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Ball-Wood Road the oldest planned street on South Hill

by Carl Vest

Meridian Avenue on South Hill is often the subject of negative reviews.  Motorists who use it regularly vilify its congestion and the time consumed as they try to move about.  And while waiting at intersections many have noticed that below the usual street marker there is a brown colored sign that declares Meridian was once known as Ball-Wood Road.  Why is that?

Meridian Avenue is believed to be the oldest planned street on South Hill.  It’s genesis was in 1888 when a group of local people petitioned Pierce County to establish a road from the Puyallup City line to the farm of Carl Muhler, known as “Swamp Muhler,” who owned a hop farm just to the east of what is now the Pierce County airport.

A survey (called viewing and locating) was started in April and completed in May 1889.  The route selected went south along the centerline of Township 19, for a distance of five miles.  That point is approximately at the present intersection of 160th Street East and Meridian Avenue.  The surveyors then turned east and marked to the Muhler farm, about one additional mile.  The present day terminus would be about 110th Avenue.  Records show that the survey team members were paid $102.30 for their work.

County Commissioners accepted the report of the survey team at its regular meeting in May 1889.  The road was ordered built.  It was reportedly 30 feet wide and constructed with regular county labor.  There is no indication that a contractor was involved.  That it was named Ball-Wood Road is derived from a petition to the Commissioners in January 1905, when 43 residents wrote asking for “… straightening, grading and graveling of one mile of Ball & Wood Road …”

There are no entries in the extant record that explain why the route was named the Ball-Wood Road.  To get the initial road started, however, the original petitioners were required to post a Bond ($200), agreeing to “… pay all costs and expenses that may be incurred by reason of the view and survey of said road … .”  Such a Bond was furnished and is dated February 4, 1889.   Harvey M. Ball and George H. Wood signed it as principals.  Thus, it is obvious that in recognition of this gesture the road was named for Ball and Wood.  Both men were also signers of the original Petition.

About 1910 the road was extended to the Graham area, but not along the current route of Meridian Avenue.  Rather it was built along present day 110th Avenue, and across what is now the closed county landfill.  It connected with present day Meridian at about 188th Street, and is still visible in some spots.

Over the years Meridian Avenue has been known by a number of names: Ball-Wood Road, Puyallup-Graham Road, Meridian Street Extension, Farm-to-Market Road, and probably others. But Ball-Wood Road was the first and thus the historic name.

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