The history of Lacey begins with the indigenous people who have lived here since time immemorial. The city of Lacey sits on land that was once the traditional lands of the Nisqually and Squaxin Island Tribes.
“Our people lived in the south Puget Sound watershed long before 1833, when Fort Nisqually was established as the first white settlement on Puget Sound…We were a fishing people, living off of the rich bounty of the river, and sustaining life for our home and environment.” –
After years of European exploration and rival land ownership claims to the Pacific Northwest, the Oregon Treaty resolves this issue by establishing the border between the United States and the United Kingdom along the 49th parallel. Learn About the Treaty
Oregon Territory Established
The Oregon Territory is incorporated into the United States and includes the current states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, as well as parts of Wyoming and Montana.
The Donation Land Claim Act is enacted to promote American homestead settlements in Oregon Territory by offering 320 acres to white citizens (640 acres for couples) who occupy the land for four consecutive years. Learn About the Act
David and Elizabeth (Harrison) Chambers take out a Donation Land Claim on Chambers Prairie and over a century later would later become the Chalet at Panorama City. The Chambers are considered Lacey’s first white settlers.
Isaac Wood arrives in the area, taking out a Donation Land Claim in 1852. It was this claim that led to the name Woodland, Lacey’s original name. In 1859, Wood opens Union Brewery, Olympia’s first brewery, on the corner of 4th and Columbia.
Pioneer Stephen D. Ruddell attends the Monticello Convention and with the other delegates, petitions the United States government to separate “Northern Oregon” into the “Territory of Columbia.” Congress instead decides to name the territory Washington to honor the first president of the United States. On March 3rd, Washington Territory is established as a territory independent from Oregon Territory. Learn About the Monticello Convention
Ruddell Pioneer Cemetery
Lacey pioneer, Stephen Ruddell, sets aside land for a cemetery, which becomes known as the Ruddell Pioneer Cemetery located on the corner of Mullen and Ruddell Roads.
After a harrowing trek across the Oregon Trail, including losing his wife, Mathilda, John Hawk scouts out a location to stake a claim in the area now known as Hawk’s Prairie. From north to south, Hawk’s Prairie, Woodland, and Chamber’s Prairie make up what is now Lacey.
The Medicine Creek Treaty & The Puget Sound War
The treaty is signed at the present-day Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually Wildlife Refuge on December 26th by 62 leaders of major Western Washington tribes. The tribes give up most of their lands in exchange for money, designated land (reservations), and permanent access to hunting and fishing grounds. Disputes soon turn to violence over the treaty’s validity and the forced loss of land. Out of fear, the settlers build stockades on various homesteads, including the Ruddell property, the Hawk property, and the Eaton property. This conflict comes to be known as the Puget Sound War of 1855-1856. Learn About The Treaty Learn About The War
Nisqually Chief Leschi claims that he did not sign the Medicine Creek treaty and fiercely resists the confinement of the tribe to a reservation. He is hanged on false charges of murder and rebellion. In 2004, a specially-convened historical court posthumously exonerates Chief Leschi. Learn about Chief Leschi
Eruption of Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier erupts on October 19th at 4 p.m. “Clouds of smoke were seen pouring out from the highest peak…” (Puget Sound Dispatch, October 23, 1873).
Early settlers, David and Nancy “Ella” (Parsons) Fleetwood, purchase the Himes Donation Land Claim, which they use for farming. Parts of their property become the site of Woodland Creek Park and the Lacey School.
St. Peter Hospital
St. Peter Hospital opens on September 23, 1887 with 13 patients. By the early 1920s, the hospital runs out of room and new advancements in medicine require a new facility.
Gwin Hicks, son of pioneers Urban and India (Hartsock) Hicks, is one of the youngest and the only Washington-born delegate in the Washington State Constitutional Convention. Washington becomes the 42nd state on November 11th. About the Constitutional Convention
Lacey’s First Neighborhood
John M. Adams maps the first residential area, Adams Acres Tract, which becomes part of the Lacey Historical Neighborhood.
