Located near the center of the Key Peninsula, Key Center (map) is the major business center and crossroads going east, west, north and south.
Key Center opened for business in March 1932, a little over a year after the Key Peninsula itself got its name. On December 12, 1930, the Peninsular Business Men’s association, a group based in Vaughn, announced a contest to select a name of the still-unnamed peninsula. The winning entry, announced on January 21, 1931, was Key Peninsula, suggested by E. M. Stone of Lakebay who thought the peninsula was shaped like an old-fashioned skeleton key. The name was not officially recognized by the state’s board on geographic names until 1980 and by the the U.S. board in 19881.
On March 12, 1932, the Tacoma Daily Ledger reported that that in addition to an existing service station operated by I. James and a lumber and hardware store built by Alden Visell a few year earlier, the new business center featured several “modern stores” in including a grocery store operated by C. D. Hipp, a radio and electrical store run by John D. Edwin and a drugstore and coffee shop operated by I. James.
Visell’s Lumber & Hardware store in the 1960s. Key Peninsula Historical Society
A catastrophic fire in the early morning hours of February 4, 1970, destroyed the hardware and grocery stores and shocked the community (see The Night Key Center Burned in the February, 2020, edition of Key Peninsula News).
As early as 1967, work had begun filling in the slope of the gully opposite the stores. After the fire the work accelerated, and the hole left by the fire was soon filled in. By 1971 planning for the present-day shopping center and Key Center Corral was underway.
By 1972 Key Center was reborn; in addition to the corral early landmarks included the Huckleberry Inn, now El Sombrero restaurant, and the Key Center Tavern across the road in what later became O’Callahan’s. Today the busy locale is home to several businesses including a hardware store, a grocery store, a nursery, a bank, a branch of the Pierce County Library, a health center, restaurants, an auto repair shop, a post office and more.
Key Center is also home to The Mustard Seed Project, a senior resource center promoting independent living and quality of life for seniors residing on the Key Peninsula.