Inside Steilacoom

A look at life in this little-known Washington town

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 Setting: Steilacoom occupies only 2 square miles on Puget Sound. It's a popular bedroom community for Tacoma, a revitalized waterfront city 20 minutes away by car, and for the state capital of Olympia, 30 minutes to the south. Mountains tower all around: The Cascades, including Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens, lie to the east; the Olympic Mountains to the west.

 Attractions: High volunteerism, friendliness, and civic spirit characterize life here. Breathtaking sunsets punctuate the waterfront vista year-round. Steilacoom boasts 32 sites on the National Register of Historic Places. Shopping and entertainment in outlying areas are easy to access.

 Drawbacks: To some, the winter months seem excessively damp. The railroad that runs between town and the Sound limits shore access in many places and brings train whistles to the otherwise quiet town. Most shops and businesses are five miles away in Lakewood and University Park.

 Housing: An 1,800- to 2,000-square-foot home without a water or mountain view averages about $350,000. A vista can push the price up to $1 million. Newer subdivisions offer homes in the $600,000s. Condo prices run a little lower, but not by much. Monthly rentals range from $400 to $1,000 for a two-bedroom apartment, and $1,100 to $1,800 for single-family homes.

 Your next-door neighbors: Active-duty military from Fort Lewis Army Base and McCord Air Force Base, both nearby. A former member of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Teachers. Writers. Artists. Innkeepers. Airline employees. A gourmet supplier for Harry & David.

 How you'd spend your free time: Kayaking in Puget Sound. Day-tripping by ferry to neighboring Anderson and Ketron islands. Participating in community events. As of May 2007, golfing at Chambers Creek, a 27-hole Robert Trent Jones II course currently under construction.

(published December 2006)

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