s to the 1940s. After that, a rhododendron nursery operated for years in the same location. A brief note that the remains of a sinking old boiler house still stand behind the house woke immediately up the "ruin romantic" in me and I just had to brave the miserable weather and venture out to take a look.
The mouth of the rusty old boiler stands gaping above a mirror of water. Heat from it was led through pipelines to seven hothouses where azaleas were propagated.
*The mossy remains of a hothouse are barely visible under the rhododendrons gone wild.
With water dripping down my neck and my camera carefully bundled under my raincoat, I trailed along the boardwalk built on the boggy terrain, admiring one of the most impressing, accidental rhododendron parks I've seen. The moss-covered, gnarled trunks stood up from the water-logged soil, mingling together with ferns and great horsetail plants and sending up desperately beautiful trusses of bright flowers in all shades of whites, pinks and maroons. Beneath the glossy leaves, remains of the seven hothouses could still be seen, their broken roof lines slowly rotting away and sinking into the soaked ground. In one corner, between tangled rhododendron trunks, giant leaves and slender white flowers of the umbrella tree, Magnolia tripetala, tried to make their way towards the light.
A boardwalk leads through the area, as the soil is covered with water most of the year. Hundreds of old rhododendrons fill the ground, fighting for place amongst the ever increasing native vegetation.
Pink and red rhododendrons growing through a carpet of horsetail.
As the Seattle Times reported, the Winters House is now under threat of ending under the new light-rail to be built through the area, and of course, the construction would alter the parkland behind it too. Somehow, despite this closer inspection, I couldn't quite warm to the house itself, but I loved the overgrown, forsaken old rhododendrons patiently growing through the watery marshlands, like giant old ladies who still were putting up the show even if all the money was gone a long time ago. Completely realistic about the barren economic climate of today, I understand it would require a miracle to raise the funds and build a tunnel just to save an abandoned, old nursery, but it still would be lovely if someone would come with a miracle wand and make it happen...*
The Seattle Times: National register house in Bellevue lies within path of light rail.
More information and old pictures of the place is found on: History of the Winters House.