In 1889 Frank Rockwood Moore and his wife Sarah Frances Sherlock Moore acquired a section of land on the South Hill and hired Kirtland Cutter to design a home on it. If you’re savvy on Spokane history, you’ll know this was the same architect who designed the iconic Davenport. The Moore’s property featured panoramic views of Spokane, making it a luxurious home destination and an ideal site for the future Moore-Turner Heritage Gardens. After Moore had passed away, U.S. Senator George Turner and his wife Bertha Dreher Turner took possession of the house and its grounds in 1896. Judge Turner, as he liked to be called, was a prominent statesman, serving as a Washington State Supreme Court Justice and appointed an international arbiter by Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson.
It was under the Turners’ ownership that the land was transformed into the breathtaking gardens you see today. In 1911 Turner hired Portland landscape architect, Hugh Bryan, to make improvements to the original Victorian-influenced garden. The two-tiered pergola, water features, arbor, and tea house as well as the conservatory and greenhouses were built into the striking basalt terraces. The Spokane Daily Chronicle published several articles during the time of construction describing carloads of trees, flowers, shrubbery, bushes, and other plants being hauled up the hillside to be planted. Rumors spread that it would be the largest perennial garden the Northwest has ever seen.
During the 1930’s Depression era, the bank had seized the property from the Turners due to their outstanding mortgage. After unsuccessful attempts to auction off the house, it was eventually demolished in 1940 and only the gardens were left. Today, the Moore-Turner Heritage Gardens are under the control of the City of Spokane Parks and Recreation Department. The gardens are situated in the Marycliff/Cliff park Historic District and listed on the local and state historic registers. To learn more about the history, visit spokanecity.org.