Some buildings are in danger because they are proposed for demolition, are suffering deterioration due to neglect, or are subject to potential redevelopment which would destroy significant historic features. Others are in the process of rehabilitation. Whenever appropriate, we also report success stories of creative adaptive re-use.
The Watch List evolves as conditions change. The list may include historic landscapes, commercial and residential properties, buildings with industrial character, buildings from the recent past, social and fraternal halls, and sacred places — all of which typify Tacoma’s past.
If you want to nominate a property to Historic Tacoma's Watch List, LEARN MORE. Finally, please *Share* this Watch List with others who are interested in historic preservation.
The buildings are some of the oldest commercial buildings in the Proctor District. 2520 – 22, built about 1909, is one of the oldest commercial buildings in the Proctor District at the important intersection where A.C. Mason’s Point Defiance streetcar turned from N. 26th St. on to N. Proctor. Its facade shows Stick style influences, especially the cornice. Initially the building housed Maclean Brothers grocery at 2518 from 1910 until 1923 while 2520 was home to several butcher shops, a garage and cycle shop. It became a single store for the Piggly Wiggly grocery from 1928 to 1934, followed by a Safeway from 1935 to 1945, and then Hogan's grocery until 1960. The odd ramp was to accommodate shopping carts. Western Auto located here from 1961-80, followed by Westgate TV from 1982-86 and then Ambrosia Florist was located here from 1988-97. It returned to two storefronts in 1996. 2512 and 2514 N. Proctor are modest 20th Century Commercial style buildings, both built by Rudolph F. Udovich. He built 2514 about 1937 for his Variety Store, located here from 1938 to 1942. Then it was Proctor Upholstery from 1949 to 1954 and became the Proctor House Restaurant in 1958. Udovich built the store at 2512 in 1952 for a Western Auto, which later housed the Puget Sound National Bank branch.
A demolition of these buildings has been proposed as part of a planned development on the site. The proposal to demolish this trio of modest one-story commercial buildings strikes at the heart of the historic Proctor business district. The proposal will have a deadening impact on the variety of uses and scale that currently mark the most important intersection of this lively district. The trio house a variety of uses that are complimentary to the business district and enhance that community for its residents and shoppers. Over the years, they have incubated small businesses and proven the adaptability and flexibility of their small footprints. These three low-rise buildings visually and architecturally reinforce the character of the district visually. The replacement of variety and history with monotype construction in this important location and at the scale proposed will have a major, negative impact on the character and appeal of the Proctor Business District. The building at 2520 – 22 is particularly important to the history of the district and has long been a visual feature of this corner. We’re particularly interested in locating historic photos of it from before 1960.
Please contact your City Council member and the Landmarks Commission ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) to voice your support for the preservation of these historic structures in Tacoma's Proctor District.
|Address||N Proctor St|
Listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places, the College Park Historic District is a residential area of modest homes built primarily before World War II, with an average construction date of 1924. The neighborhood exhibits a scale, setting and feel that speaks of the period in which it was built, working as a group of homes conveys unique feeling in place and time. It was developed during the peak in home construction and growth in Tacoma in the late 19th century up to 1960, and mostly between 1910 and the 1940s. The area was largely developed and shaped by the presence of three streetcar lines.
Following the outreach efforts of neighborhood residents and the gathering of signatures that began in 2018, the nomination of the College Park Historic District (CPHD) to the Tacoma Register of Historic Places was submitted in May 2021. This would be the first local historic district created in over a decade, 12 years since the Wedge Historic District was established. Though the COVID pandemic somewhat delayed consideration of the nomination by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), a substantial majority of residents within the proposed district supported the nomination, and it has since been a topic of discussion at some 10 LPC meetings along with two public information sessions. LPC took this approach to give extra time for people to participate in the process, learn about the proposed district and address misinformation. Following this extensive, open, and transparent process, LPC held a public hearing on February 9, 2022, where it received largely positive comments. Several members of the Tacoma Landmarks Commission voiced concern over the equity implications of establishing another large historic district in the north end of Tacoma and stated they would not support the nomination, despite acknowledging that it met the criteria set out in the Tacoma Municipal Code (TMC). Ultimately, on April 13, 2022, LPC voted 5-1 to forward a recommendation to the Planning Commission to establish the College Park Historic Special Review District.
On May 4, 2022, the Planning Commission set June 1, 2022 for its public hearing on the nomination, however, there were several concerning comments by some Planning Commission members during that May 4 meeting.
Planning Commission members incorrectly claimed that the College Park Historic District would be incompatible with increasing housing density in the city and the plans for Home in Tacoma (HiT). Historic preservation does not prevent density—new construction is allowed in historic districts—rather historic preservation promotes the reuse of existing structures for more dense housing and requires that the development process considers historic character as a factor. The City Council, the Planning Department, the Landmark Preservation Commission, and even the Planning Commission itself has made statements that the HiT zoning plan is compatible with historic preservation and historic districts.