1891: The Year It Happened (And a Few Years After)
The Railroad Forms a Community
The Tacoma, Olympia and Grays Harbor Railroad, a subsidiary of Northern Pacific Railroad, reaches the rural farmlands of Woodland, bringing with it a store, hotel, post office, and a racetrack–the beginnings of a community. The Woodland Depot is built within two years.
Woodland Becomes Lacey
The residents of Woodland apply for a post office, but the application is rejected because there is already a post office with that name near the Columbia River. The name Lacey is selected for the post office, and eventually replaces Woodland as the community’s name.
Learn Why Lacey (link to internal page)
George Carpenter, a local store owner, becomes the Lacey Post Office’s first postmaster.
Learn About George Carpenter (link to internal page)
The Race Track
Isaac Ellis opens the Woodland Driving Park, a nationally known track. A mile in circumference, it covers the site of today’s Lacey Downs shopping center and the Clearbrook Subdivision. Although many owners would try to make a go of it, the racetrack was never successful.
Learn About Racetrack (link to internal page)
Saint Martin’s College
Saint Martin’s College opens its doors on September 11th to one student, Angus McDonald. He is provided a full slate of courses and is joined by more students in the weeks to come.
By 1897, there are 29 grammar and high school students. College courses are added in 1900. Learn About Saint Martin’s
Long Lake Saw Mill
J.P. Allison and Frank Collins start the Long Lake Saw Mill, (later named Union Mills) located at the northern tip of Long Lake near the rail line. It would eventually have a capacity of 40,000 board feet per day.
Holmes Family & Long Lake
Albin and Anna Holm, immigrants from Sweden, arrive in Washington, later settling on what is now Holmes Island on Long Lake. They legally change their name to Holmes in 1916.
Lacey Train Depot
The residents of Woodland petition Northern Pacific Railway to have the train depot renamed. On November 2nd, it is named Lacey to match the post office and avoid confusion.
Union Lumber Company
The Union Lumber Company reopens after a fire the previous year and reportedly becomes the first mill operation in the United States to be run completely by electricity.
1910-1939: The Resort Era
The First Resort
Frank Mullen purchases property on the northern tip of Lake Pattison. Gradually the family homestead turns into a resort called Mullen’s Place.
Union Lumber Post Office
The Union Mills community (company town for the Union Lumber Company) applies for and obtains its post office. William M. Chatten, the president and general manager, becomes their first postmaster.
Although half of the work force is made up of Japanese immigrants, they are not allowed to live in Union Mills, but in a separate derogatorily-named “Jap Camp.”
A Second Schoolhouse
As Lacey’s population grows to 600, the Lacey School District builds a new school on land acquired from the Fleetwood family at the corner of Pacific Avenue and Carpenter Road.
A Golf Course
On June 28th, the Olympia Golf and Country Club opens their new golf course on a 160-acre tract of farm land on Chambers Prairie.
Father Sebastian Ruth begins broadcasting from Saint Martin’s College under the call letters 7CM in 1914. By May 4, 1916 Father Ruth is granted a special license, a higher wavelength, and a new call sign of 7YS for his broadcasts from Saint Martin’s.
A Military Base
Camp Lewis, named in honor of Meriwether Lewis, of the Lewis and Clark expedition, opens on September 1 with 1,757 major buildings and a troop capacity of 44,685. Learn More
From Broadcasts To A Radio Station
Father Sebastian Ruth’s radio station at Saint Martin’s College is awarded the call letters KGY and becomes one of Washington’s first radio stations.
Originally the country estate of state printer, Gwin Hicks, Gwinwood resort opens as a rural retreat and summer camp.
Learn About Gwin Hicks (link to TCHJ article)
Maie and Leonard Travis take over Camp Travis, a campground and lunch stand in a grove of trees along Pacific Highway that was previously owned by his brother Reginald Travis.
The Southwick Resort opens on Southwick Lake, joining the numerous resorts already open on Hicks, Long, and Pattison Lakes.
