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A-Z History of Sumner, Washington - George Ryan

Provided in part by Daffodil Valley Times and the City of Sumner.

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George Ryan

George Ryan was an early resident of Sumner who was unusually entrepreneurial and inventive. He was responsible for a number of Sumner firsts.

  • He created its first general store, in rooms attached to his hop house.
  • He was hired by Henry Church and Will Thompson for $1,000 and another $25 monthly to develop Sumner’s first skating rink in 1882. Its first night of business was a wild success, but its novelty wore off quickly-Church and Thompson never paid Ryan more than $100 of the amount he was owed. The structure was used primarily as a public hall for political meetings, church services, Whitworth College commencement services, and performances. Ryan’s Hall, also known as the Ryan Opera House, later became a garage. It was torn down in 1963 because its south to north list made its floorboards spread and endangered pedestrians.
  • He build Sumner’s first train depot in 1873. The Northern Pacific Railroad was ending its line in Tacoma and had no plans to stop in the valley. Ryan found this unacceptable, and took steps to remedy the company's error. He erected a depot across the street from what is now Sumner Animal Grub, covering the costs of construction and a year's worth of salary for the stationmaster out of his own pocket. Northern Pacific later reimbursed him for his expense, and the depot became a significant spur to Sumner's economic growth.
  • He established the Sumner Lumber Company in 1883, which logged 5,000 acres of land in an area east of Sumner.
  • He filed the first plat of the city.
  • He owned Sumner’s first telephone, installed in 1887, which connected his mill to his home.
  • He built its first brick building in 1890. The Ryan Building housed the offices of Sumner Lumber, Light and Water Company, the State Bank of Sumner, a doctor, and a dentist, plus the post office, a barber shop, and a store. The city council had free use of a meeting room. In the business district fire of 1895 the structure became a sort of wall that prevented the blaze from spreading to Sumner's east side.
  • He was elected Sumner’s first mayor when the town incorporated in 1891
  • His home, Ryan House, became Sumner's first Library in 1926 and later its first (and only) museum

George and his wife, Lucy, had only five children: Harry Roger, Lewis David, Edith E., Charles Alexander, and Warren Wood. Many Ryan descendants continue to live and raise families in the Sumner area.

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Information on these pages is provided in part by Daffodil Valley Times Staff and The City of Sumner, Wa.

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