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Glaser Road on South Hill

by Carl Vest

Addresses are very important.  On a regular basis, for example, we use street numbers and/or name combinations to both communicate and navigate. It is accepted, therefore, that some kind of a systematic arrangement of road locations is crucial for many normal purposes. We’re all familiar with the current arrangement in Pierce County, that being streets (east-west) and avenues (north-south) arrayed in a grid system.  But before that scheme was adopted road names were used as the primary indicators of location.

At one time on South Hill there were innumerable road names in use.  Unfortunately, there was no particular order in this accumulation as they had sort of evolved as the county developed. Route names were often awarded by county officials as a way of honoring people living in the area or to recognize families that had been active in getting particular roads built; for example, Collins Road, Shaw Road, Ball-Wood Road, and others. 

Glaser Road is an example of a thoroughfare that was named for a specific family.  It probably was one of the shortest highways in the County (about one-half mile in length) and was situated in a north-south direction on what is now 122nd Avenue East.  It was created in 1926 when Nicholas Glaser, and his wife Barbara, donated frontage on the east-side of their farm for its construction.

The Glaser family roots go back to Germany.  But Nicholas Glaser was born in Wilkes Barre, PA, in 1859.  He grew up in that state and during his early years made his living working in real estate. He was in his 50s when he migrated to the Northwest.  It is reported that Nicholas acquired considerable land throughout the south sound area, but in particular in 1912 he bought and settled on three forty-acre tracts on South Hill located just south-west of the Tacoma Water Reservoir.  The present day location would be on the west and north side of the intersection of 122nd Avenue and 144th Street.

It must be kept in mind that during the 1912-1926 period neither 122nd Avenue nor 144th Street existed.  People living in that part of South Hill had no road system other than some unofficial primitive wagon trails that gave them access to the 1853 Military Road (Naches Trail).  But in the early 1900s a passage called Reservoir Road (now 136th Street) had been built to service the Tacoma Water Reservoir.  This path proved useful to local people and provided passageways to both the Ball-Wood Road (now Meridian Avenue) and old Military Road. Over the years the Glaser’s also used these roads and did so by first traveling on a trail by the east side of their farm.

Ultimately, to legalize the unauthorized wagon trail on the east side of the farm and to more formally open up the farm to outside areas, the Glaser family donated a strip of land, 30-foot wide, for a lawful road. On May 20, 1926 the County accepted the gift and subsequently named the road in honor of the family.

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