Lumber Mill Shuts Down
The Union Lumber Mill shuts down after experiencing difficulties getting lumber to the mill from farther distances. Although it is advertised for sale, there is no buyer. By 1931, the mill is torn down and the post office is closed.
Children’s Farm Home
The Washington Juvenile Protection Association opens the Children’s Farm Home on January 22nd for orphaned and neglected children, despite a restraining order requested by Saint Martin’s College.
Learn About Children’s Farm Home. (link to internal web page)
Mountain View Golf Course
The Mountain View Golf Club is formed in Lacey, using the grounds and clubhouse once owned by the Olympia Golf and Country Club. The clubhouse was once the Chamber Family homestead.
A Bigger, Better Schoolhouse
The new Lacey School is completed for $35,000 to serve 300 students. It includes an auditorium with a 750-seat capacity, becoming a hub for community events.
The Dance Hall
The Evergreen Ballroom opens, and because of its prime location between Seattle and Portland, it becomes a popular venue for music’s greats, including Elvis Presley, Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington among others. It closes in 2000 after a devastating fire. More About the ‘Green
Since it is no longer used, the Lacey train depot is decommissioned, moved from the right of way, and sold to Lawrence Ulery for $60. However, the train continues to stop in Lacey through at least the 1940s.
1940-1959: Laying The Groundwork
The First Fire Department
The Lacey Volunteer Fire Department is created by a group of dedicated and enthusiastic men with a variety of used equipment from other fire departments and the military.
Fire District #3
Lacey area residents vote to form Thurston County Fire District #3.
Lacey Plywood Company
Lacey Plywood Company opens at the location of the historic Lacey depot. It is a cooperative, originally with 120 working shares sold at $2,500 each, with a priority given to locals. It will become Lacey’s third largest employer.
First Municipal Water Service
Huntamer Water Service is incorporated, supplying water to Lacey residents and the surrounding area.
North Thurston School District
On November 10, voters in the Lacey School District No. 317 and South Bay School District No. 304 overwhelmingly decide to consolidate into one district — the North Thurston School District. The move is strongly motivated by the need for a high school in the area.
The Lacey Drive-In movie theater opens along Sleater-Kinney Road and Pacific Avenue. It closes in 1981 after a storm damages the screen. It is eventually torn down to make room for the Fred Meyer Shopping Center.
Lacey’s First High School
North Thurston High School, Lacey’s first high school, opens for grades 7 to 12. Before this, Lacey students attended Olympia High School.
Moving The County Fair To Lacey
The Thurston County Fair moves permanently to its current location at Long Lake.
1961-1969: Housing Boom & The City of Lacey
Chamber of Commerce
The Lacey Area Chamber of Commerce is created to promote the community of Lacey. The first meeting is held on October 11th at the Burger Bar on Pacific Avenue.
First Retirement Community
Panorama City, a new type of life-care retirement community, opens on the former site of the Mountain View Golf Course.
Planning A Library
The North Thurston Library Association is created with the purpose of bringing a library to the Lacey community.
Lacey Tries To Incorporate
Motivated by a series of annexations by Olympia, Lacey area residents form the Committee for Incorporation of Lacey. A measure to incorporate Lacey is put on the November ballot, but it is defeated 857 to 505.
Lacey Village Shopping Center
The seismically reinforced Lacey Village Shopping Center opens with businesses like Albertson’s, Big V, Don’s Candies, A&W Root Beer, and Shoe City.
South Sound Shopping Center
The $7 million South Sound Shopping Center opens in October and is the biggest indoor mall in the South Sound region.
July 3rd Fireworks
The 3rd of July Fireworks event at South Sound Center begins, starting a local annual tradition that is only interrupted in 2020 to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Lacey’s First Library Opens
Lacey’s first public library is opened in a rented space at Lacey’s Market Square strip mall.
Lacey Becomes It’s Own City
On November 8th, residents vote to incorporate with 1,586 in favor and 1,346 opposed. Lacey officially becomes a city on December 5th when the election is certified. Al Homann is elected the first mayor of Lacey.
