Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thomas W. Malony

For many people interested in local history, Thomas Malony is better known in Tacoma than in Gig Harbor, although he retired to our town in 1922. I found his history interesting and he did leave a legacy in our community -- though not nearly as impressive as his public life in Pierce County.

Thomas held three acres of high-bank waterfront property on Soundview Drive, put together from a property purchased in his wife’s name in 1906 and some tidelands deeded to them in 1907 and 1911.

His reputation as a builder and dealer in real estate was apparent in the home he built on this property. It had a view of the Gig Harbor sandspit, Dalco Passage, and the Cascades beyond. In 1919 when Thomas was appointed to the position as Warden of the Federal Penitentiary on McNeil Island, the newspapers described him as “said to be an owner of considerable property.”

The property, with its splendid morning view was originally purchased as a fishing retreat and was primitive and exclusive. The original dwelling, quite small, was 100 steps up from the water. 

However, the large main residence was built well back from the road and down off the brow of the hill. It was this house that the Malonys moved into shortly before his retirement.

This style was consistent to the wooden two-story houses built in Tacoma during the first years of the 20th century for something between two and four thousand dollars. The structures were simple, similar to a child’s drawing, tall and box-like. The exteriors are where the owners’ individuality were apparent; the wooden trim, the placement of the windows, and the type of windows. In Malony’s house, he chose to support the broad roof of the main entry with white pillars.

Large but plain, this house had eight to nine rooms and a separate entry hall. Typically, wooden sliding doors allowed entry to the parlor and the dining room. The house was wired for one electric drop cord and the upstairs bathroom was plumbed. The quality of the house was displayed in its furnishings rather than the conveniences of the house itself. The kitchen contained a large comfortable cookstove in the kitchen and the beautiful furniture came from the Malony’s Tacoma homes.

Tom and Delia Malony and their two sons and two daughters arrived in Tacoma from Canada by way of Chicago in 1884. They lived in at least two homes in Tacoma, and one of their houses stood at 516 North J Street; the other eaten up in the Tacoma General Hospital expansion. From notes left behind by various family members it is clear that they greatly enjoyed the nearby Wright Park even in the wintertime during their years living in Tacoma.

Thomas once operated a shingle mill on an Old Tacoma site given to him by Allen C. Mason prior to 1890, his building and real estate activities seem most evident in print only after 1901. One of the houses he built during that period was at 409 N. Yakima. His Gig Harbor house reflects the same style that he used in his construction of houses in Tacoma.

He served as councilman for Sumner when it incorporated in 1891; then in 1905 the newly elected Mayor George F. Wright appointed him Tacoma’s Chief of Police. Although he ran for the office of Pierce County Assessor in 1898, he was not elected. In 1908 when his term as Chief of Police was up, his opponent in the County Sheriff’s election won more than double the votes he received.

A souvenir publication titled History of Tacoma Police Department, 1908 states “When Thomas Malony resigned as chief…there was general regret in the city, for his work had been effective and more criminals had been arrested and mysteries solved than under any other chief.” It continues to state “Under Chief Malony police business was good in Tacoma…” and gives him credit for the change from cramped offices in the Old City Hall to new and larger quarters. Thomas added a women’s ward and secured the appointment of the first police matron in Tacoma’s history, Katherine B. Creighton. He increased the number of officers as well as their pay.

Once he moved to Gig Harbor, he was rarely seen in the community, keeping himself occupied by his home and his property where he planted a large holly grove.

His wife, Delia, remained in Gig Harbor after Thomas’ death in 1929 until she died in 1942. One daughter married and moved to Portland, one son died in 1920. The two remaining unmarried children lived on in the big house in its secluded setting. 

The two, Minnie and Harry, cared for each other in illness and old age, gradually becoming quite reclusive. Minnie died in 1960 and Harry in 1964. The estate was then divided and the house sold.

In 1983 the house was burned in a controlled exercise by the Gig Harbor Fire Department. 

In 1986 the property was developed by Dolphin Reach Associates.

©  2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

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