The planning of Puyallup began in 1877, conducted by Ezra Meeker- a man who traveled the Oregon trail for five months with his family all the way from Iowa, to Portland, before eventually settling in Washington in 1862.
Andy Anderson, president of the Puyallup Historical Society, can tell you a lot about the Meeker Mansion, Ezra and Eliza Meeker’s beautiful 17-room home, built in 1887 for $26,000 dollars.
“It was always the fanciest house in Puyallup and it still is,” said Andy Anderson. “They were visited by all sorts of people. Ezra had relationships with five presidents of the united states.”
Ezra was the first mayor of Puyallup and a very wealthy man. He was known as the “Hop King of the World.”
Even though Ezra himself didn’t drink, it was the hops, that gave him his money.
“They planted them in a field and that crop brought them $150. In the mid-1860s, that was real money and that started the boom,” said Anderson. “The interesting thing about what that did to the community is that it brought a lot of money and influence here. And this is the period that we call the golden age of Puyallup.
“If you were going to develop something, it was useful to have some of Ezra’s money. There is Meeker money behind almost every church in the community,” said Anderson.
Ezra, with the help of his wife, was a founder of the Puyallup library association.
“The first library was a lean-to on the back of Meeker’s cabins in the middle of town. Mrs. Meeker kept 67 publications current to loan out to the community.”
Now- just steps away from where the current library stands on the edge of Pioneer Park, a statue of Ezra stands tall, welcoming people to Puyallup.
After his wife died, Ezra left their mansion in the hands of one of his daughters to dispose of, and throughout the 1900s the building was used as a hospital and a nursing home. It wasn’t until the 1970s that it began to be restored back to its original Meeker Mansion – a restoration process that’s still underway today.
In Ezra’s final days, he became known as an influential advocate for preserving the Oregon trail. He even retraced his journey, leaving markers along the way.
Ezra Meeker died in 1928 in Seattle. He was 97 years old.
The Puyallup Historical Society at Meeker Mansion is proud to present a new exhibit Puyallup During the World Wars. In an effort to both commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the signing of the armistice which ended World War I and celebrate those men and women who served in both World Wars, the third-floor volunteers have put together a special exhibit from our collection.
This includes a uniform worn by Private First Class Jay Faris who served as a Military Policeman in the 13th Division during World War I as well as a uniform worn by Charlotte “Lucy” Johnston, a WAVES flight instructor during World War II. Also included is a Purple Heart presented to the mother of former Puyallup High School quarterback Lieutenant Edward J. Myers near the end of World War II. These artifacts, among many others, represent the men and women who put their lives on the line to fight for something bigger than themselves and those at home who dealt with a different sort of fight.
Come and see how each of these great wars shaped those we would come to honor as veterans and the Valley they left behind. The exhibit runs through November 11th so make sure you come and see it before it is gone!
The Puyallup Historical Society at Meeker Mansion is pleased to award the first annual Robert Minnich Memorial Scholarship totaling $500.00 to Breanna Lightbody of Emerald Ridge High School. After a district-wide search, Breanna’s academic achievement, dedication to her global community, and future wish to continue to share the story of the past made her a standout candidate. Breanna, as a freshman, will be attending Pacific Lutheran University in the fall of 2018 to pursue a degree in history.
For those of you unable to meet Bob, the Robert Minnich Memorial Scholarship was created by his family after the sudden passing of Robert almost a year ago. Bob was passionate about tree planting, so many of the trees that line Puyallup city streets were planted by Bob’s efforts. It is through this passion that Bob became involved with the Meeker Mansion, even serving as president of the Puyallup Historical Society for 20 years. He had a deep love for all history, especially the local history of the Puyallup Valley. He led many school groups over the years on history tours downtown, as well as through the Meeker Mansion. He is missed by all who knew him every day.
In his memory, the Puyallup Historical Society is honored to find such a worthy candidate as Breanna. We wish her luck as she heads to Pacific Lutheran University next fall and success in achieving her dreams.
