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Historic Roads of South Hill

by Carl Vest

Before Pierce County started a grid system for identifying roads it was customary to name thoroughfares to honor local people or to identify them for their specific usages.  These early designations are now known as historic roads.  South Hill has a number of them, some dating back to before the region’s settlement.

The first road developed across South Hill no longer exists.  It was the 1853 trail that the Longmire-Biles party used after crossing Naches Pass, an old Native trace that had existed for hundreds of years.  It has been mostly destroyed by developments of various kinds. The route, however, has been designated by the County as a Heritage Corridor and is marked with signs in several places.  Parts of the old trail during the late 1850s were renamed MILITARY ROAD and segments still bearing that name are in use today.

It was in the 1890s that both east-west and north-south corridors were developed to serve people on the Hill.  In 1888 the BALL-WOOD ROAD was begun, initially starting at the Puyallup City line and continuing south to about present-day 160th Street.  It’s now named Meridian Avenue, or sometimes 102nd Avenue.  In 1893 COLLINS ROAD was commenced, stretching from Ball-Wood Road on South Hill to Waller Road to the west.  Collins road is now 128th Street.  Both pathways are now marked with historic signs at several intersections.

In 1914 PATZNER ROAD was opened — now part of 136th Street.  Initially this lane was between Ball-Wood Road and the Tacoma Water Reservoir and was named Reservoir Road.  The name was subsequently changed by County resolution because it had always been known locally as Patzner Road; in fact the County had from time-to-time placed signage along the path with Patzner as the name.

Several historic names date from the 1920s.  MITCHELLL-GOULD ROAD was established in 1925, from Ball-Wood Road toward the west for one mile.  It is now 152nd Street.  The first phase was extended westward in 1931 to present-day 78th Avenue, then south to 160th Street, and west to Canyon Road.  ODENS ROAD dates from 1926, and connected present-day 112th and 144th Streets.  It was extended south to 152nd Street in 1927.  Odens Road is now 94th Avenue.  LUNDBLAD ROAD, now 86th Avenue, was established in 1928.  It connected 112th and 152nd Streets.

In 1936 HEMLOCK ROAD was formed.  It is present day 144th Street.  Hemlock Road was originally located between today’s 94th and 122nd Avenues, which in the 1930s was between Odens Road and Glaser Road.  MAIN STREET also became part of the County system in 1936.  Main Street connected today’s 111th Avenue to Military Road.  It was part of the un-recorded Rabbit Farms plat. The motorway had existed before that date but only as part of a private development.  The County did not accept the obligation of maintaining it until 1949.

These historic by-ways have been commemorated with small brown placards, located just under the present day intersection signs.  The exception is the Heritage Corridor which has upright markers.

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