Happening now: Mother’s Day at Walker Rock Garden

May 11, 2014 at 2:02 pm | In West Seattle news, WS culture/arts | 9 Comments

We’ve written about it many times, but had never before managed a firsthand look at West Seattle’s Walker Rock Garden, a backyard full of rock art from sculptures to stepping stones, created by the late Milton and Florence Walker over more than 20 years starting in 1950 as a labor of love, now a legacy in search of a new owner. It was traditionally open to the public on Mother’s Day, but not for the past few years – until today.

You can stop by until 3 pm (5407 37th SW); the broker who has long represented the home, Brad Cooper, says there’ll be another chance to visit this summer, so don’t worry if you can’t get there on short notice.

We were there about an hour ago, with a steady stream of visitors walking carefully around the yard, looking at the colorful creations. We’ll add a few more photos later.

9 Comments

  1. Long ago, I had the good fortune to visit the garden while Florence was still alive. She sat in the little enclosed seating area and told stories of the trips she and her husband took to gather rocks. This garden really was their life. She told us that Milton never drew up plans for the things he did, except for one of the benches. He just started on something and let the inspiration come as he worked.

    I will never forget the story she told about the tower shown in the second photo above. Milton completed the legs of the project on the 4th of July. Then he thought about what should go on top of them. He decided that since the 4th of July was our nation’s birthday that he should build a cake. And that’s what those arches and layers are supposed to be – a special birthday cake for the United States, made of rocks.

    Comment by Marie M — 3:41 pm May 11, 2014 #

  2. Thanks, Marie! Standing there, we mused aloud with a few others about how the features must have just taken shape one at a time, a bit at a time … maybe a weekend working on one of those butterfly steppingstones … who knows how long on some of the larger features … Pondering that is as grand as seeing it!

    Comment by WSB — 4:29 pm May 11, 2014 #

  3. Thanks Marie for the story.

    We went today for the first time and my kids just loved it, they kept going up and down the stairs and around. I would have loved to have seen it when the water features were working. It’s an amazing place.

    Comment by Cecelia — 6:43 pm May 11, 2014 #

  4. I believe that the very first “sculpture” was the one that is closest to the house. It has a little pond/water feature and some spiky, rocky structures above it. Florence said that was the first project Milton did. They had been camping, and he was so captivated by the scene of snow-capped mountains reflected in a nearby lake, that he wanted to recreate that at home. He wanted to look out his window every day and see that same magical scene.

    But it didn’t work out well. He tried to fix it with paint and more concrete, but he was never able to capture what he set out to do. However, this didn’t stop him from collecting more rock and creating more artworks. And good on him for doing that. I believe that he created a wonderful bit of folk art, something I hope can be preserved.

    Comment by Marie M — 7:28 pm May 11, 2014 #

  5. My family and I went and thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful sanctuary. It was such a lovely piece of my Mother’s day events. We marveled at the intricate layers of raw beauty at every turn. What a gift to our community this kind of folk art is. I sincerely hope a buyer finds the property perfect just the way it is and allows the legacy of this intriguing couple to live on.

    Comment by wsidemama — 9:18 pm May 11, 2014 #

  6. Thanks for the backstory, Marie M! It always seemed like the concrete mountain/water feature part of the project didn’t quite fit with that beautifully executed rock gazebo, tower, and butterfly wall. It makes total sense that Milton was figuring things out as he went…makes me love this place even more!

    Comment by enviromaven — 9:09 am May 12, 2014 #

  7. Charming as the rock garden is – and it IS charming – it’s hard to see how anyone would want to pay nearly half a million for a house that attracts strangers traipsing through the grounds all the time. (Okay if you own a “stately home” and can sell tickets to the punters, but a bummer otherwise.)
    Too bad nobody has any money these days. The Walker’s garden would make a lovely little pocket park for the city of Seattle.
    Maybe West Seattle could form a citizens committee and raise the money to acquire this little gem. The community of Watts did something similar with Simon Rodia’s Towers, which this project somewhat resembles.

    Comment by WSExpat — 1:48 pm May 12, 2014 #

  8. WSExpat – it’s only been open to “traipsers” when the family has decided to open it. Previously, as I understand it, it was Mother’s Day and some summer Sundays. Past few years, no open days at all. And certainly no obligation to open it. Re: the park idea, in fact, when we walked up yesterday afternoon, a local community advocate was talking with broker Brad about that kind of an idea, and suggesting he contact various Parks-related city government folks … TR

    Comment by WSB — 1:51 pm May 12, 2014 #

  9. As a former neighbor and a frequent traipser, I well understand that the Walkers were under no obligation to open their property to visitors.
    My main point was that it takes a rare kind of owner to preserve something as special as the Walkers’ garden, and share it with the community.
    Good to hear others are thinking of ways to preserve the rock art. No slam on city government, but the garden is a West Seattle treasure and it would be better, in my opinion, if the community formed a non-profit to acquire and maintain it.

    Comment by WSExpat — 3:01 pm May 12, 2014 #

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