Bob Minnich, president of the Meeker Mansion and Puyallup Historical Society, admits that he doesn’t watch much TV.
However, he guarantees that he will be tuned in to the Travel Channel to see Puyallup’s own Meeker Mansion bask in the national spotlight.
The mansion, once home to Puyallup’s first mayor as well as his childhood sweetheart and wife Eliza Jane Sumner, will be one of six historic castles and manors featured on the Travel Channel’s “Mysteries at the Castle.”
The program, which takes viewers behind the scenes of historic and opulent estates, will showcase the lavishly outfitted and carefully preserved Victorian architecture of Meeker’s Mansion. This downtown property is one of Puyallup’s oldest homes.
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The Meeker Mansion, constructed at the apex of the Victorian era, was built to impress.
“The house was old-fashioned even when the Meekers built it,” Minnich said, “and Ezra Meeker loved gizmos and technology. He had plumbing, lights, speakers, and even the first telephone in town.”
Perfectly preserved today, the film crew focused on the overall color and the extraordinary decoration of the Victorian mansion, Minnich said.
The Travel Channel’s interest in the mansion was in regard to Meeker’s extraordinary commitment to preserve the Oregon Trail late in his life, said Nick Fracarro, associate producer for the “Mysteries at the Castle” series.
Fracarro headed up the film crew that traveled to Puyallup on Sept. 23 to film the segment for the Travel Channel. At the mansion from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fracarro and his team worked with Minnich and volunteers from the Puyallup Historical Society to capture the essence of Meeker’s enigmatic home.
Minnich provided a segment of the narration — over several takes, he recalled with a chuckle — for this forthcoming episode of the third season of “Mysteries at the Castle.”
Even though the mansion didn’t have many speaking roles, the filming still took some time, he said.
“In fact,” Minnich said, “the filming of the (Oregon Trail historical marker) took several takes, and it didn’t even have any lines.”
The episode will feature this landmark along with other locales of significance in the life and accomplishments of Ezra Meeker and his flagship journey along the historic Oregon Trail.
Puyallup’s first mayor and postmaster worked diligently to memorialize the Oregon Trail, crossing it by way of an ox-drawn wagon in 1906 for the first of many subsequent voyages. Meeker, along with his wife, settled in what is now Puyallup in 1862. Here, he grew hops that were used in brewing beer; this endeavor made him wealthy.
When Meeker was in his 70s, he became taken with the idea that the Oregon Trail was being forgotten. In an effort to raise awareness for the trail and the pioneers who had blazed it, Meeker retraced his steps along the wagon trail, from 1906 to 1908. He made the trip several times before his death, at age 97, in 1928. Along the way, he created several monuments across the country to the trail’s legacy and documented his journey by writing several books.
Meeker’s inaugural trip across the trail is the focal point of the Travel Channel’s segment. While the film crew completed its shoot in September, “Mysteries at the Castle” is still in the process of dramatizing the highlights of Puyallup’s founding father’s life.
“The re-enactments are still being shot and filmed now,” Fracarro said.
Currently in the post-production phase of development, the mansion’s spot on the Travel Channel is slated to air early next year, he said.