First Police Department
Police Chief Chuck Nauman is hired on March 3rd, forming the Lacey Police Department. He goes on to hire nine police employees this year; two are women.
Lacey’s First Weekly Newspaper
The Lacey Leader, Lacey’s first and only weekly newspaper, publishes its first issue on October 4th.
First City Water Department
The City of Lacey takes possession of the Huntamer Water Service, making it feasible for Lacey to create a city water department.
Lacey’s Interstate Access
Construction of Interstate 5 is completed, providing important access to Lacey shopping with ramps at Martin Way and Sleater-Kinney Road.
Olympia Tries To Annex Lacey
For the last time, the City of Olympia attempts to annex the entire City of Lacey, but Lacey voters reject the measure nearly three-to-one. Olympia voters reject it, too, but by a slimmer margin.
First Service Club Meeting
The Lacey Rotary Club, Lacey’s oldest service club, holds its first meeting on March 13 in the hallway of the Lacey Village Shopping Center.
1970-1989: Growing Up (For Real)
First City Meeting Building
The Lacey Lions Club (now Sunrise Lions Club) donates a building to the city to be used for city meetings. It later becomes the Willow Street Senior Center, in operation from 1997 until 2003.
The First City Park
Twenty acres of land is acquired for Lacey’s first city park—Wonderwood Park.
The Last Fully Functioning Mayor
Thomas Huntamer is elected mayor of Lacey in July and serves until December. He was a member of Lacey’s first City Council and the last fully functioning Mayor.
A Change In The Form of Government
Voters approve the Optional Municipal code, which changes the structure of Lacey’s government from Mayor-Council form to Council-Manager form.
First Community Festival
The Lacey Area Chamber of Commerce creates the Lacey Music and Dance Festival (later the Lacey Music, Arts and Dance—or MAD Festival), Lacey’s first community festival which is attended by thousands of residents.
First City Manager
Robert Williams is appointed Lacey’s first City Manager.
First Female Mayor
Karen Fraser becomes the first female mayor for the City of Lacey.
Jointly Founded, Regional Sewer Lines
Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater, and Thurston County sign an interlocal agreement (LOTT) providing for cooperative use and development of the Olympia Treatment Plant, jointly funded sewer lines and cooperative planning.
New City Hall
The City of Lacey purchases land at 3rd Avenue and College Street from Saint Martin’s College for a new City Hall complex. The building is dedicated on September 17th.
First Welcome To Lacey Sign
The Lacey Civic Committee, a non-profit organization comprised of service organizations and community leaders, completes its first project, a “Welcome to Lacey” sign adjacent to the South Sound Center on Sleater-Kinney Road.
The Lacey Museum, with funding by the Lacey Civic Committee, is dedicated in October. It is housed in the historic Russell House, now on the Lacey Historic Register and formerly Lacey’s first City Hall.
Historical Society Founded
The Lacey Historical Society, a non-profit organization, is founded as a volunteer service group interested in conserving and promoting awareness of Lacey’s history.
Lacey Leader Closes
The Lacey Leader, Lacey’s first and only weekly newspaper, ends publication in 1981 when the publisher is unable to pay off a debt to a former owner.
Lacey Drive-In Closes
The Lacey Drive-In suffers damage from a windstorm and closes. It is not torn down until 1998 to make way for the new Fred Meyer shopping center.
Long Lake Park Expansion
The City of Lacey acquires ten acres of land from Thurston County to improve Long Lake Park which includes a public beachfront, swim docks and a designated swimming area.
Observance of MLK
Lacey is the first city in the state of Washington to pass an ordinance recognizing Martin Luther King’s birthday as an official holiday.
The First Spring Fun Fair
The first Lacey Spring Fun Fair, is held at Saint Martin’s College. The popular community festival quickly becomes Lacey’s largest and continues to the present day.
Fred Meyer Shopping Center Opens
The Fred Meyer shopping center on Sleater-Kinney opens across from the South Sound Center.
