Downtown, Puyallup

The Hop Industry in the Puyallup Valley

Puyallup Valley Hop Industry

Growing hops was important to the development of Puyallup. Pioneer Ezra Meeker was known as the hops king of the World when this photo was taken about 1890. The hops boom went bust in 1891.

A brief History….

When settlers first began arriving in the valley in 1854 they found the valley floor consisted of dense strands of cedar and cottonwood trees, with often dense brush that was very difficult to remove with the tools available to them. Many of the first settlers continued to search for land elsewhere, unaware of the rich soil that lay beneath the brush. Ezra Meeker and his brother were among the first to arrive. After inspecting the valley, he at first rejected any notion of living in the valley, writing that it would take back breaking labor to clear the land.

As settlement in the valley started to take hold, settlers did work hard to clear enough land for a cabin, and to grow some food to sustain their families. Then, in 1855, Indians in the valley became increasingly dissatisfied with treaties being forced upon them by the U.S. government. They destroyed all but one of the settlers homes. Many settlers did not return to the valley. The settlers that remained were in dire financial need. The Meeker’s had suffered the greatest. Not only was property destroyed in the valley, but their mercantile business in Steilacoom had failed too because merchandise ordered – sank in a shipwreck on its transport to Washington. The money to buy the supplies had been borrowed, leaving the Meeker’s in desperate financial need.

At that time, another Meeker relative had been persuaded by a friend in Olympia to attempt to grow hops on his land, a thought that seemed crazy to most residents. On his way back to Sumner, he stopped off at Ezra’s cabin to drop off the hop roots. Ezra planted the roots among the tree stumps around his cabin, on the land that is now Pioneer Park in downtown Puyallup. From those few roots, Ezra Meeker made $157.27. In the 1800’s, that was like striking gold. The word about the “crop” spread quickly, and soon every farmer in the valley planted the Hop roots.

Hops quickly become Puyallup Valley’s biggest cash crop. During the next quarter century, hops brought the valley more than $20 million, making Ezra and his family wealthy.

Ezra became a hop broker, and frequently traveled the World marketing the valley’s hops. Disease and mildew finally put an end to the crops. Today we know the Puyallup valley for it’s daffodils, but it is the hops that started our history, and gave original valley residents the wealth, fortitude and persistence to stay in the valley and to shape our future.

Backup plan the Park Hotel in Puyallup:
The Grandiose Hotel that never was…One of the most talked about buildings in Puyallup in 1890 was the Park Hotel. The structure was to cover an entire block and would have been three stories high. It was to be built with an anticipated $40,000 from the booming hops industry. The construction of 83 luxurious suites, an adjoining restaurant, and the possibility of an additional 40 rooms, was well underway when the hop boom went bust. The hotel was never completed. After years of disrepair, the structure became “home” to unsavory individuals who used the building as a sort of flophouse. The amount of “guests” became larger, and the inhabitants began terrorizing the community for food and money. Finally, Washington States Governor came from Olympia and finally persuaded all to go home. For awhile afterwards, the building was used to store bailed hops, but the building had no other uses and went into further disrepair. Finally, a group of local citizens bought the building and property, and soon began to demolish the shell of a building that was to become Puyallup’s grandest, most beautiful building.

Downtown, Education, Entertainment, Puyallup

Historic Meeker Mansion

Meeker Mansion Puyallup

The Meeker Mansion in Puyallup is one of the cities most treasured attractions.

Born near Huntsville, Ohio on December 29, 1830 in a log cabin, Ezra Meeker life spanned a period of almost a century in which he lived to see a nation of 13 million spread to the far Pacific with the population increasing 10 times. He took a noticeable role in the expansion and development. (Ezra Meeker history & photos)

Career

Ezra Meeker was a trailblazer, author and a superb salesman of the Pacific NW.  Meeker is almost certainly known best for his 25 year struggle to interest the nation and particularly interest Congress to the marking of the Old Oregon Trail, over which three hundred thousand immigrants had travelled searching for a start that was fresh in the West.

Known throughout the World

Long before this epic adventure Meeker had already lived a three score and ten years of purposeful and vigorous life by pioneering and leadership that made him well-known not only locally and nationally but internationally. There are very few men who have accomplished so much in a lifetime.

Trail West

In the late 1800’s, Ezra Meeker married Eliza Jane Sumner then in April of 1852, a son was born. When his son named Marion was only 7 weeks old they joined the trail west with total possessions of:

• two yoke of oxen;
• one wagon;
• three cows;
• provision for the trail;
• High hopes.

Five long, dusty, hot and very fatiguing months they finally reached Portland, Oregon on October 1st, with only 3 dollars.

Staked His Land

They eventually settled in today’s Puyallup. It was there that Mr. Meeker staked his claim, cleared the land and then became a very influential, and one of the richest men in the state, as well as internationally and nationally famous in commercial circles.

The Meeker Mansion is an Italianate Victorian mansion with 17 rooms. Located on Spring Street in Puyallup, this home built by Meeker and finished in 1890. Meeker finished building this very impressive mansion as a gift to please his wife. The home was designed by Ferrell and Darmer Architects from Tacoma. The Meeker Mansion is now owned and operated by the Meeker Historical Society which is a 300 member, private, non-profit corporation.

Lets continues its history….

Ezra Meeker accumulated his wealth during the 1870’s from the hops he grew in the fertile valley soil. Together with his wife’s inheritance, they had their home (today’s Meeker Mansion) built for a cost of $26,000. The mansion rooms included a billiard room and a third floor ballroom as well. It even was built with a rudimentary intercom system of speaking tubes to connect the rooms. The home was a show piece in the community, and a truly loved home of Ezra’s wife, Eliza Jane. However, within a few years, Meeker’s affluence was becoming less as the infestations of valley crops drained much of his wealth. The home was becoming a financial burden to Ezra and his wife Eliza Jane, but Ezra vowed he would not move his wife from the house she loved so dearly. The financial strain continued until Eliza’s death in 1909, but Ezra kept his promise. That same year he put the home up for sale.

After years as serving as a hospital, a home for the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, a nursing home, it was finally given to the Ezra Meeker Historical Society in the early 1970’s. The building was in a terrible state of disrepair. Water leaked through the ceiling into the once grand ball room. The gorgeous hand painted ceilings had been painted and plastered over. The building was an eyesore to the community. But, the society, with hard work, dedication, sweat and much manual labor, their persistence paid off. The Mansion is now on the National Register of Historic Sites, and again is the pride of our Valley’s past.

The Ezra Meeker Historical Society receives NO state or federal support. It is their fund raisers, admission, and mostly hard work that preserves this landmark.

Hops Market

In 1865, Mr. Meeker, with father and his brother, planted a few rows of hops and started an industry that soon was to affect the entire commercial world, bringing millions of dollars into the area of Puyallup Valley as well as the NW. During the next 30 years, he cornered the hop market of the world, accumulated a very large fortune, and became a merchant, then a bank president and promotor of the NW, lecturer and proponent of railroads and roads. (Read more about Puyallup’s hop industry)

Historic Society Formed

The “Ezra Meeker Historic Society” was established in 1970 to protect one of the town’s momentous historic places, Meeker Mansion. They then changed the name to The “Puyallup Historical Society at Meeker Mansion” and now are a non-profit organizationthat operates and restores both the home and the grounds.

Tours of the Mansion

There are tours at the Mansion, both guided and self-guided as well as educational tours for students. During the year, the Mansion can be rented for various parties as well as community events and weddings.

This Mansion is a must see attraction, when visiting in this area of Washington.

Historic Landmark Place Meeker Mansion
Historic Landmark Place Meeker Mansion. Washington State.