The Story of the Curran Apple Orchard
The Curran Apple Orchard is a beloved park in University Place attracting thousands of residents and visitors each year. The orchard began in the early 1950s when Charles and Mary Curran purchased the property to build a home for their growing family. Mr. Curran planted apple trees after admiring an orchard in Eastern Washington. He used dynamite to blow out stumps and clear blackberries so he could plant 250 apple trees. During the same time, noted architect Robert Price designed the house which is undergoing renovation by the UP Historical Society for a future museum. Before cityhood in 1995, University Place was a rural area filled with orchards, horses grazing in fields and only a few hundred residents. Charles and Mary Curran continued to live in the orchard bringing up their three children along
with several horses, dogs, two Siamese cats and cattle including one steer, who was so good looking, they called him “George R. Curtis.” Along with their full-time jobs (Charles a Continental Baking Driver and Secretary-Treasurer of the Local Teamsters Union and Mary was Director of Personnel at UPS), the Currans were deeply committed to their community. Charles was a Rotarian and served on the UP School District Board for 28 years. Mary was active in PTA and preschools. Yet the creation of the orchard became their greatest contribution to the community. People would stop by and purchase apples from Mr. Curran while children walking home from school enjoyed visiting the horses and feeding them apples. At times, it was hard to tell who loved the apples more….people or the horses! The horses loved the apples so much that the Currans fenced them in when the trees were producing. The horses also loved the mash from the cider press in the fall and would come running when they heard the process underway.
The Curran horses were quite the neighborhood attraction.
“When the Curtis Band would practice, the horses thought it was time for a parade and they would gallop around the orchard,” Mary recalled. “Many young neighbors would also come to watch the horses and ask for rides.” One year, Mary received a phone call at work saying the horses had left the orchard and were prancing past Curtis High School. Son, Chuck Jr., then herded them back home using their jeep. After development started to occur around the orchard, the UP Community Council approached the Currans for permission to submit a grant to preserve the orchard. In 1993, the UP Community Council obtained the Pierce County Conservation Futures Grant to preserve the home and orchard forever. The newly formed City of University Place later assumed responsibility for the orchard park and home.
Today, the orchard continues to bring people together with a variety of activities.