In the 1960s in Olympia, the lumber business was booming. Neil McKay was the mayor of a city rapidly expanding to accommodate its growing population. Ken Stormans was a local grocer seeking some land to build a home for his young family.
One sunny afternoon, Ken and Lynn Stormans took their five-year old son Kevin out for a day of fishing on Ward Lake. As they fished for rock bass and bluegills, Lynn Stormans remarked, “Wouldn’t this be a wonderful place to live!” It was not long after that fateful day that the Stormans learned that the land had been purchased and was being platted for a new neighborhood by Virgil Adams and his company Holiday Investments. Virgil had developed the nearby neighborhoods of Woodcrest and Forest Hills. A lot in the neighborhood between Cain Road and North Street cost a mere $4,000-$5,000 in 1962.
“The City of Olympia expanded the water system to include Holiday Hills,” shared Dennis Adams, son of the late Virgil Adams. “It was still in the sticks back then.”
“I think we were the first people on his doorstep,” joked Lynn Stormans. They selected two side-by-side lots on the southwest side of the lake and built the home that they live in to this day. Their home was one of the very first two houses built in the neighborhood that would be named Holiday Hills.
Their house was completed in 1965 and as more people moved into the neighborhood, a strong community developed. Every resident of Holiday Hills has access to the public beach and ball fields that were included in the neighborhood plan. Lynn fondly recalls the many afternoons spent at the beach playing games and swimming with neighbors who had become friends. “We had a barbecue on the beach every Friday afternoon,” says Lynn. When the weather turned to rain, the gatherings took place inside their homes with multiple bridge clubs and playdates for the kids.
Over the past 50 years, many of the houses have changed hands and the days are a little quieter, but you can still hear the shrieks of joy from kids hitting the water after jumping off the community dock on a warm summer afternoon. Patricia Petersen and her husband Dana, a beloved local pediatrician, moved into their home in the Holiday Hills in 1994. “We moved to Holiday Hills because we wanted our kids to have a safe place to run and throw the ball around,” explains Patricia Petersen. The Petersens live in one of the first homes in the neighborhood, built by well-known builder George Sten. George Sten lived in the house while he developed and built another nearby neighborhood, Sten Village located off Yelm Highway.
Sten was a prolific builder with a signature style, the Petersens’ home includes a very unique round fireplace. Patricia was surprised to see the same one-of-a-kind round fireplace while visiting a friend on Steamboat Island. Turned out that she was in the summer home of the same George Sten.
Holiday Hills is located within walking distance of three schools. A child can start out in kindergarten at Pioneer Elementary School, move on to Washington Middle School, and finish out their high school years at Olympia High School all within one mile of each other. The community includes a soccer field, a baseball field, and – the crown jewel – a swimming beach at Ward Lake.
Holiday Hills is different than many other planned communities because residents were not required to use a single builder. The result is a large variety of homes with different styles, sizes, and decor. This diversity is just one of the many reasons that the Petersens love their neighborhood.
Patricia Petersen serves on the Holiday Hills Neighborhood Association. “We don’t have any rules about uniformity or keeping up appearances,” explains Patricia. “We simply maintain the ball fields and the community beach making sure that the access is safe and available for all. The association plans a holiday party and a summer picnic harkening back to the weekly barbecues of years past. Patricia appreciates the laid-back approach to community rules. “We don’t dictate paint colors,” adds Patricia. “We just ask that residents join in the annual beach clean-up, which benefits us all.”
Holiday Hills is bordered by North Street and Cain Road just a stone’s throw from Olympia High School. It is connected underground via springs to nearby Hicks Lake. The lake is stocked annually with hatchery rainbow trout and boasts a large population of naturally producing largemouth bass, bluegills, sunfish, and trout. Public access for fishing is available via the WDFW water access site located on 42nd Avenue SE. For more information on Ward Lake and fishing access, click here.