Help us to preserve the History of Puyallup for the next generations through planned giving. Leaving a legacy is a great way to use the present to invest in the future of Puyallup’s history. A good way to accomplish this is to designate the Puyallup Historical Society at Meeker Mansion as a beneficiary for a portion of your retirement plan, estate planning, life insurance, will, cash gifts or as a charitable bequest. These funds will guarantee our ability to preserve and protect the history of Puyallup.
For information regarding the various options involved in planned giving and/or tax benefits, please contact your financial advisor or you may also contact us at (253) 848-1770.
If you should decide to include us as part of your planned giving, please let us know as we want to recognize your lasting tribute to the Puyallup Historical Society at Meeker Mansion and for helping to secure Puyallup’s history for the future.
We are very pleased to announce that Holly has joined our staff at the Puyallup Historical Society at Meeker Mansion. She accepted the position of Administrative Assistant effective December 1, 2017. Holly will be responsible for many of the duties within the Puyallup Historical Society and the operation of the Meeker Mansion.
Her education includes a Bachelor of Arts degree, June 2014, from the University of Denver. She also took a course in Archaeology and History at the University of Cork in Ireland.
Holly has been able to further her experience in the museum field by working in several small museums and as a valuable volunteer at the Meeker Mansion working and cataloging our archives.
Holly is a talented and enthusiastic person and we are very excited to welcome her to our staff.
February 3rd, our late fearless leader Bob Minnich, was honored with a well deserved Lifetime Achievement Award by the Heritage League of Pierce County. We were so happy to have his family there to receive this award on his behalf. We miss you Bob Minnich (1950-2017) and will always remember your jokes and hard work!
A few days before Christmas, a message was left on the Meeker Mansion’s answering machine.
It was from a Massachusetts resident who was interested in making a donation to support the ongoing project of restoring the artwork on the mansion’s ceilings — but it wasn’t just any donation.
The donor, who asked to remain anonymous, proposed a “$500 challenge grant.” For every donation up to a grand total of $500, she plans to match.
“It’s the first time someone has approached it that way,” said Andy Anderson, president of the Puyallup Historical Society Board of Directors. “I was pretty excited.”
While a current resident of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, the anonymous donor grew up in Tacoma and is familiar with the Puyallup area, she said in a phone interview with The Puyallup Herald. Her friends and family still live in the South Sound, and she just so happened to be visiting them in October while professional art restorer Sally Hopkins was also working on restoring the ceiling of the Meeker Mansion billiard room.
“I really think that the restoration is essential,” she said. “You have to preserve your culture because (if you don’t) there will be nothing to pass on to the next generation. Whoever decided to build (the mansion), they were inspired to bring European tradition to Ezra (Meeker)’s home in a little town on a river.”
The donor moved to Cape Cod in the 1980s and was pleasantly surprised by how much-preserved history there was in comparison to the Pacific Northwest.
“I actually walk on the land that the pilgrims walked on and it’s given me such a different sense of history,” she said.
In Massachusetts, she helped restore the Crosby Mansion, which was built in the 1830s by Albert Crosby, several decades before Meeker Mansion was built in 1890.
When she returned from visiting her family in Tacoma in the fall, she continued to think about the Meeker Mansion restoration project.
“I had (the article) on my desk for a while and thought, I’d like to see that decorative work continue and that I’d make a donation,” she said.
That’s when she gave the mansion a call.
“I said, ‘Well, have you ever done a challenge?’ and apparently, they haven’t — so we’re having a lot of fun doing it this way,” she said.
The donor is planning another trip to Puyallup soon and is looking forward to seeing the restoration project progress. Anderson said the project is an ongoing one and will take another $35,000 to complete.
“We are very grateful for her support and her enthusiasm for preserving the community treasure that is the Meeker Mansion,” Anderson said. “I’m confident our generous donors will meet her challenge and more.”
