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Lacey has not always been as quiet as it is today; there was once a large lumber mill here, and the town was the horse-racing center of the Northwest. Atop a low hill is St Martin’s (Roman Catholic) College, constructed in Tudor Gothic style. A scientist on the college faculty pioneered in the field of radio in the Northwest, broadcasting as early as 1921. Here, laity of the Seattle Diocese meet annually for what is known as the Laymen’s Retreat, a two-day period of prayer, spiritual meditation, and fasting. The college is under the direction of the Benedictine Fathers.

Saint Martin’s is a Roman Catholic, Benedictine university offering undergraduate and graduate degrees at its main campus near Olympia as well as at extensions at Fort Lewis Army Post, McChord Air Force Base and Olympic College. Saint Martin’s was established in 1895 by monks of the Roman Catholic Order of Saint Benedict as a school for boys. The school’s name was officially changed to Saint Martin’s University in August 2005 and is now co-educational.