Surviving the Flames, Service to Public Continues

Founded in 1984 and built with private donations, the Center for Urban Horticulture's mission is "to apply horticulture to natural and human-altered landscapes to sustain natural resources and the human spirit." As part of its public service, the center provides meeting space for gardening clubs and environmental groups, educational classes, demonstration gardens, and a place to come for answers: the Master Gardeners clinic on Saturday mornings, the Miller Library or the library's Plant Answer Line.

On average, more than 12,000 visitors a year use the library, but after the fire, it was forced to close for seven months. "Every single thing needed to be ozinated to take the smell out. And the ones that were wet needed to be freeze-dried. Some needed both," says Valerie Easton, the library's manager. "The library was actually the most adversely affected because we are our materials." About 15 percent of the collection was damaged beyond repair.

A charred poster annoounces a new course in wetlands restoration.  Photo by Mary Levin.

A charred poster annoounces a new course in wetlands restoration. Photo by Mary Levin.

Last December the library staff moved as much material as would fit-the things that were most used and least damaged-into a classroom in Isaccson Hall. The rest of the collection is stored at the UW Libraries Sand Point facility.

Fortunately, the old and rare books, some of them dating to the 17th century, were the least damaged because they were housed in a special vault. The books were not singed or water soaked, although they did absorb smoke. They are currently housed in the Allen Library and are being "passively deodorized" to remove the smell without damaging the pages, Easton explains.

By Beth Luce

Gardeners can reach the Plant Answer Line through the library's Web site at or by calling (206) 897-5268 (206-UW-PLANT), Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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