Donations may be mailed or hand-delivered to the Meeker Mansion at 312 Spring St., Puyallup, WA 98372.
Enjoy a fun throwback to the 1960’s. The Daffodil Festival Parade is such an integral part of the Puyallup Valley history, we thought our Meeker Mansion followers would enjoy seeing this slice of history. Even the music set in the background will give you a sense of 1960’s nostalgia. Maybe you’ll spot someone you know in the footage!
For future visitors of Meeker Mansion, a suggestion: When inside one of its rooms, look up.
There’s a good chance that the designs painted on the ceiling are the work of Sally Hopkins, a professional art restorer who’s been working on Meeker Mansion for more than 40 years.
“My job is to uncover the original decoration to see if we can preserve some of it,” Hopkins said last week as she worked in the mansion.
Hopkins visits Meeker Mansion every few years, traveling from her home in Portland. She doesn’t get to come often, but after visiting Puyallup several months ago for the funeral of longtime Puyallup Hisorical Society President Bob Minnich, she told historian Andy Anderson that she wanted to continue her work on the ceiling of the mansion’s billiard room.
And all of last week, that’s what Hopkins did.
The ceiling of the billiard room is a mosaic of labeled old paint, faded designs and repaired plaster. Each section tells a story, and is part of Hopkins’ process.
“If you think of this like archeology … it’s like the same thing here,” she said. “You have to sand down to the original layer without completely destroying it.”
Sally Hopkins, a professional art restorer who’s been working on Meeker Mansion for more than 40 years, discusses her work recovering and restoring the ceilings of Meeker Mansion. Joshua Bessex email@example.com
Built in 1890 as the home to hops grower Ezra Meeker and his family, Meeker Mansion was also used as a hospital and a nursing home in later years. In 1970, the Puyallup Historical Society was formed to save it. In her decades of work, Hopkins has uncovered and restored designs in the mansion’s downstairs hallway, formal and family parlors, dining room, carriage entrance, the “yellow” room and one of the bedrooms. Hopkins started her work in the mansion’s billiard room several years ago, where she got to work sanding through 14 layers of paint from the mansion’s former uses.
It’s a delicate process. Hopkins doesn’t use chemicals, which might be faster but could potentially damage the original artwork.
“It takes some practice so you don’t take the layer you want off,” Hopkins said.
After sanding, Hopkins carefully tapes a transparent piece of paper to the ceiling and draws what she sees.
Hopkins learned the art of restoration from her father, Ken, who started the work of restoring paintings at Meeker Mansion. One day, he took Sally with him to work.
“It was going to be a summer job … and it was more than one summer,” she said.
Her father taught her to not assume to know what she was drawing and to just follow the lines of the art.
“We just (drew) exactly what we saw and if we didn’t know what it was, we left it out,” Hopkins said.
She remembered restoring art of a clear sky on a ceiling downstairs in the mansion with her father. On lunch breaks, they would go to the billiard room and wonder what was lying underneath.
“Our running joke for years was that it’s going to be a cloudy sky,” Hopkins said. “You wouldn’t believe my surprise when (it was).”
But it was other things, too. On a piece of paper taped to wall where Hopkins worked, she wrote, “The pattern on the 1890 ceiling is a trellis full of hop plant leaves and cones set against a cloudy sky.”
“(Ezra Meeker) made his money with hops, so it was a big deal for him,” said Hopkins. She uses a drawing of hops growing in different stages to help her identify what she sees before her.
Other images she’s uncovered? Pink roses, apricots, a Japanese Torii gate, and a bee skep.
The Puyallup Historical Society identified the painter as Fred Atwood, who Sally said still surprises her with his paintings. About 80 feet of grapevines restored downstairs was one of those surprises.
“He had a quirky sense of humor,” she said. “Every time I think I’ve got him figured out, he always throws in a zinger.”
