The Early Stages of Development on South Hill
by Carl Vest
South Hill today has very little open space. Most of the land has been developed into housing tracts and commercial areas of various kinds. Sometimes the question is asked, “When did it all start?” In the late 1800s, the area was mostly rural and had been settled by a few farmers, most with large acreage. As time passed, however, these early farms were gradually subdivided into smaller plots. Generally, during the 1920s and 1930s, most of the Hill remained rural and was populated by people who considered themselves small farmers. Development as we know it today didn’t start until the post-World War II period.
But even before smaller farms emerged from the holdings of pioneer settlers, the first wave of planned developments was getting underway. A Kroll’s map of 1915, for example, shows three separate projects named Puyallup Fruit and Garden Tracts. The first was a 56 lot effort was just south and west of the Puyallup City limits. Using today’s references it would be along Meridian Avenue (then known as Ball-Wood Road), extending west to about 76th Avenue. Technically speaking it was in Sections four and five of Township 19, and was also a part of the general Woodland community. Most lots were five acres in size. A second Puyallup Fruit and Garden Tract, known as Division 4, was more to the south and west. In the current grid system it would be located north of 160th Street and west of Woodland Avenue. There were 64 lots of ten acres each. The third grouping, Division 3 of these tracts, was located still further south in Section 32. Today, this neighborhood would be at about 176th Street and 86th Avenue. While they started early, the Puyallup Fruit and Garden Tract plats remain on maps and in legal descriptions to the modern era.
A second large development also appears on the same 1915 Kroll’s map. It was named The Half Dollar Berry Tract and was located in Section 9. In today’s references it would be a square lying between 112th and 128th Streets and Meridian and 86th Avenues. Initially this undertaking was relatively small --- about one-third of the Section. It remained about the same size on both a 1917 and 1924 graphic. By 1936, it was expanded to include all of Section 9 including some 256 lots. This early development also remains a matter of record to the current period.
By the 1930s additional expanses began to appear in various records. In the 1930s, for example, Shea and Nolan’s Five Acre Tracts in the Woodland area first show up on graphics. The Rabbit Farms to the west of Meridian appeared in the 1940s. By the 1950s and 1960s the number of developments had expanded several measures.
It should be noted that these early developments were located around the edge of what we now consider the geographical limits of South Hill. They were close to existing roadways and other infrastructure so as to give residents access to the outside. Later developments took place as that base improved.
Carl Vest, PhD, is a founding member and Research Director for the South Hill Historical Society.