Neely Soames Homestead Heritage Garden

Neely Soames Homestead Heritage Garden

In 1996 the City of Kent approached the Master Gardener Foundation of King County to ask for assistance in restoring the acre of moribund gardens surrounding the Neely-Soames Homestead in Kent. The Neely house, built in 1884, is the oldest standing residence in Kent and it also was in need of preservation and restoration. King County master gardeners have been in charge of restoration and improvement of the garden since 1996, using no pesticides or herbicides.


David A. Neely and Irena Kemp Neely left Tennessee in 1853 due to health problems and an objection to slavery. Upon their arrival in the area in 1854, David and Irena built a log cabin on their 320 acre farm near the White River. Their son, David F. Neely, built the house in 1885 after their family outgrew the log cabin. Neely’s home served as the first post office in the Kent Valley. The river was used to transport mail and goods because the few existing roads were impassable during winter months.

Care is taken to ensure that Neely gardens represent historically appropriate plant materials. Flowers, vines, vegetables and trees are descended from plants grown before 1910. The grape arbor is covered with Ontario and Virginia Dare grapes, grown from cuttings taken from Fort Vancouver’s heritage garden. Summer and Fall crops are harvested and donated to area food banks.

Features of the Neely demonstration garden include:

  • Extensive herbal and medicinal garden
  • Native plant garden contained within a traffic circle
  • Perennial borders with labeled flowers and shrubs
  • Kitchen garden with varieties of heirloom tomatoes, spinach, beets, beans corn and squash
  • Hop and grape arbors that define the north and south ends of the kitchen garden
  • Composting center
  • Pear, apple, plum and cherry trees
  • Evergreen huckleberries
  • Spring and summer classes that demonstrate sound gardening practices

A coalition of community volunteers, Master Gardeners, and the City of Kent has created a heritage garden oasis that draws not only gardeners but people of all ages and interests. Both the Neely-Soames Homestead Heritage Garden and Neely house present a beautifully restored and graceful presence on Kent’s River Walk.

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