LACEY - Two cultural resource specialists took to Lacey's streets last week to inventory about 1,100 homes built between 1946 and 1959, a defining era in the city's history that saw the return of soldiers from World War II and led up to its incorporation in 1966.
They were looking for 50 houses in rambler or traditional minimalist styles of the era for inclusion on a historic registry. The city will notify property owners if their homes qualify, Lacey Museum curator Amber Raney said. If homeowners choose to become part of the registry, they can get tax breaks if they maintain the home’s historical appearance when remodeling, she said. They also get a sense of pride from living in a historic home.
It has been 24 years since Lacey updated its inventory of historic properties. It can add only 50 homes this time around because of funding limits. The City of Olympia established a heritage register in 1983 that lists more than 200 properties, according to a city fact sheet.
Lacey contracted with the historic resource specialists from JBR Environmental Consultants Inc. Their work is being funded by a grant from the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. Walking along Seventh Avenue near Carpenter Road with maps, note pads and cameras in hand, Linda Naoi Goetz and Doug Tingwall from JBR began the task of identifying homes Thursday. They’ll make several more visits over the next two weeks.
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“That looks like one from the old advertising,” Tingwall said while taking notes in front of one rambler.
Of the first houses observed, several had been altered with additions such as metal garage doors and steeper roofs and thus weren’t eligible for the registry.
Studying post-war growth is important because that’s when development shaped boundaries for the city, setting the stage for incorporation, Raney said.
“The post-World War II era is huge for Lacey,” she said.
The study could reveal large clusters of homes that haven’t been changed much from their original designs, meaning some of Lacey’s neighborhoods could become historic districts, Raney said.
Ramblers, which are one story with rectangular rooms and low-pitched roofs, became popular for their practicality, Tingwall said.
“The rambler really represents the birth of the modern suburb,” he said.
The information gathered helps tell the story of the direction in which society was heading after the war, and the Lacey ramblers offer a glimpse into family life at the time, Raney said.
Women’s role in the kitchen increased after the war, evidenced by larger kitchens in homes. Homes also were built with dens for the men, she added.
“I think we’re kind of hoping there will be some big sections where things haven’t been changed so much,” Raney said. “It’s possible a lot of them are the same as when they were built.”