I’m in the process of researching the orchard history of Seattle. I’m curious to learn more about the ones that still exist, those historic orchards that have long since gone, and new ones sprouting up. Really to understand how all these fruit trees got here in the first place — and now sit in our yards and parks. I plan on blogging about what I find.
The first is Piper Orchard, which is in Carkeek Park. Bob Baines, president of the Friends of Piper Orchard, invited a couple of us from City Fruit to participate in a planning meeting. During that I learned a bit about the history of Piper Orchard. There’s a wealth of information here – and the source of much of what’s below.
Starting with recent history, last year they put on a Festival of Fruit. Here’s a clip if you couldn’t attend:
The Piper family planted it over a century ago after he moved to Seattle in 1874. Andrew W. Piper ran the Puget Sound Candy Factory or a bakery, depending on the source, until it burned down in the Seattle fire. And according to this website, he was also the WA State Chess Champion from 1875-1890. He also ran for mayor and served on the city council — so he was a bit of a busy guy.
Wilhelmina “Minna” Piper is the one thought to have actually planted and cared for the orchard as her husband was away on business a lot. She was always thought of as the gardener. One source that mentions one of the sons, Paul Piper, used to take some of the fruit to sell it at the market. Andrew W. Piper reportedly also used the apples in his pastries — that is, if he was a baker.
The park was bought as part of Carkeek part in 1927.
More recent history starts in 1981 when landscape architect Daphne Lewis discovered the antique fruit trees while making a master-plan survey for restoration of the park. She and a group of volunteers worked for two years to clear away the overgrowth (blackberries, mostly) so that the trees were accessible. They found about 30 apple trees, 2 pears, two cherry, along with a variety of non-fruit trees such as maples and hawthornes.
Currently, the Friends of Piper Orchard partners with the Seattle Parks Department to help look after the trees & fruit within the park. The Friends of Piper’s Orchard also organize monthly work parties that involve everything from pruning, clearing away blackberries, etc.
City Fruit is working with Bob Baines to figure out how we can partner together to help educate tree owners, improve the health of this great resource, and possibly increase the fruit yield that can then benefit those in need in the community.