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History of Point Defiance Park Lodge

The Board of Park Commissioners approved $2,200 to build a residence in Point Defiance Park in 1898 for Superintendent Ebenezer Rhys Roberts, referred to as the Keeper's Lodge. Designed by noted Tacoma architect C.A. Darmer, the residence permitted Roberts and his family to live in the park, where he could more easily tend the gardens, feed the zoo animals, and provide general park security.

Three of E.R. Roberts children outside the Point Defiance Lodge - photo courtesy of Jean Insel RobesonE.R. Roberts and his wife, Mary Ann, had four young children who grew up in the lodge with the wilds of Point Defiance as their backyard. Roberts was such a devoted gardener that he gave three of his four children botanical names.

Photographed on the lawn near the lodge c. 1906 are, left to right, Woodland, Reseda, and Trillium; the eldest, Ebenezer Jr., is not pictured.

Writing a detailed account published in the Tacoma News Tribune in 1967, Trillium Roberts Insel gave a wealth of detail about the Lodge in the early days:

E.R. Roberts Family Portrait Outside Point Defiance Lodge - photo courtesy of Jean Insel Robeson"The beautiful maple paneling of the “front parlor” and the library was a distinctive background for the fine furnishings and rare pieces of bric-a-brac so beloved as home decoration in those days… The décor of the dining room was a combination of handsome wallpaper and panels of royal-blue burlap. A grooved, polished plate rail held a collection of hand-painted souvenir plates from every state in the Union."

Since the Ebenezer Roberts family in the early 1900s, the Point Defiance Lodge served as the residence of several Point Defiance Park Superintendents and Metropolitan Park District Executive Directors and their families until 1980.

From 1980 until 2012 the Lodge was used as a rental facility for private events and activities. In 2012 the Point Defiance Lodge become the Visitors Center.

Today's visitors center is a place where park guests can tour interpretive exhibits, get information on special events and recreational opportunities in the park, purchase books, gifts and refreshments, or participate in scheduled activities.

Historic images on this page courtesy of Jean Insel Robeson, Trillium's daughter.