Incorporated in 1966, the City of Lacey is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a host of community activities between 2016 and 2017. On the actual date of incorporation (December 5) the city will hold a lighted parade to commemorate the occasion. But the history of Olympia’s nearest southeastern neighbor goes back far beyond the debut of Star Trek and the game of Twister.
Residents of Lacey are proud of it history and heritage, and – likewise – Lacey’s pride in its residents begins with its first ones. Members of the Nisqually and Squaxin Island tribe shared territory in what is now Lacey city limits. Hunting, fishing and gathering roots and berries, the two tribes existed together peacefully for centuries…setting the standard for cooperation among communities. It’s a high bar; one that even today the city strives to maintain.
With the arrival of the first American pioneers came donation land claims, homesteads and settlements. One of the first was that of Isaac Wood, after whom Lacey was originally named (Woodland). Decades later, Woodland resident George Carpenter – a well-regarded store owner and school board member – applied to the federal government for a post office and was rejected due to a previously-established community of Woodland further south along the Columbia River. Carpenter then submitted a new application, this time under the town name of Lacey, and the rest became history.
Things changed dramatically in 1891 when the Northern Pacific railroad laid its tracks through town. Suddenly folks started selling their property at high prices to make room for the locomotives, which brought new people, goods and services to the area. Even President William Howard Taft made a campaign stopover in Lacey, addressing the gathered masses from his private train car.
The influx of manpower led to a surge in developing businesses, which in turn gave rise to Lacey’s resort era. Near the beginning of last century, the community was known around the Pacific Northwest as a getaway destination thanks to its handful of lakes and the recreational businesses that dotted their shores. People would come from far and wide to soak up the sun and ride the slides at resorts like Dick’s Place, Wanschers, Mullen’s, and Gwinwood, or take in a horse race at the Woodland track, known as one of the finest mile courses in the state.
The story of Lacey’s surprising past only became more interesting as the decades wound ahead. Union Lumber Mills became the first in the United States to be run entirely by electricity. One of the first radio stations in the state – KGY – was founded at St. Martin’s College in Lacey. Panorama City was one of the first of its kind of retirement living facilities in the western United States. And in 1961, Bob Blume navigated the interstate “river of commerce” to create the only shopping center between Seattle and Portland in little Lacey, Washington.
It is upon these milestone events that Lacey has built its foundation, and stories like these will soon be forever memorialized with the creation of a new Lacey Museum. Thanks to the dedicated leadership of Lacey’s mayor, city council, city manager, and a half-dozen or so departments, Lacey now owns the building and the property that will eventually become a community treasure to be appreciated for generations. As chair of the Lacey Historical Commission, I look forward to working with city leaders, civic organizations and residents over the coming months to bring our shared dream into reality.
But we can’t do it alone. We need volunteers with a passion for local history to fill two open positions on the Historical Commission, which provides leadership in raising awareness of Lacey’s history and preservation of local historic resources. The commission meets the 3rd Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m. Members serve three-year terms with a two-term limit. Applicants must be City of Lacey residents or live in the city’s urban growth area.
There are times when residents of every community must ask themselves if they can do more to support the area in which they live, work and raise a family. The Lacey Historical Commission is a fun and energetic group, and anyone lucky enough to be appointed for service won’t regret for a moment the opportunity to be a part of something great, something lasting, something…historic.
For more information or to get an application, contact Jenny Bauersfeld at 360.413.4387 or email@example.com. You can also download an application from the City’s website at ci.lacey.wa.us. Please submit a letter of interest and resume along with your application.