1990-Present: Community & Quality of Life
City Population Doubles
The Hawks Prairie area south of I-5 is annexed into the City of Lacey, doubling the city’s size. Lacey’s population is 20,760–it has more than doubled in two decades.
Library Gets Own Building
The North Thurston Library Association finally realizes its dream of building the Lacey Library its own building. It is located adjacent to Lacey City Hall.
Nation’s First Filipino-American Mayor
Gene Liddell, an experienced educator and community advocate, is the first Filipina-American mayor of any city in the United States.
A Tree City
The City of Lacey is one of the first cities in the state of Washington to attain the designation as a Tree City USA. It continues to receive this designation annually.
First Amtrak Station
After a six-year fundraising and lobbying effort, the Centennial Amtrak Station is built by the non-profit Amtrak Depot Committee on Yelm Highway in Lacey. It is believed to be the only Amtrak station in the nation built and operated entirely by volunteers.
Community College Campus Opens
To better meet the needs of growing north Thurston County, South Puget Sound Community College opens a satellite campus in Lacey at the Hawks Prairie Village Mall known as the Hawks Prairie Center.
The Intercity Transit center in Lacey opens on 6th Avenue.
The City of Lacey and Thurston County jointly acquire the 67-acre site that will become the Regional Athletic Complex (RAC). Learn About RAC
The first roundabout in Washington state is opened in Lacey at Marvin Road and Willamette Drive.
New Senior Center Building
The new 5,000-square-foot Lacey Senior Center is dedicated in Woodland Creek Park and serves 267 members. Learn About Senior Center
Construction is completed on phase 1 of the Regional Athletic Complex and includes four soccer/football/rugby fields. It will become one of the finest outdoor sporting venues in Washington state.
Homecoming Statue Unveiled
Commissioned by the Hawks Prairie Rotary, the Homecoming statue, located at Marvin Way and Quinault is unveiled, welcoming military families to Lacey.
Starting The Karen Fraser Woodland Trail
The first phase of the Lacey Woodland Trail (now the Karen Fraser Woodland Trail (link to trail page), a regional trail created from the Burlington Northern Railroad corridor, is underway, with installation of approximately one mile of 10-foot-wide paved trail surface for walkers and bicyclists.
Designated A Green Power Community
The City of Lacey is awarded the Green Power Community Designation by Environmental Protection Agency upon becoming only the 2nd city in the state and the 12th city in the nation to exclusively use Green Power for 100% of its municipal building electrical needs.
Lacey Doubles Population (Again)
Lacey’s population is 42, 393 and has again doubled in twenty years.
Largest Park System In The County
With the acquisition of Greg Cuoio Park in 2011 and the addition of the Blume 85 and Palm Creek Headwaters parcels adjacent to it, Lacey has the largest municipal park and open space system in Thurston County.
Historical Accord With Nisqually Tribe
The City of Lacey and the Nisqually Tribe sign a historical accord to acknowledge their historic ties and agreeing to work together into the future. The Nisqually gives a totem pole to the City which resides in the lobby of City Hall.
Lacey Depot Project
The historic Lacey Depot is reconstructed as a legacy landmark for Lacey’s 50th anniversary.
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Most credit lines are available by hovering over an image (on desktop) or long hold (on mobile). In some cases, appropriate credit requires longer text or clickable links. Those are provided below.
Photograph of Isaac Wood, 1851, Box 7, f. 1132-2, Org. Lot 500 – Cartes-de-Visite photographs, Oregon Historical Society Research Library, Portland, Oregon; (https://digitalcollections.ohs.org/wood-isaac : accessed July 29, 2022). Copy held by Lacey Museum, 2007-007.
Photograph of Ruddell stockade, August 28, 1913, Org. Lot 604 – Pioneer tour photographic collection, 1913, Oregon Historical Society Research Library, Portland, Oregon; (https://archiveswest.orbiscascade.org : accessed August 2, 2022). Copy held by Lacey Museum 1998-004.