During a three-decade period, between 1932 and 1965, a three-story structure that overlooked Western State Hospital was known as “the White House.”
Better known as the “Hill Ward” the building housed male patients who tended the hospital’s extensive farm as part of their occupational therapy. A century earlier, much of the land in the area had been used as the location for the Hudson Bay Company’s Puget Sound Agricultural operation, and then the US government purchased the land. In 1871 an asylum was built there.
After Hill Ward closed, for the next decade the hilltop location was used as a Search and Rescue training site. More than 1,500 responders trained there to assist in emergencies such as the Oklahoma City Bombing, and the 9/11 attack. Over time the building was vandalized, and graffiti artists added their creative touches to the building’s crumbling décor.
An asphalt pathway ascends to the one-time Hill Ward, gently curving up the hillside from the parking lot below. Nearby is a remnant from Hilltop Ward’s chimney. Sunlight glints through the trees off the surface of glacier-carved Waughop Lake.
Between 2007-09 the City of Lakewood and the State of Washington partnered to “create a community memorial that paid tribute to the people who lived and worked here.” Across the former ward site, concrete slabs, inscribed with information about historic events that occurred in the region, serve as reminders about the importance of this area.
For one young boy, visiting with his parents and sibling, his most vivid impression of the outing likely was the surprising discovery of a tiny, brown field mouse, huddling in the grass near the building’s base. On a calm, autumn-like Sunday morning, with enthusiastic sounds of several soccer games underway on the rejuvenated green fields below, a walk to this memorial site, completed in 2009, was an ideal spot to reflect about its place in South Sound history.
View this site at www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-tQkw6M-Zc for a preview.