A world-class garden in Eastern Washington? Who knew! Spokane continues to surprise with Manito Park, a 100-year-old jewel that’s free to visit all year round.
Established in 1900 as Montrose Park, the location was originally an underdeveloped recreational area and zoo. Through the years it earned funding and saw a name change to Manito which translates to “Spirit of Nature” in Algonquian.
Along with other Spokane city parks, Manito got some redesign guidance at the hands of the world famous Olmstead Brothers. The Olmsteads were a world-famous landscape design firm that have designed numerous parks across the country. One such example is the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition grounds, now the University of Washington campus in Seattle.
A striking symmetrical, European-style garden, the beds change with the seasons. The Duncan Garden covers 3 acres with a large granite fountain in the center and a gazebo at the rear.
The garden’s namesake is John Duncan, the parks superintendent from 1910 to 1942. Duncan is responsible for the symmetrical style of this garden.
A gazebo stands tall at the south end of Duncan Garden. This lovely spot was added during the park’s centennial in 2004 and is a well-used wedding space.
Looking northward, you see our next stop, the Gaiser Conservatory.
Named for longtime park board member Dr. David Gaiser, the Gaiser Conservatory holds tropical and desert plants with displays changing seasonally. The Conservatory relocated to it’s current spot in 1912.
At Christmas, the conservatory lights up with 30,000 bulbs (of the electric variety), an event which is also free to view.
The Joel E. Ferris Perennial Garden provides an excellent example of the tremendous variety of colors, textures and flower types found in perennials. A seasonal variety of colorful displays begins in early spring and continues into late autumn.
This garden is named posthumously after Park Board member Joel E. Ferris.
What’s in a name? Spokane is a sister city of Nishinomiya, Japan.
Ed Tsutakawa was the local man who pushed for that sisterhood and helped design and develop this site for a Japanese Garden. When he died, the city of Spokane honored his dedication to the cause by officially adding his name to the park.
Nagao Sakurai, a well known Japanese architect who at one time was in charge of the Imperial Palace grounds, designed the garden in 1967.
Construction of the waterfall and pond began in 1970. Two girl scouts from Japan blended water from Spokane and Nishinomiya. This water went into the pond to signify harmony between the two cities.
The park was dedicated by both cities on May 17, 1974.
Manito Park is completely free to visit year-round. However, it does close at times. The Gaiser Conservatory closes on major holidays and often closes on Wednesdays. The Japanese Gardens close for the winter, November to April. Learn more at the park website.
Parking is free both in the park’s lots and on nearby streets in the lovely South Hill neighborhood.
If you’re looking for more Spokane park fun, consider visiting Spokane Falls and Riverfront Park.