Arne Handeland University Place resident, teacher and now published historian sees a parallel between two projects more than a century apart that shaped the birth and future of his community.
Both show the hard work, optimism and struggles of local leaders who have tried, then and now, to carve out a civic identity apart from Tacoma.
In the late 1800s, they failed in their bid to build Puget Sound University, which settled permanently in Tacoma as the University of Puget Sound. And today they have labored in their decade-long goal to develop University Place Town Center.
Both efforts were hit by a recession that totally changed the dream, Handeland said in an interview.
The two projects are bookends to Handelands pictorial history of University Place that went on sale this month.
Handeland, 66, taught history at Curtis junior and senior high schools for 41 years. While working on the book, he learned early that history is easier taught than penned.
He had a wealth of information at his fingertips in his decades teaching, but writing history required research, interviews with local old-timers and searches for photos held by the Tacoma Public Library, University Place Historical Society and his own family collection.
The work was rewarding, Handeland said, because his family has deep roots in the community: His grandmother and his two sisters married men in the UP area when they emigrated from Norway in 1904.
I look at this truly as my gift to the community of putting together in one place a history ... that people can look at and learn from and hopefully add to as time goes on, he said.
Cindy Bonaro, president of the historical society and retired librarian at UPs public library branch, said the path to publish the citys first history book began about a decade ago. Library patrons would often ask about local history, but information was limited, she said.
It was always a struggle for me helping people, she said.
Work began on a history book but didnt progress far, so Bonaro approached Handeland, the historical societys former treasurer.
Handeland said he finally found time to delve into it after he retired from the University Place School District in 2010. He worked on the book on and off for two years.
Bonaro said Handelands ties to the area led to a better book because people would talk to him when they might not have made time for an outsider.
He got some great stories in there because of who he knew, she said.
The 127-page pictorial history traces the communitys development from its first settlers in the late 19th century to its growth into a bedroom community of 31,000 residents today.
More than 200 photographs and Handelands words guide readers through UPs early logging industry, the development of its esteemed public school system, and the community fight over cityhood in the 1960s and its success three decades later.
Of course, no story of UP would be complete without documenting the effort to construct a university campus there. The college purchased 420 acres in the area and ground was broken for construction, but the project never materialized as the economic depression of 1893 swept west.
While the name University Place has raised questions and jokes over the years, Handeland calls ridiculous one name-change idea floated in the community last year: Chambers Bay.
Settler Thomas Chambers had no ties to University Place, Handeland said. If a name change were pursued, he said a historically accurate name would be Lemons Beach after early pioneers John and Mary Lemon, who settled in the area and pushed for the establishment of a college.
UP developed rapidly after World War II, but the community fought bitterly over the idea of becoming a city. A measure failed in 1962. Supporters feared the school district would be annexed into Tacoma if the area remained unincorporated. But they couldnt get enough of a foothold over critics who opposed such a major change in governance.
The movement finally succeeded in 1995, but only after Pierce County adopted policies that left the area with two choices: become a city or get annexed into a city.
It was a no-brainer, Handeland said.
The book concludes with University Places incorporation and its maturation into an urban city, including the development of the Chambers Bay Golf Course, owned by Pierce County, and Town Center, where city officials have invested tens of millions in public dollars since 2003.
Handeland predicts Town Center will be completed and become a jewel for the community by providing a central gathering place. Hes less sure if it will grow the citys tax base, another of the citys goals for the project.
His book is published by South Carolina-based Arcadia Publishing, which also produced local histories about Gig Harbor, Key Peninsula, Lakewood and Tacoma under its Images of America series.
Suzanne Lynch, the publishers spokeswoman, said the initial run for the UP book was 1,000 copies.
Christian Hill: 253-274-7390