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Exploring The Back Roads Of Washington State: Scenic, Historic Steilacoom

Updated on January 27, 2014

On the Way to Nowhere

If it is history you want then it is history you will get in Steilacoom, Washington. Tucked along the coastline of Puget Sound, the town itself is amazingly secluded considering it is ten minutes from the busy and always hectic I-5 corridor.

Steilacoom was incorporated in 1854 and founded by a sea captain from Maine, one Lafayette Balch. It is the oldest incorporated town in Washington State and has four buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is the quintessential sleepy bedroom community, out of sight, out of mind, and a prettier town you will not find in the Evergreen State.

At one time prosperity gently kissed this town as it was a busy center of lumber manufacturing and export to San Francisco. In fact, it was the leading candidate for quite some time to become the territorial capital before Washington became a state, but narrowly lost its bid when the Northern Pacific Railroad chose Tacoma for its west coast terminus in 1873.

Today it is simply a place to live a quiet life, away from the madness of Tacoma five miles to the north.

A trip to the past
A trip to the past | Source

Just the Facts

Steilacoom has a population of 6,070 and is located in Pierce Country. It is literally ten minutes to all the convenience you could ever ask for, but within the town limits you are comfortably ensconced in a time warp.

It has a per capita income that ranks it 61st of 522 areas in the state, it has a total land mass of 2.07 square miles, and it has breathtaking views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains to the west. The first jail in Washington was in this town as well as the first sawmill, and it has the oldest Catholic Church in the state.

All of those are just facts, though; what Steilacoom has in spades is charm.

World class golf
World class golf | Source

Things to Do

This is not a tourist trap. If you choose to spend a few days in a B&B in Steilacoom then you are choosing for rest and relaxation. You can of course walk the beach. You can of course rent a kayak and enjoy the waters of the Puget Sound.

If you enjoy golf then the world famous Chambers Bay Golf Course, site of the 2015 U.S. Open golf tournament, is five minutes down the road. If it is shopping and entertainment you crave, then the city of Tacoma is close by.

Bring a camera and bring an attitude of gratitude, for you are surrounded by beauty and serenity when you visit Steilacoom.

The view from Main Street
The view from Main Street | Source
History surrounds you in Steailacoom
History surrounds you in Steailacoom | Source
Bed and breakfast, anyone?
Bed and breakfast, anyone? | Source

My Favorite Reason to Visit Steilacoom

Having grown up in Tacoma, this writer is quite familiar with Steilacoom. In fact, Chambers Bay Golf Course is built on the site of the old Pioneer Sand & Gravel Company where my father worked for twenty years. As a child I would fish off the pier at Pioneer, and many a summer’s day my friends and I would drive to Steilacoom as teens and look for teenage girls on the beach.

My favorite reason to visit Steilacoom? History, folks, history!

I love Steilacoom for the history it provides. This is like stepping back in time, a simpler place and time where people greeted each other on the streets and life slowed up just enough to make it all palatable.

I love the preservation of history. I believe there is a great deal we can learn from the past if we are teachable, and I believe our heritage is vitally important.

In Steilacoom I find that history. In Steilacoom I find people who seem genuinely happy that I am visiting their town. In Steilacoom I can connect with my own history, rub shoulders with my own ancestors, and embrace a simpler lifestyle if only for a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon.

Sit on the park bench and gaze across the Puget Sound at the Olympic Mountains, snow-capped and inviting. Watch the gulls swoop in for their next meal. Listen to the little children as they giggle and frolic on the beach, searching for their next great treasure. If you listen very closely, and squint just right, you will see the settlers as they come to town for their provisions. You will see Chief Tail-a-Koom standing among his tribe, trading goods with the whites and preparing for the fishing expedition that will feed his people all winter long. You will see the massive Douglas Firs being prepared as finished lumber, heading for construction sites across this great, young country. The trappers and the traders, the homesteaders and the mercantilists, all will come into view if your mind is accepting and your heart is willing to learn.

A markersteilacoom, wa -
Steilacoom, WA, USA
get directions

Steilacoom Is Waiting for You

Yes, there are 6,070 permanent residents in Steilacoom, and they will be very happy to greet you should you decide to visit their quaint town. They are quite easy to find. Their town is on all the maps and easily accessible to the I-5 corridor, so getting there will be no problem.

