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Pronounced “Stillakum”, the oldest incorporated town in the State of Washington, was chartered in 1853; its name derives from that of an Indian chief. Set amid old orchards and flower gardens, its quaint houses drowse on a hillside above the shore of Puget Sound. McNeil and Anderson Islands and Tacoma’s house-covered hills are visible from the village streets. The pastoral picture of comfortable old homes along the quiet avenues is broken here and there by the sharp lines and bright colors of a jaunty modern house. In 1849, Thomas M. Chambers, an American who had taken a donation claim near by, was ordered to leave by Doctor William F. Tolmie of the Puget Sound Agricultural Company, a subsidiary of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Chambers not only refused to vacate but urged other Americans to settle here, and colonization of the district began. The Hudson’s Bay Company claimed grazing and other land rights under the treaty of 1846, and early American settlers lived in a state of unrest until the controversy was finally settled in their favor. LaFayette Balch founded the town in 1851 by erecting a store and trading center.

Today, Steilacoom is a residential community with a rich historical past. Established as a National Historic District in 1974, the city has 32 buildings and sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Points of Interest Points of Interest icon

Steilacoom Historic District

The Steilacoom Historic District includes several of Washington’s oldest residences, some dating from, before the establishment of Washington Territory. Perhaps nowhere else in the state is there such a large concentration of early buildings from this period. Steilacoom is the oldest incorporated American community on Puget Sound.

Steilacoom Catholic Church

The Steilacoom Catholic Church is a Roman Catholic church originally builti n 1855 near Fort Steilacoom. The first Catholic Church built in Washington, it was moved to its present location in 1864.

Orr Home and Orchard

Nathaniel Orr arrived in Steilacoom in 1852 with orchard stock which was planted on the hill overlooking Puget Sound and which he was later to name Orrmount. Original trees from his stay with Lueling are still producing fruit on this property. In addition to being the principle source of orchard stock in the Puget Sound area he was the town’s first wagon maker, coffin maker, woodworker and cabinet maker. He was one of those persons instrumental in forming the Steilacoom Library Association which was the first library in the state other than the State Library in Olympia.

Keach House

One of only two surviving buildings erected on the Balch town site, established in January 1851. In the same year Keach built his home, the Territorial Legislature passed a special law enabling Steilacoom citizens to organize and incorporate the “Steilacoom Library Association”, the first organization of its kind in Washington Territory. The organizational meeting for the Association was held on March 16, 1858, in Keach’s store, and he was elected first librarian.

Steilacoom Methodist Episcopal Church Site

This monument commemorates the erection on this site of the first Protestant church building north of the Columbia River in 1853 by Rev. John F. DeVore, D. D. and his co-workers and friends. The church, was built in 1853 from lumber transported from the McAllister Creek. The bell was added in 1858. The lower part of the building was used as a public hall while the upper hall was used for worship services. When the Methodists abandoned Steilacoom in 1875 the building became vacant and was torn down in 1894 as a fire hazard. The original site consisted of two lots on Wilkes and Commercial Street donated by Captain Lafayette Balch, Steilacoom’s founder.