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Kenmore's history: Rhododendron Park | Crane
Rhododendron Park sits on 13 acres of land in the city of Kenmore and was once the home of Rhododendron enthusiast Reginald A. “Charlie” Pearce. He settled here in 1920 and was an Englishman who immigrated to the Pacific Northwest at the turn of the century, became a Seattle clothier and Alaska equipment outfitter. He and his wife began cultivating rhododendrons as a hobby. The project soon turned into a commercial enterprise they called “State Flower Nursery.” The Wall Street Journal featured the couple in a 1932 article with pictures of some of their rhododendron and azalea plants. After that they soon became known as one of the finest nurseries. Every year at Easter the nursery would ship large numbers of Pink Pearl rhododendrons east.
Pearce created at least three new hybrids, best known of which are Pinky Pearce (azalea), Pearce's Golden Jubilee and Pearce's American Beauty (rhodies), specimens of which are in the park. Pearce died in 1960 and the property became idle and unused for approximately ten years. In 1968, King County formed the Forward Thrust with a bond. Rhododendron Park was then acquired along with many parks, swimming pools and the old Kingdome. King County supervised these properties.
In 1971, the buildings on the Rhododendron Park land became an office for the King County Parks Department and remained so until the late 1990s. A 1995 donation of many newer rhododendron and azalea hybrids make up a New Garden. The donors were Warren F. Timmons III and his wife Diane. They collected these plants while operating their own nursery. This is referred to as the New Garden to differentiate from the Old Garden where the Pearce plants are located.
In 2001, the city of Kenmore took over Rhododendron Park from King County. A 2009 renovation improved parking, renewed the picnic shelter and restrooms, and added a playground. A new driveway would have destroyed hundreds of the park's namesake plants. Instead of allowing this to happen, Warren Timmons, along with members of a local rhodie chapter, members of Inglemoor High School's Key Club, plus some local Boy Scouts, transplanted around 300 of the flowering plants. One scout working for his eagle scout merit badge, along with his volunteering family and friends, repositioned many of these plants under the supervision of Warren Timmons.
This park offers one of the largest public collections of hybrid rhododendrons in the Northwest.
Courtesy of Kenmore Park Historical Notes; Kenmore Senior Center and submitted by Doug Crane. The Kenmore Senior Center, located at Rhododendron Park, is a branch of the Northshore Senior Center. You can reach the Kenmore Senior Center by calling 425-489-0707.