A place called Home: Defiant history, unique community, beautiful

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Early morning mist over Von Geldern Cove in Home, Wash.

Home, Wash., a little hamlet near the southern tip of the Key Peninsula, has always had a spot in my heart. When Meg and I drove out to see the property we eventually bought, I was taken by the beauty and unique sense of community of Home.

This unincorporated area of Pierce County sits on the banks of Von Geldern Cove and is at the crossroad to Herron Point and Longbranch, Wash. It has a colorful history and a defiant sense of style. I guess its free-thinking ways is rooted firmly in its history.

Even early on, Home’s cooperative arrangement among homeowners in the community frustrated tax assessors in Tacoma. In 1897, according to written accounts by Stella Retherford and Simon Priest, “the first three families entrusted their original 26 acres to the newly incorporated ‘Mutual Home Association.’ The Dadisman family added 64 acres in 1899. The association provided two acre plots for use by newcomers, but retained ownership of the land as a way to significantly reduce the tax burden of landowners.”

This move to skirt tax assessment laws infuriated the leadership in Tacoma. The mistrust this engendered never really waned through the years.

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“These extremely radical viewpoints put Home on the map as a ‘colony of anarchists,’ ” writes Retherford and Priest. “When President McKinley was assassinated in 1901 by a professed anarchist, Tacoma newspapers and churches called for an end to the Home community.”

In 1921, the Mutual Home Association was dissolved by a court order and the state legislature made cooperative land holdings illegal. Plots were then sold back to the residents and Home became just like the other communities on the Key Peninsula.

Today, the Key Peninsula has a population of 16,721 according to the 2010 census. It is also in the midst of a housing boom that is reflected in the 2.1 percent increase in new homes built since 2000. The peninsula is also seeing more educated residents moving south of the Purdy sand spit.

A passage in the writings of Retherford and Priest sums up this defiant little hamlet: “Working in the collaborative spirit, early Home families quickly built a community of houses, stores, social halls, hotels, schools, post office, telephone exchange, and baseball grandstand. A long tradition of alternative publications espousing the Home resident’s philosophies have been printed from Home and distributed all over the United States and parts of the world. Newspapers, books, and public lectures regularly addressed topics like: freedom of speech, world affairs, workplace conditions, equal rights, marriage enslavement, women’s suffrage, free love, diet, yoga, music, drama, emancipation, open religion, atheism, agnosticism, and lifelong learning.”

A spectacular sunrise burning through a thick fog on Von Geldern Cove.
A craftsman’s work shed on the bank of Von Geldern Cove.
A horse in a pen along the Key Peninsula Highway that cuts through Home, Wash.
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The swollen bank of the bay laps up on the sea wall along A Street in Home, Wash.

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