Tour heritage gardens and historic homes in a waterfront town

Steven R. Lorton

Peeking past the hedges and picket fences of Steilacoom,visitors see just a hint of Washington's oldest gardens. But comeSaturday, June 19, many of these gardens will be open to the publicduring "Celebrating Steilacoom Gardens: 1854-2004," a rareopportunity to stroll through rooted history.

Founded 150 years ago, Steilacoom is the state's oldestincorporated town. Of its oldest buildings, 32 are listed on theNational Register of Historic Places, including houses that look asif they belong on Nantucket, with fruit trees, spirea, rugosaroses, and plots of vegetables.

Even if you miss the garden tour, it's fun to explore the townon foot ― tour maps are available at many local businesses.Stop in at Bair Drug & Hardware (1617 LaFayette St.; 253/588-9668), built in 1895, for sodasand excellent milkshakes. Next, head to Puget Sound at SunnysideBeach Park on the town's north end. Wrap up the day with a steak orseafood dinner in the E.R. Rogers Mansion ($$$; 1702 Commercial St.; 253/582-0280) , built in1891.

INFO: To reach Steilacoom from Seattle, take I-5 south toexit 119 west and follow Steilacoom Rd. 7 miles. Tickets for"Celebrating Steilacoom Gardens" are $15; meet at city hall onLaFayette St. or Steilacoom Community Center (2301 Worthington St.) . For information about this andother garden-related events, call 253/964-6441.

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