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National recognition comes to Point Defiance Visitors Center

May 8, 2018

May 27 celebration kicks off summer season at Point Defiance Park
 

The Point Defiance Lodge, the home of the park’s Visitors Center, is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

A public celebration of the building’s landmark status will take place at the Visitors Center at 10:30 a.m. May 27. A commemorative plaque will be unveiled and historical interpreter Lawrence Bradley will tell a story of Point Defiance Park’s early years in the dress and character of Ebenezer Rhys Roberts, Metro Parks’ first park superintendent. Roberts and his family were the first to occupy what was then known as the Keeper’s Lodge after its construction in 1898 for $2,200.

The hourlong celebration will also feature a presentation on the building’s history and architecture. Light refreshments will be served.

“It's important to remember our beginnings in order to appreciate the present,” said Andrea Smith, president of the Metro Parks Board of Commissioners. “By recognizing the Lodge’s historic status, we honor the significance of the citizens who felt that parks were important to Tacoma more than 100 years ago. So what was the first park superintendent's home now welcomes all visitors to Point Defiance park.”

The lodge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on Aug. 28, 2017, following similar action by the state and the City of Tacoma.

E.R. Roberts with family dog outside of the Point Defiance Lodge - photo courtesy of Jean Insel Robeson

Built specifically for Roberts and his family, the 2,857-square-foot lodge also served as meeting space for Tacoma’s Park Board. After Roberts’ 1908 retirement, the lodge housed a succession of park superintendents until 1980, when it was converted to a rental facility. In 2012, the house became the Point Defiance Park Visitors Center.

The lodge is the one of the park’s oldest structures. As such, it provides a link to the park’s genesis as part of America’s urban parks movement, which spread nationwide after New York City’s Central Park was created in 1857. 

Prominent Tacoma architect Carl August Darmer designed the Lodge with elements of both Queen Anne and Swiss Chalet architectural styles. Among the lodge’s distinguishing Queen Anne features are its overall shape, floor plan and the wrap-around veranda. Its peeled log exterior, deep gable overhangs and the design of the second-floor balcony balustrades likewise recall a chalet. Darmer himself described the building as “rustic.”

The lodge was built without electricity or running water. It was lit with kerosene lamps and equipped with a woodstove for cooking in the kitchen. A hand pump brought water inside. In 1902, the lodge was upgraded with electricity and indoor plumbing.

In 1988, the lodge was extensively remodeled. Among other things, the electrical wiring and plumbing were upgraded to meet building code standards, and the lodge became more accessible to people with disabilities.  

As the Point Defiance Visitors Center, the Lodge today includes exhibits about the park, its history and ongoing transformation. The building also is the office of the park’s uniformed ranger and in summer is staffed by Park Ambassadors eager to introduce newcomers to the 760-acre park’s attractions.

Besides the lodge, numerous other Metro Parks sites and facilities have been recognized by government officials for their historical significance. Among them are the Point Defiance Pagoda; Fort Nisqually Living History Museum and its Factor’s House and Granary; Titlow Lodge; and Wright Park and the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory.  

Learn more about Point Defiance Park, the Visitors Center and summer events.

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