The Genesis of Ezra Meeker Mansion
In the heart of Puyallup, Washington, stands a house that’s more than a house—a slice of history. The Ezra Meeker Mansion, a grand structure, has its roots deeply embedded in the past.
It all began with Ezra Meeker, an Oregon Trail pioneer who initially settled in a modest cabin. He purchased this 8 by 16 feet square structure from Jerry Stilly in 1862.
The cabin was humble but significant. Ezra Meeker later expanded it by adding a second room, doubling its size. But as time passed, the Meekers felt the need for something grander. The cabin was eventually donated to the city, transforming the site into what we now know as Pioneer Park.
If you visit today, you’ll find steel and concrete pillars marking where the original cabin stood, covered in Baltic ivy vine originally planted by Eliza Jane Meeker and her daughter Ella.
A statue of Ezra Meeker also graces the park, dedicated on September 14, 1926. It serves as a reminder of the man who once lived in that simple cabin and dreamt of something bigger.
So, the next time you’re pondering things to do in Puyallup, Washington, consider visiting Pioneer Park. It’s like stepping back in time.
The Construction Saga of Ezra Meeker Mansion
Fast forward to 1886, and the Meekers were ready for a new adventure. They began constructing what would later become the Ezra Meeker Mansion. For this ambitious project, they contracted Tacoma architects Farrell and Darmer.
The construction was no small feat and took about four years to complete. By December 1890, the mansion was ready, and Ezra and Eliza Jane Meeker cooked their first meal in their new home on December 10, as reported in the Tacoma Daily Ledger.
Before the mansion was even complete, it became a significant family event venue. The Meekers held the wedding of their youngest daughter, Olive Grace Meeker, on the front porch in October 1890.
Imagine the excitement and the hustle-bustle as the family prepared for a wedding while still putting the finishing touches on their new home. It was a house built with love, dreams and a vision for the future.
The Mansion is the “Hop King’s” Residence
Ezra Meeker was known as the “Hop King of the World.” He amassed considerable wealth through the production of hops, a key ingredient in beer.
The mansion wasn’t merely a residence; it was the social and political hub of the valley during Ezra’s lifetime. Imagine the lively discussions and grand events that must have taken place within these walls.
The mansion’s grounds are also noteworthy, featuring a variety of trees that Ezra Meeker brought over from England. Among them are holly trees, an oak, a sequoia, and California Redwoods. Each tree is a living testament to man’s love for nature and desire to create a haven of beauty and tranquility.
During his time at the mansion, Ezra Meeker was also deeply involved in tracing and marking the Oregon Trail. He spent countless hours writing about the trail and the history of Puget Sound. He produced twelve books on these topics. So, the mansion was a workspace for a man deeply committed to preserving history.
The mansion has seen days of glory and hardship but has stood the test of time. Today, it serves as a museum, a tribute to a bygone era, and a testament to the indomitable spirit of the pioneers who shaped this land.
So, if you’re a local or planning to visit, the Ezra Meeker Mansion should be on your list of places to explore. It’s not just a house; it’s a journey through time.
Architectural Marvels of Ezra Meeker Mansion
When you first look at the Ezra Meeker Mansion, its architectural brilliance is bound to leave you in awe. Designed in the Italianate Victorian style, the mansion is a feast for the eyes.
Farrell and Darmer, the architects, left no stone unturned in making this house a masterpiece. Every detail was meticulously planned, from the intricate woodwork to the ornate ceiling paintings.
One of the most captivating features is the mansion’s original fireplace tiles. These tiles are not just decorative; they tell a story. Each fireplace in the estate has tiles unique to that room, adding a personal touch to each space. The mantles are equally impressive, carved from different types of wood, including cherry, oak, and mahogany.
Stained glass windows add a touch of elegance and mystery to the mansion. These stained glass windows are works of art, each telling a story or symbolizing a concept. For instance, one window features a painting of a ship, representing Ezra Meeker’s journey and adventurous spirit.
Another fascinating feature is the mansion’s speaking tubes. These are essentially the 19th-century version of an intercom system. Nickel-plated mouthpieces are connected to tubes running throughout the house, allowing for room communication. It’s a small but significant detail that showcases the innovation and forward-thinking of the Meeker family.
The mansion also boasted modern amenities for its time. Believe it or not, all four floors had hot and cold running water. This was quite a luxury in the late 19th century and speaks volumes about the Meekers’ desire for comfort and convenience.
The Financial Downfall and Subsequent Uses
Life wasn’t always rosy for the Meekers. Ezra Meeker faced financial hardships due to the collapse of the hop market and the Panic of 1893.
The mansion, once a symbol of prosperity, became a burden. To make ends meet, parts of the estate were rented out. At one point, it even served as Puyallup’s first hospital from 1901 to 1906.
The mansion underwent several transformations over the years. After its stint as a hospital, it became a home for widows and orphans of the Civil War. This was under the Grand Army of the Republic, which took ownership in 1909. The mansion served this purpose until 1919.
From 1919 to 1969, the mansion was used as a critical care nursing home. During this period, the mansion faced the risk of being demolished. However, the Puyallup Historical Society stepped in, saving the mansion from a planned burning. Restoration efforts began in earnest in 1973, breathing new life into this historic structure.
The Mansion Today: A Museum and More
Fast forward to today, and the Ezra Meeker Mansion has found a new purpose. It serves as a museum operated by the Puyallup Historical Society. The museum offers self-guided tours from noon to 4 pm on Wednesday through Sunday. It’s a chance to step back in time and experience the grandeur of a bygone era.
The mansion is not just about the past but also the future. Plans are underway for a Cultural Heritage Center at the mansion, set to open in Fall 2026. This new addition aims to expand and preserve the region’s heritage, featuring a reception/event venue, a gift shop, and even a restaurant and tap room.
So, the next time you’re looking for something interesting, consider visiting the Ezra Meeker Mansion. It’s not just a trip to a museum; it’s an experience that offers a glimpse into the lives of the people who shaped the history of Puyallup and the surrounding region.
The Ezra Meeker Mansion is a living testament to the dreams, struggles, and triumphs of a family and a community.
From its humble beginnings as a cabin to its transformation into a grand mansion and later into a museum, it has stood the test of time. This mansion is more than just a building; it’s a piece of American history that continues to captivate and inspire.
Whether you’re a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or simply looking for an enriching experience, the Ezra Meeker Mansion has something to offer.
It’s a journey through time, a lesson in resilience, and a celebration of the indomitable human spirit. So, add this historic gem to your list of must-visit places. You won’t regret it.