Dual surveys will identify Pierce County historic properties, documents

For the first time in some 20 years, preservation experts are heading into the field to compile a comprehensive list of historic properties and documents in Pierce County.

Led by the Pierce County Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission, the dual projects are designed to raise awareness of cultural heritage and highlight the financial incentives associated with preservation efforts.

The commission selected Artifacts Consulting, Inc. of Tacoma to undertake the historic property survey. Historical Research Associates, Inc., was selected to conduct the survey of historic documents. Both surveys should be completed by next summer.

Both projects are funded by a $1 recording fee surcharge passed by the Washington Legislature for filing such documents as deeds, deeds of trust, and powers of attorney. The Pierce County Council authorized from the document revenues $110,000 to pay for the Historic Property Survey and $60,000 for the Historic Document Survey. The County Council authorized an additional $70,000 for five cities with historic preservation programs to do their own historic property surveys.

The Historic Property Survey is focused on unincorporated Pierce County and cities that do not have preservation programs. The Historic Document Survey has a countywide focus.


Artifacts Consulting is collaborating with local archaeology, graphic design and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) specialists, as well as local cities and tribes.

The scope of work includes updating previous property survey efforts, identifying additional resources, and developing an illustrated report that chronicles land-use history in Pierce County.

Among other things, the researchers are working from maps of historic trails and roads and flowing that data into GIS systems, creating what consultants describe as “treasure maps for us.”

The final product will include a comprehensive and illustrated narrative history of Pierce County, GIS maps and an inventory of historically significant resources, which will be accessible online through the Pierce County Library System.


This project’s primary goal is to catalogue significant historic documents and records in a variety of media that are relevant to Pierce County’s history.

The project team at Historical Research Associates is especially interested in documents and records kept in private and institutional repositories. Documents of interest include but are not limited to photographs; commercial, public, government and institutional records; maps, surveys and plats; birth and death records; scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, notebooks, diaries, correspondence, family reminiscences, oral history, recordings; architectural drawings; and more.

The consultants are gathering information from local organizations such as historical societies. Owners of significant historical documents will have the opportunity to self-nominate the records by filling out the Repository and Collection Information Form.

The results will be compiled in a database that will be available online via the Pierce County Library System by next summer. It is anticipated that this catalogue will be readily used by historians, educators, researchers and the general public.


Public outreach is an important component of both projects.

Both projects invite the public to recommend properties or documents for inclusion in the surveys. Several public meetings and workshops are planned, as well as the creation of an e-mail network to provide regular updates.

More information is available online at http://www.piercecountywa.org/pals (click on PALS News in the menu).

The 11-member Pierce County Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission, supported by staff from Planning and Land Services Department, administers the county’s Historic Preservation program and advises the County Executive and County Council on matters related to local heritage.

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For earlier Index coverage of Pierce County’s historic preservation program, click on the following links:

1. Budget amendment bitter-sweet for Pierce County historic preservation (03/20/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1512898&more=0

2. Department shift for Pierce County’s historic preservation program? (03/16/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1509016&more=0

3. Pierce County Council Committee will discuss proposed historic preservation funding cuts (03/06/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1503447&more=0

4. Will $8 million budget shortfall touch Pierce County historic preservation? (01/29/09) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1479375&more=0

5. Behind The Times (04/02/08) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1186267&more=0 or http://www.wahmee.com/tdi_pierce_county_preservation.pdf .