After she’s finished with her drawings, the Historical Society will decide whether it wants the recovered paintings to remain untouched, or to be repainted by Hopkins. Only about 20 percent of the original ceiling can be saved.
In either case, it’ll be a long time before completion, and Hopkins isn’t sure how much longer she can do the work.
“I’m hoping to come back here again … (but) I don’t know if I have the stamina left to finish,” she said.
She hopes that the original paintings and labels will remain, because many Meeker Mansion visitors enjoy looking at them and puzzling them out.
The Historical Society says it’ll take another $30,000 to $35,000 to restore the artwork on the rest of the mansion. Anderson said the society would love to have Hopkins return — as long as it can continue to pay her.
“We are the only house that I’m aware of in this part of the world that has hand-painted ceilings,” Anderson said. “It’s not something you find everywhere. We’ve taken on the responsibility of restoring the house that’s what had to be done.”
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s been really neat to do,” Hopkins said.
Sally Hopkins, a professional art restorer from Portland, traces out a design on a wall of the master bedroom in Meeker Mansion. Hopkins has spent decades uncovering the original painted ceilings of rooms in Meeker Mansion. Joshua Bessex firstname.lastname@example.org
Descendants of Oregon Trail preservationists attended Sunday’s dedication of an interpretive panel at the junction of the Independence and St. Joe roads that carried pioneers in the westward expansion. From left, Camille Bradford, Denver; David Hammett, Marysville; and Janet Kanter, Camino, Calif. Holding the flag is Trail Life member Dominic Edwards, Marysville. Photo by Sarah Kessinger
The wide open sky spread above farm fields Sunday behind a new, colorful panel telling Oregon-California Trail history northwest of Marysville.
The land is two miles north of U.S. Highway 36 on the Washington-Marshall County line. On prairie where tallgrass began its transition to shortgrass, the site was once traversed by thousands of wagons, oxen and people making the 19th century trek west to seek fortunes.
The panel was recently installed by the KANZA chapter of the Oregon-California Trails Association with guidance from the National Park Service. It stands beside a longtime stone trail marker, which notes this was the junction of well-traveled roads merging on the famed trail.
“No one who visits this site today would ever guess that so many people once crowded and jostled their way across this land,” Pat Traffas, Overland Park, OCTA national president, told a crowd of 70 people at Sunday’s dedication ceremony. “Although no traces of either trail or junction remain, this small stone marker and new interpretive sign will commemorate this glorious junction.”
Hanover native David Gerdes, Monument, Colo., unveiled the panel amid applause. Gerdes donated the funds for the KANZA chapter of the trails association to purchase the panel.
He said the marker was near where he grew up and he was pleased to help make people more aware of the monument and its history.
Recognized at the ceremony were David Hammett, Marysville, grandson of local historian Ray Ellenbecker and great-grandson of John Ellenbecker, the historian who took up early 20th century efforts to preserve the trail’s story in Kansas.
Hammett quoted his great-grandfather, who said the monuments to the trail should be “honored and protected.” John Ellenbecker wanted to see a marker each 10 miles to keep the trail’s history intact.
Also present were Janet Kanter, Camino, Calif., great-great-granddaughter of Ezra Meeker, who started a national campaign in 1906 to place stone markers along the trail so it wouldn’t be lost, and Camille Bradford, Denver, stepdaughter of Howard R. Driggs, second president of the Oregon Trail Association.
“America has a legacy, let’s not forget it,” Kanter said before the ceremony.
The marker sits on land owned since 1962 by Ray Feldkamp, Manhattan, who said Sunday he was pleased to see the site restored and explained by the illustrated panel so future generations could appreciate trail history.
Feldkamp and Frank Bruna, who farms the site, each were given Friend of the Trail Awards from OCTA at the ceremony.
The site was also traversed by the Pony Express in the 1860s, and Gary Minge, Hanover, of the Kansas division of the National Pony Express Association paid tribute to the historic mail route Sunday.