Year In Review: Pierce County's History Detectives

Since the beginning of September, Katie Chase and Susan Johnson, two architectural historians at Artifacts Consulting in Tacoma, have driven to nearly every pocket of rural Pierce County — former mining settlements, ghost towns, ruins of logging mills, and even an abandoned slaughterhouse — to document historic sites and buildings. Their work is a milestone survey that, when completed next spring, will give local historians, county councilmembers, urban planners, developers, and even regular residents a better understanding of the region’s history and historically significant buildings.

Earlier this year, the Pierce County Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission assigned the project to Artifacts. The results will be compiled in a database that will be available to historians, educators, researchers, and the general public online via the Pierce County Library System next year. More than simply a list of old buildings, they are creating a sort of Pierce County biography.

“We are writing what will be the first ever comprehensive Pierce County history context,” Johnson explained. “We’re telling much more of the story of Pierce County. The property inventory will illustrate that context statement. So when we talk about mining or logging, we will have pictures from then and from now to show what that history looked like. We want to know how everything relates. Basically, it will show how Pierce County developed.”

Before  field work began, Johnson spent two months researching property records from the county assessor’s office, annual reports, city directories, newspaper articles, and a similar survey conducted in the 1980s. When they completed their field work earlier this month, they documented approximately 900 sites in Fruitland, Summit-Waller, Alderton, McMillin, Carbonado, Wilkeson, Burnett, Buckley, Sumner, Orting, South Prairie, Eatonville, Graham, Roy, Kapowsin, Purdy, Rosedale, Fox Island, Anderson Island, University Place, Fircrest, Elbe, Spanaway, and Parkland.

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For earlier Tacoma Daily Index coverage of Pierce County’s History Detectives, click on the following links:

Pierce County’s History Detectives — or

A Conversation with Pierce County’s History Detectives —