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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com
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.
Robert Stewart Minnich died June 14, 2017 after a short fight with cancer. He was born on June 27, 1950 at Tripler Hospital in Honolulu, HI. The son of Colonel E.S. Minnich (USAF pilot and later mayor of Puyallup) and Laurienne Stewart Minnich, Bob moved frequently, growing up in multiple stations in the U.S. and Europe. However, Puyallup, WA, was considered ‘home base’ because Laurienne was a Puyallup native.
Bob graduated from W.T. Woodson High School (Fairfax, VA) in 1968 as a National Merit Scholar. He began his collegiate career at the Naval Academy in 1968, transferred to the University of Puget Sound in 1969, transferred to Washington State University in 1970 where he helped found the WSU crew team, and graduated from the University of Washington in 1973. Bob moved to Puyallup that year to care for his aging grandmother, Lillian Stewart.
Over the ensuing years Bob became a mainstay for community services in Puyallup, offering his time and energy to Friends of the Library (past president), the Rhododendron Society, and he was a Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary International. He served as president of the Ezra Meeker Historical Society (now the Puyallup Historical Society at Meeker Mansion), was a 25th district leader of the Republican Party, and one-time manager of Puyallup’s Main Street. Bob was passionate about tree planting, so many of the trees that line Puyallup city streets were planted by Bob’s efforts. He had a deep love for all history, and especially the local history of the Puyallup Valley. He led many school groups over the years on history tours of downtown, as well as through the Meeker Mansion.
In tight times, Bob’s sense of humor always came to the rescue. Family members and friends recruited to clear trees after windstorms were dubbed the ‘Hardly Able Logging Company’. Anticipating a bad decision, Bob’s little brother warning of “Iceberg ahead!” could be heard and too often followed by “Cling to the wreckage!” Bob is survived by his mother Laurienne, his sister Elizabeth C. Anderson (Duvall, WA), his brother, Scott A. Minnich (Moscow, ID), and his beloved Border collie, Troon, the international peacock-herding champion. A private interment will be held on July 15 at the Tacoma Cemetery. A community Celebration of Life service for Bob will be held on the grounds of the Meeker Mansion at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 16.
Few people explored the history of the Puyallup Valley as thoroughly as Lori Price, whose articles about the community’s dynamic past were published by the Puyallup Herald for more than three decades.
Her stories were a bridge to countless yesteryears. Readers – including this writer – thrilled in crossing that bridge with her as their gentle guide. “I grew up in an age where a man’s (or woman’s) word was his bond, where a handshake was as good as a written contract…” she once wrote.
Loretta (Lori) Price introduced us to people from banking, business, farming and other walks of life – historical pioneers all – for whom many Puyallup streets and schools are named today. She portrayed the past as a pretty good place and time. She reminded us that the past is the backdrop for the stage on which the present takes a bow. With her elegant storytelling, Lori focused a warm light of renewed vibrancy on figures and places of long ago. If not for her, their significance to our community might be lost to the ages. She cared too deeply to let them be forgotten, and for that we can be eternally grateful.
I had the privilege of serving as editor of the Herald for a while and meeting Lori several times. I would often go to a place she had written about to see how the location looked today in comparison to the black and white photograph that accompanied her article. This was my attempt to blend past and present, perhaps, and travel across time through my imagination.
Born in Kentucky, Lori spent most of her adult years in Puyallup. “I have found … that rain is necessary to my peace of mind, which indicates to me that I have finally, after 27 years, entered the ranks of the ‘natives’ of the Pacific Northwest,” she penned in 1986.
Her achievements included serving as president of the Ezra Meeker Historical Society (now the Puyallup Historical Society); being named City of Puyallup Historian by the City Council in 1986; and co-authoring with Ruth Anderson, “Puyallup: A Pioneer Paradise,” a definitive account of the Valley’s early days that has been reprinted several times. She was also a wife, a mother and a friend to many.
Lori died in January 2007 at age 82.
“An icon of the community, Ms. Price believed that history tells us about the current world in which we live, and that our search for meaning through historical records gives us a wiser understanding of who we are and what we are capable of achieving,” a Puyallup Herald editorial stated shortly after her passing. “We will miss her.”
We do indeed.
Lori’s writings and research were donated to, and are preserved for future generations by, the Puyallup Historical Society at Meeker Mansion at 312 Spring St. The Mansion is open from 12 to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. For more information, visit the Mansion online at www.MeekerMansion.org or call (253) 848-1770.
About the writer: Gale B. Robinette is a member of the Puyallup Historical Society Board of Directors.
