Tacoma homestead is now historic

A 90-year-old former homestead that belonged to several generations of one Tacoma family has become the city’s latest historic landmark, according to a resolution Tacoma City Council approved Tuesday.

The property, known as the J. M. Hendrickson Family Homestead and located at 1239 East 54th Street, can be traced back to John M. Hendrickson, who was born in Norway in 1888 and immigrated to the United States in 1905, settling in Brooten, Minnesota, according to a nomination prepared by Mark L. McIntire at the request of the property owner, Carol M. Magelssen. A short time later, he was hired as an engineer by Northern Pacific Railroad and arrived in Tacoma, where he met his future wife, Sara Ericson. On June 3, 1921, Hendrickson purchased the property for $10 from Traders Trust Company of Tacoma. Hendrickson built the house, garage and barn by hand. The couple raised two children — Helen Margaret and Floyd. They also farmed and tended to livestock on the property.

The J. M. Hendrickson Homestead was nominated by the property owner, Carol M. Magelssen (Sara and J. M. Hendrickson’s granddaughter, and Helen Margaret’s daughter), with the assistance of historic preservation consultant Mark L. McIntire, who prepared the nomination. According to the nomination, the 3.78-acre property includes a house, garage, and barn built by J. M. Hendrickson. “The Hendrickson Homestead has remained within the family since its 1922 construction,” wrote McIntire. “This family homestead, situated on the leeward side of upper McKinley Hill, has remained intact rather than go the way of most others throughout the city, which were bought, divided and developed starting from the founding of the Tacoma Land Company in 1873.” Although the house and garage were slightly modified over the years, the barn has not been altered and the house’s interior includes original finishes and most of the original fixtures, noted McIntire.

“The Hendrickson Family Homestead has been a working landscape with garden and livestock for most of its existence (until 1994), which harkens to our immigrant and pioneer past,” wrote McIntire. “Having been built and sustained within our urban environment, five blocks from the streetcar line running on McKinley Avenue between 1905 and 1955, two blocks from the transit line on Portland Avenue, is what distinguishes this property as exceptional, particularly surviving through the post-WWII era when Levittown-type development was springing up all around it. The Hendrickson’s is a landscape within the landscape, an echo of a still visible immigrant past.”

The nomination was first presented to the Landmarks Preservation Commission on April 13, 2011. The commission held a public hearing on the nomination on May 25, 2011. The nomination was then forwarded to city council for final approval.

During Tuesday’s council meeting, several people spoke in support of the nomination. Magelssen, the property owner, thanked McIntire for helping to prepare the nomination. South Tacoma Neighborhood Councilmember Tim Smith said a considerable amount of effort was made to prepare the nomination and put the property on the historic register. “The Landmarks Preservation Commission has considered this to be a historic property through a great deal of work and lots of meetings,” added Smith. “When they vote to put it on the register, it should be put on the register. If we recognize that our historic spaces are part of what makes Tacoma great, I think we can leverage that to our advantage.” And Councilmember Marty Campbell recalled first hearing about the desire to save the homestead when he met Magelssen while campaigning door-to-door several years ago. He described the property as a “tremendous asset” and added, “Thank you, Carol, for your patience. I’m glad to bring this forward and I’m proud to vote for it.”

The nearly-century-old J. M. Hendrickson Family Homestead belonged to several generations of one Tacoma family. (PHOTOS COURTESY CITY OF
The nearly-century-old J. M. Hendrickson Family Homestead belonged to several generations of one Tacoma family. (PHOTOS COURTESY CITY OF TACOMA)