A few days before Christmas, a message was left on the Meeker Mansion’s answering machine.
It was from a Massachusetts resident who was interested in making a donation to support the ongoing project of restoring the artwork on the mansion’s ceilings — but it wasn’t just any donation.
The donor, who asked to remain anonymous, proposed a “$500 challenge grant.” For every donation up to a grand total of $500, she plans to match.
“It's the first time someone has approached it that way,” said Andy Anderson, president of the Puyallup Historical Society Board of Directors. “I was pretty excited.”
While a current resident of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, the anonymous donor grew up in Tacoma and is familiar with the Puyallup area, she said in a phone interview with The Puyallup Herald. Her friends and family still live in the South Sound, and she just so happened to be visiting them in October while professional art restorer Sally Hopkins was also working on restoring the ceiling of the Meeker Mansion billiard room.
She read more about the restoration project in a story published by The Herald on Oct. 25.
“I really think that the restoration is essential,” she said. “You have to preserve your culture because (if you don’t) there will be nothing to pass on to the next generation. Whoever decided to build (the mansion), they were inspired to bring European tradition to Ezra (Meeker)’s home in a little town on a river.”
The donor moved to Cape Cod in the 1980s and was pleasantly surprised by how much preserved history there was in comparison to the Pacific Northwest.
“I actually walk on the land that the pilgrims walked on and it’s given me such a different sense of history,” she said.
In Massachusetts, she helped restore the Crosby Mansion, which was built in the 1830s by Albert Crosby, several decades before Meeker Mansion was built in 1890.
When she returned from visiting her family in Tacoma in the fall, she continued to think about the Meeker Mansion restoration project.
“I had (the article) on my desk for a while and thought, I’d like to see that decorative work continue and that I’d make a donation,” she said.
That’s when she gave the mansion a call.
“I said, ‘Well, have you ever done a challenge?’ and apparently they haven’t — so we’re having a lot of fun doing it this way,” she said.
The donor is planning another trip to Puyallup soon and is looking forward to seeing the restoration project progress. Anderson said the project is an ongoing one and will take another $35,000 to complete.
“We are very grateful for her support and her enthusiasm for preserving the community treasure that is the Meeker Mansion,” Anderson said. “I’m confident our generous donors will meet her challenge and more.”
Donations may be mailed or hand-delivered to the Meeker Mansion at 312 Spring St., Puyallup, WA 98372.
For more information, call 253-848-1770 or email ezra@MeekerMansion.org.