CELEBRATION: Toledo Marker Is One of 11 Between Tumwater and Vancouver
Not all travelers on the Oregon Trail ended their journey in present-day Oregon.
Toward the end of the 1800s, many families got to Oregon to find it had already been heavily settled, said Rich Herman, president of the Northwest Oregon California Trail Association. Instead, they turned north. Some took the Cowlitz Trail and ended up traveling through Toledo.
“The new end of the Oregon Trail became wherever you ended up,” Herman said.
One-hundred years after the Daughters and Sons of the American Revolution placed a marker commemorating the town’s place on the Oregon Trail, members of the groups on Tuesday rededicated and revealed the restored trail marker.
“It took a lot of scrubbing, but we did it,” said Toledo Mayor Steve Dobosh, who helped with the marker’s restoration.
The Toledo marker is one of 11 between Tumwater and Vancouver, all placed by the DAR and SAR.
The groups organized a rededication ceremony Tuesday, including local officials, members of the groups, historians, volunteers and Oregon Trail enthusiasts. Many came dressed in period clothing.
“Everyone here has a passion for history,” Herman said.
When they decided to restore the Toledo trail marker, the Daughters of the American Revolution contacted Marion (Mick) Hersey, known for his work restoring monuments and markers.
Hersey taught the DAR members how to restore the plaque, which was re-dyed and covered in a polyurethane coating and a coat of wax and oil to protect it from the elements.
“All 11 markers, as of last Friday…have been restored.” Hersey said, giving volunteer Chuck Hornbuckle credit for his help. “This big thing is to honor and remember.”
Before its restoration, the marker was tarnished and difficult to read from years of wear, DAR members said.
Doug Nelson, president of the Washington State Sons of the American Revolution, shared stories of how his family crossed the Oregon Trail in 1882.
Settlers were lucky to travel 18-20 miles a day, he said. They traveled in large groups to avoid confrontations with Native American tribes and ran into cattle rustlers and other dangers.
Lanabeth Horgen, first vice regent of the Washington State DAR, also recounted her family’s history with the Oregon Trail.
“I was born and raised in Independence, Missouri,” she said, adding it was the jumping-off point for many westward travelers. “My family stayed there and that’s where we probably saw some of your families off.”
The event also included displays of the tools and equipment used to clean the marker, information about Ezra Meeker and the Oregon Trail, and a covered wagon.
Fourth-grade students from Toledo Elementary School participated in the event, placing rocks with their names on them near the marker.
Historian Dennis Larson discussed the history of the Toledo Monument, starting with a 1905 visit from Meeker, a man dedicated to mapping and preserving Oregon Trail history, to the placement of the marker by the DAR and SAR in 1916.
Several speakers thanked Toledo for the city’s part in the project, and commented on the marker’s purpose of recognizing history.
The marker is a “reminder of the sacrifice made by the pioneers who helped settle the Washington Territory,” Herman said.
A couple of years ago, while Audrey Neuendorf and I were cleaning out the unfinished attic on the third floor, we found some old light fixtures back in a corner. We took them out and decided to investigate them further. They were the old style light fixtures similar to what could have been in the mansion originally. We called them “transition lights” as they are made for both gas and electricity. What we found were two fixtures with four individual lights, two upright for gas and two pointed downward for electricity and five fixtures with two individual lights, one upright and one pointed down. We have learned of the story that in 1890 when the mansion was completed, electricity was not available in Puyallup yet but it was thought to be coming soon. So when the house was built, transition light fixtures were installed throughout the mansion so as to be ready to convert to power when it became available.
Luckily, we met a man who came by the mansion one day whose name is Everett Culp. He specializes in the restoration of old light fixtures. We made arrangements to meet with him so he could take a look at the found lights and give us an opinion as to their age, etc. He was very informative and thought that the fixtures were of the age that the mansion was built. He was very excited about the lights and offered to rewire them at no cost to us so that we might hang them in the mansion one day. He also arranged for us to purchase glass shades for the lights at his discount prices.
Everett did a wonderful job in the restoration of the lights. They looked beautiful when we he delivered them and we were excited have them installed and show them off. However, it took us a while to decide where in the mansion they would look the best.
Finally, on Monday, November 28th, Everett along with help from Neil Vincent installed all the lights, shades and bulbs in one day! We were very excited to show them off for our Evening at the Mansion when we recognize our volunteers on December 2nd.
We are very grateful to Everett for everything he has done for us. We were thrilled to have Everett and his wife , Jane, attend our annual Volunteer night so we could thank him and show our appreciation.
We cannot be sure that the light fixtures found in the attic are original to the mansion but we do know that they are very similar to what would have been there at the time the mansion was built.