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Historic homes on South Hill are rare, but do exist

By Carl Vest

Swalander house
The Swalander house built in 1895

Are there historic homes on South Hill?  It depends on how you define historic.  If extreme age is the criteria then the answer would have to be No!  On the East Coast, for example, people live in houses built in the 1600s and 1700s, abodes that were created during the nation’s colonial period. But even if you compare local buildings to homes in Tacoma or even the Meeker Mansion in Puyallup, South Hill cannot compete on the basis of age. However, in a fast growing area like South Hill, where most dwellings have been built during the last 30 years, historic significance has a different meaning.  Here are some examples of South Hill’s known historic homes.

THE PARKS HOUSE: At the corner of 128th Street, and 94th Avenue East, is a home constructed entirely of logs (it’s now covered with siding).  Harold R. Parks built the structure in 1938 using locally logged timber.  It is one of only a few houses on South Hill made entirely of indigenous forest products that have been in continuous use as homes since they were built.  Moreover, this dwelling borders the Natches Pass Trail and is thus a part of the Pierce County Heritage Corridor.

THE SWALANDER HOUSE: This is one of the earliest homesteads on South Hill.  In 1895 Oscar Swalander built it as a clapboard cottage.  It has been in the family every since, located near 116th Street and 86th Avenue East.  The Swalanders came from Sweden and on this property, in addition to building a house, they also planted the seeds for an Oxel Tree from their home in Europe.  That tree is now over 100 years old and is an imposing part of the property.

THE LESTER HOUSE: Built in 1914, it is located at 127th Street and 66th Avenue East.  It was the first dwelling on the Hill to be declared historic by the South Hill Historical Society.  Presently owned by Ralph and Yvonne Thorpe, the house was acquired from Rose Lester, daughter of the builder. 

THE ARNESON HOUSE: Mr. Arneson and his three sons built the residence between 1911 and 1914.  It is located near 102nd Avenue and 94th Ave., East.  The land was actually acquired in 1908, but was a “stump farm” which took several years of grubbing to get the land cleared for other uses. This dwelling has been used both as a private residence and a business center.  Since 1986 Robert and Lynne Daugherty have owned the house, which they maintain as a private residence.

THE ZIMMERMAN HOUSE: This structure was built in 1910 and is located near 24th Avenue and 5th street, SW.  Originally the property encompassed some 50 acres and was operated as a farm.  It has been said that the house is a smaller version of a previous Zimmerman home in South Dakota.  It has changed hands a number of times over the years and is presently owned by Jessica Reich, who maintains it as a private residence.

Carl Vest, PhD, is a founding member and Research Director for the South Hill Historical Society.

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