Puyallup: Opinion

Focusing on points of density on South Hill in 1915

Meridian Avenue is an illustration of density on South Hill.

From the top of the hill above Puyallup in the north to the Paul Bunyan shooting range on the south side, a distance of about five miles, there now exists an almost continuous line of structures — jammed together — with very few open spaces. It’s mostly commercial. Much of this buildup is recent, having happened over the past 20 years. This same expanse 100 years ago, in 1915, would have presented a different picture.

Meridian Avenue, named Ball-Wood Road at the time, would have been in place. It was a muddy path more than a road, and only finished to about today’s 160th Street. As for density at that time, land ownership can be used an indicator. As an aid to estimate this statistic, the South Hill Historical Society has an atlas published by the Knoll’s Company dated May 1915. It can be used to identify various proprietorships.

The first mile south of Puyallup, along Ball-Wood Road, had the most development. At that time, however, only ten landowners held registrations on the western side of the road. These were small farms, measuring in general about five or so acres — on the eastern side there were only eight. The largest land owner along this first mile was Louis Kupfer, who held an 80-acre farmstead.

In the second mile there was less congestion, with only three owners on each side (at about today’s 128th Street). Mr. M.S. Edgerton was the largest property-owner on the east side, possessing 320 acres, with one-half mile of it fronting Ball-Wood Road. On the west side was a tract for a housing development named the Half Dollar Berry Tract. It consisted of 320 acres but was still undeveloped land. A second commercial holding was that of the Scandinavian-American Bank, totaling 160 acres. These two plots together took about three-quarters of the road frontage. This was near where the old Military Road (Naches Pass Trail) crossed Ball-Wood Road.

All of mile three on the west side was designated as school land. Of the entire 640-acre section, only two small plots were privately owned: one by F.L. Kupfer and the other by Orvis Powers.

The eastern side was somewhat denser, consisting of five small farms and two large holdings by the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company.

Mile four was dominated by Weyerhaeuser, which owned all but 40 acres on the west side. On the eastern flank there were two landowners: Frank Hartman and Kee Harrison, each holding 160 acres. These would be at about today’s Sunrise Village Shopping Center and where the Ball-Wood Road ended in 1915.

In the five mile zone, ownership on the west side was split between Joel Martin (160 acres) and the Story Timber Company. The eastern side was entirely owned by Weyerhaeuser.

This record shows that 100 years ago South Hill was very open. There was some development just south of Puyallup, but otherwise there were few property owners.

Carl Vest is the research director for the South Hill Historical Society. He is a founding member of the society and can be reached at cvest0055@aol.com.