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HomeEventsThe Fate of Sumner's Ryan House: A Community at the Crossroads

The Fate of Sumner’s Ryan House: A Community at the Crossroads


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The historic Ryan House in Sumner, Washington, has been at the center of a contentious debate. This emblematic structure, built in the 1850s and once home to Sumner's first mayor and postmistress, George and Lucy Ryan, respectively, was voted for demolition by the Sumner City Council.

Despite its rich history as the city's post office, town hall, library, and museum, the council decided to convert the land into a park, adhering to the original deed's stipulation that the space remains open to the public if the house were ever demolished.

The decision was made amidst concerns over the house's deteriorating condition and prohibitive repair costs, estimated at $2.2 million for full rehabilitation.

Community Opposition and Legal Challenges

However, this decision has not gone unchallenged. The Save Our Sumner Committee, alongside Nancy Ryan Dressel, a descendant of the Ryan family, filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging violations of state law in the decision-making process.


The lawsuit argues that the demolition plan contradicts city-approved comprehensive plans aimed at preserving historic resources and accuses the city of failing to consider the public interest in the fate of this nationally designated historic resource. The demolition has been paused pending the outcome of legal proceedings, highlighting the community's split between preserving heritage and adapting to modern needs.

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Historical Significance and the Preservation Effort

Adding depth to the discussion of historic preservation in Pierce County, the story of the Holy Rosary Church in Tacoma provides a parallel narrative of community efforts to save local landmarks. Established by German Catholic immigrants and designed in the Gothic revival style, Holy Rosary has been a significant part of Tacoma's skyline since its cornerstone was laid in 1920.

Historical Significance and the Preservation Effort

After safety concerns led to its closure, the Save Tacoma’s Landmark Church group formed, raising significant funds for its restoration. This endeavor illustrates the potential of community mobilization in preserving historical sites, offering a glimmer of hope for the Ryan House.

The Future of Ryan House and Community Heritage

As legal battles unfold and community efforts continue, the future of the Ryan House remains uncertain. The case raises important questions about the balance between preserving cultural heritage and making pragmatic decisions for public safety and utility.

Regardless of the outcome, the saga of the Ryan House underscores the deep connections communities have to their historical landmarks and the lengths to which they will go to preserve their local heritage. The situation in Sumner reflects a broader conversation happening across the nation about the value of history, community, and the spaces we choose to save or let go of.

Save the Ryan House – Spaghetti Feed Benefit Dinner

Join us at Purdy's Public House in Sumner, WA, for a benefit fundraiser to save the historic Ryan House from demolition. Enjoy delicious all-you-can-eat spaghetti, garlic bread, and salad, while showing your support for this iconic institution. Help us raise funds for this worthy cause!

Date and Time: Sunday, February 25 · 4:30 – 6:30pm PST

Purdy's Public House & Arcade,

16202 64th Street East #Suite # 108,

Organized by: Friends of the Ryan House/Sumner Historical Society

Ticket Price: $25
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