You can pack for the trip but seriously, why bother? Everything you need for this journey is already inside of you. Just bring a willingness to relax. Just bring a desire to learn from the past. Just bring the present, and join with the past, and the heritage will continue to march forward.

2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      tireless, it just might be time....hope to see you soon, and thank you!

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 3 years ago from California

      It is time for another trip north and a stop at Steilacoom

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Oh Dianna, this is the warmest of the northern states. We haven't even had snow yet....but coming from Florida, you would still have problems with the fifty degrees and dampness.....stay where you are; you are better off. :) Thank you!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      I love your personal touch to the tour of this historic place. It all sounds so inviting. If it weren't for the cold, I would consider moving there some day.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Michael my friend, if you come and visit I promise to be your tour guide. That is the best deal I can offer you.

      blessings always

      bill

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 3 years ago

      Hello again Bill.

      Thanks for another wonderful tour. After this visit to Steilacoon, Washington if anyone will mention the name of it in my presence, I'll dare to say ' I've been there ,' do you recall the oldest Catholic Church ( building?) in the state ?- and how about quite brutal gulf course which is going to host the U.S. Open in 2015 ?!. Well...

      Up, beautiful and interesting.

      Blessings to you , my friend

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Gail, Happy New Year to you as well. Hopefully 2014 will be the year you can visit our state. I will be your personal tour guide if you make it to Olympia.

    • Gail Meyers profile image

      Gail Meyers 3 years ago from United States

      Bill, Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, too. I enjoyed your tour of Washington State. I have always wanted to go, but I have yet to actually get there. Maybe in the new year.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I appreciate it, Anna; thank you!

    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      I have been AWOL with Christmas so I have to catch up with your thoughts. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Anna, what a pleasure having you visit three times today. Thank you! That view from Main St. is definitely beautiful.

      Have a great week as we say goodbye to 2013.

    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      You deftly mixed the history, current attractions and your personal past to make an informative article. I love paranormal stuff so with the history of this town it would surely have many past tales to be told!

      Your view from the Main Street picture is beautiful.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      vkwok, if you like peace and quiet then it's a good place to visit. :) Thanks buddy!

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 3 years ago from Hawaii

      Looks like a good place to visit! Awesome hub, Bill!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      DJ, I think every city should have a Bair Drug and Hardware Store. We all need a trip to the past now and then.

      Thank you as always my friend. Have a great Friday.

      bill

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      DJ Anderson 3 years ago

      What a nice day trip to Steilacoom. There are a lot of vowels in that name for it to be pronounced so rapidly.

      We had a little store on the main strip of town. It became a candy store. Or, maybe I referred to it as the candy store. It looked so much like Bair Drug and Hardware Store.

      Enjoyed the rendition of the "haunted BB&B". It is such a lovely old

      home.

      Love the view of the snow capped Olympic Mountains.

      Thanks for the little get-a-way.

      DJ.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Alicia and I agree with you....I need more time to visit more of them.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      My pleasure Flourish and thanks for the visit. I wish I had grown up in a small town; the values you find there are greatly underrated.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This looks like a lovely place, Bill. Small towns with an interesting history are great places to visit. Thank you for the information.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      What a cute town, and I love that little drug store. I grew up in a small town and have lived in many others throughout the US. They are interesting microcosms of the world. Maybe one day I will see Steilacoom. Thanks for the introduction.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, Sha, I never thought of it that way but I suppose you are right. I'll have to wander the streets in the dark sometime and find out if you are right. :) Thanks for being here, Sha; you are greatly appreciated.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 3 years ago from Central Florida

      What a beautiful, quaint little town. I love that the buildings from the 1800's are still standing and in use. It does seem though, that many mishaps occurred back in the day, leaving haunted souls behind. Interesting. It seems Steilacoom has a history that could prove to be very spooky!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It was my pleasure Joelle. Thank you for the visit and have a great Thursday.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Steilacoom seems to be an ideal place to relax! What an impressive background with the mountains! Thank you for sharing this treasure with us on Hubpages!

