Every day, the Washington State Capitol is open to the public for tours of the Legislative Building. Beginning in the middle of August, a cool new tour was added – a botanical tour of the whole lush campus. In a state known for its abundance of trees and plantings, it only makes sense that the Capitol Campus would be a shining example of Washington’s love of nature.
The Olmsted Brothers of Central Park fame were the original designers after all.
Tours are led by state horticulturist Brent Chapman, who knows about most of the 120 tree species that grace the Capitol grounds overlooking Budd Inlet. The trees, as Chapman explains on the tour, tell stories of the Capitol’s history. Many of the trees have been around since the landscape was first designed in 1928 by the Olmsteds. Chapman helps guests look through a landscape designer’s eye by noting how the trees were intentionally positioned on the grand north side of the Legislative Building to help frame and provide scale for the dome.
Not only popular with the public, this tour has also attracted state workers who are interested in learning more about the Capitol’s history. After taking the tour, Adam Noble of the Office of the Secretary of State, said the biggest takeaway for him was “learning the practice and forethought of what species they planted, as well as the original intent of the Olmsted brothers in placing specific trees where they would fit best around the buildings.”
The botanical tour, like the other tours of the Capitol Campus, are free and open to everyone. But you will need to hurry to experience this fair weather tour – it is only offered through September 26 on Tuesdays and Fridays at 11 a.m, departing from the front steps of the Capitol, on the north side.
For those who miss their chance for a tour with Chapman, self-guided tours are always encouraged – and tree tour brochures are available near the gift shop in the Legislative Building.