By Nancy Covert
What’s it like living in a really old house? How likely are you to encounter spirits?
Half a dozen Steilacoom residents, who live in half a dozen historic homes in the Town’s 40-block historic district, opened their antique residences on June 8 to viewers who were curious about these places.
It’s estimated that more than 100 visitors toured Steilacoom’s historic homes that day.
The tour also included the opportunity to view half a dozen Historic Markers, such as the Martin St. Marker for the first Pierce County Courthouse. That now-demolished building was used as one of several early Steilacoom school sites.
Sponsored by the Steilacoom Historical Museum Association (SHMA) the tour featured homes ranging from the 1858 Philip Keach Home to the recently renovated 1870 Lt. Nehemiah Bartlett Home, once home to Steilacoom’s Renaissance woman, Laura Belle Downey-Bartlett. Besides getting an up-close view of these ancient structures, present-day owners shared restoration-process photos and told anecdotes about their efforts, and bits of the house’s early history. One home featured a dollhouse replica of the structure.
Getting into the “spirit” of the day, Puyallup residents, Mr. and Mrs. Rob Gregg, wore 1890s attire for their visit. They’re members of a Seattle group known as “Somewhere In Time Unlimited.”
Anyone who lives within the Town’s Historic District is required to follow specific guidelines when it comes to residence restoration/renovation. It takes a special person with a keen interest in history, who will comply with those detailed requirements.
Steilacoom, founded in 1851 and incorporated in 1854, has one of the earliest historic preservation districts in the state. For those who are interested, there are other Historic Districts nearby to visit: Port Townsend and Port Gamble. Both communities have connections to Steilacoom. SHMA’s first Historic Home Tour was held in 1973.
To learn more about the heritage of this First Incorporated town in Washington State and its many other “Firsts” make time to visit SHMA’s Museum at 1801 Rainier Street between Noon and 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The Museum’s 1857 property includes the Wagon Shop and the Orr Home and is open during the Farmers Market, which operates from 3-7 p.m. on Wednesdays, beginning June 12.
As for encountering any “spirits”—just knowing that you’re part of a historic heritage makes living in one of these old homes special.
As the SHMA program read, “The buildings…they are not ours. They belong partly to those who built them, and partly to all the generations of mankind who are to follow us.” (John Ruskin)