      Enjoy your day!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dora, a metaphor for sure and well done thinking of that. Blessings to you always my friend, and thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks mr-veg; unfortunately my camera broke down in the middle of this trip. :) I agree with you, it needs more pictures.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thank you for the tour through the backroads of Washington State. Steilacoom seems to offer so much despite the fact that it is not the most prosperous--a metaphor for life, I'd say.

    • mr-veg profile image

      mr-veg 3 years ago from Colorado United States

      Nice tour down Steilacoom Bill !! beautifully written as always !! But I would have loved to see some more pics :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Carb, I had no idea you lived in Steilacoom. Well good for you. I have always loved that town and I have fond memories of it. Thanks for visiting my site on this Christmas. Merry Christmas to you.

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      Linda Lum 3 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, thank you for writing such a wonderful story about my town. My family and I have lived here for more than 20 years and love the peace, calm, friendliness, and feeling of safety and security. However, now you have shared our little secret with the world. Will the population go over 6,070 as a result?

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Faith, we have quite a few towns in this state named after Indian names....I hope one day you can come visit us. We will have a lovely time meeting as old friends.

      blessings always

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      lambservant, a Northwest native would indeed know about this town. I love it every time I spend time there.

      Thank you for the visit and Merry Christmas.

      bill

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jo, maybe one day for sure. That's how I feel about seeing England...one day.

      blessings on this day and always

      bill

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      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Dear Bill, thank you for taking us along to Steilacoom. What a name for a town. Love it, as it reminds me of where I live now. I hope it never changes, and I am sure that it will not, if it has not yet!

      Merry Christmas,

      Faith Reaper

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      Lori Colbo 3 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Greetings Bill. How wonderful you wrote about this quaint little town. I have visited there many times. I have a dear pastor friend who pastors the congregational church right there on I think Rainier. Anyway, nice work.

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      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Bill, the view from main street is simply awesome!! So many incredible places to see, maybe one day. :)

      My best as always.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Maria. Merry Christmas to you my friend and love always.

      bill

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ahh, Eric, that is the joy of places like this. They transport us back to another time....perhaps a simpler life? Anyway, thanks for spending part of your Christmas with me. Merry Christmas my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Valley, thank you Sir! I love old places like this one; that's one of the reasons I just have to make it to England one day.

      Merry Christmas to you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jackie, this town hasn't changed since I was a kid, so I'm fairly confident it will remain as a reminder of years gone by. Thanks for visiting on Christmas. Merry Christmas my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, no, that was another house I used, but it sure looks similar. Good memory.

      I'll be looking for you to visit and you will have a personal tour of the area. Let me know when you are coming.

      Merry Christmas my friend and thank you.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mark, thank you. We'll leave the light on for you. :) Merry Christmas!

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      Maria Jordan 3 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

      What a peaceful, wonderful picture you have painted of Steilacoom, Bill.

      Merry Christmas to you, Bev and family. Love, Maria

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      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      He was an old no good bastard and his wife had kicked him out. 3 kids left behind along with a career. He pulled his 10 year old caddy to the side, got out and breathed in the air of his long lost youth. Something good happened inside for he was finally home again in his little town.

      You bring me home Bill. Muchas Gracias y Felice Navidad.

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      Valleypoet 3 years ago

      Bill, your personal connection with the community made this hub all the more interesting. There are so many fascinating historical facts included too...a great read, I have linked this to mine. A very Merry Christmas to you Bill:-))

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      There are not too many places like this left Bill; yes there will always be the history but not with the people. That is getting harder and harder to find, so let's savor it while we can! Very interesting. ^

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      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      I love places like this that take you back in time. Is that green house (b&b) the one you used as one of the short story photos? Looks similar.

      Thanks for the link too. Will add this to my long list!

      Maybe I'll get to your neck of the woods sometime.

      Hope you're enjoying your day! Ann

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      Mark G Weller 3 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

      Awesome Bill, I will have to explore there some time. Merry Christmas!

      Mark

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      Georgianna Lowery 3 years ago from Lubbock, TX

      It looks like a place I'd love to visit! Merry Christmas Bill! :)