Some Commissioners indicated that College Park wasn’t a priority for city designation because other areas of the city don’t have as many recognized landmarks or historic districts. Commissioners commented on the fact that designations depend on citizens submitting their own materials to the city rather than the city doing research to determine what should be designated. We agree that more resources—particularly more staff—should be given to the Historic Preservation Office so that more historic districts and landmarks can be recognized, including those that represent a more diverse range of communities and histories. Denying the College Park designation will not correct this very real deficit in the historic preservation program of the city.
Some Planning Commissioners also went so far as to claim that National Register and Washington Heritage Register statuses of the CPHD are insignificant because “it’s easy and everyone that applies gets it,” despite the fact that National Register status is typically more difficult to achieve than city register status because there must be demonstration of correlation to a broader history than just local history. There were also comments that there were errors or incorrect information in the nomination, but no citations as to what those alleged errors were. These statements ignore the rigorous amount of analysis from staff at the Washington State Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation (DAHP), subsequent review and analysis by the Washington State Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, as well as city staff review during the current nomination process. Furthermore, DAHP lauded the College Park nomination as one of the best and well-documented it had ever received and considered.
Several of the Commissioners also indicated that historic preservation is not valuable because it seals everything in a “glass dome”—this is incorrect and perpetuates ideas that are out-of-date and not in alignment with current historic preservation philosophy and best practices. Historic preservation does not prevent change, but rather manages change in balance with recognizing other community values such as historic character and sustainability (the greenest building is the one that is already built). The best way to achieve historic preservation is by using and maintaining (dare we say loving?) historic structures—not freezing them in time. Historic buildings and districts can and should be active, dynamic, and vital parts of healthy cities.
Listen to the May 4 Planning Commission meeting comments, as well as the May 26 Information Session (see links in the sidebar), then plan to speak or send written comments supporting the College Park Historic District's designation as a Tacoma city landmark at the public hearing scheduled for June 1st. Written public comment will be accepted until Friday, June 3.
The church building has suffered from a long stretch of deferred maintenance until 2011 when some maintenance was done. However, it’s believed that some of that work may have resulted in water intrusion. In October 2018, a chunk of plaster fell from the ceiling into the choir loft. After several assessments, the Archdiocese of Seattle closed the building to the public, and the congregation now meets in the school auditorium. The Archdiocese has estimated that repairs will cost about $10 million dollars.
Currently members of the congregation are focusing on fundraising and applying for grants, such as The National Fund for Sacred Places, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in collaboration with Partners for Sacred Places.
In response to requests from community members, the Holy Rosary Church congregation has created a website for donations towards the repairs needed to save this historic building. If you would like to donate to the congregation's fundraising initiative, please visit Save Tacoma's Landmark Church.
On August 24, 2019 the Archdiocese of Seattle announced that it had decided to demolish the church.
|Architect||Lundberg & Mahon|
In 1909, developers West & Wheeler engaged architects M.P. Potter & Arthur P. Merritt to design a two story brick commercial building for the northwest corner of S. Market and S. 11th Streets where stables and a wood lot were located. Currently the building has lost its decorative cornice and original upper story windows. The ground floor had numerous retail spaces, today covered over with murals. The upper floor was the Merit Hotel in 1915 that would continue as a hotel or apartments into the 1990s.
In 1934 Aaron Robbins converted the dairy store on the alley (Court C) into Olympic Dairy Store & Ice Cream Parlor. His son Irvine, a Stadium High School student and cheerleader, worked in the shop. After serving in WWII, Irv would open an ice cream shop in Glendale, CA, with business partner Burt Baskin. They go on to make a fortune with franchised Baskin-Robbins ice cream shops.
From 1993 to about 1998, the building was home to Know Thyself Book Center, Tacoma’s African-American bookshop. From 1996 to 2005, the building housed Tacoma’s African-American Museum.
Merrit and Potter were both graduates of M.I.T. and both worked in Boston as draftsmen. Like many young, East coast architects, they headed west: Potter arriving in Tacoma in 1907 and Merritt in 1909. They worked together until 1913. Their first and best known work is the Tacoma Building at S. 11th and A St.
The building was purchased by Merit Building Partners LLC in 2018. Current plans call for it to be demolished to make way for 126 market-rate apartments.
|Address||951 Market Street (formerly 315 S. 11th Street)|
|Architect||M. P. Potter & Arthur P. Merritt|
Built and dedicated in 1916, the White Shield Home was a maternity home for young girls and women in need who often had nowhere else to turn. Located at 5210 S. State Street, it was designed by the architects Bullard & Hill, who also designed the old downtown YMCA building on Market Street. It became a nursing home in the 1950s, then again a home for unwed mothers in the 1960s, when it was known as Faith Home.
The White Shield Home was considered eligible for inclusion to the Tacoma Landmarks Register for its significant contributions to the development of Tacoma and also for its association with the work of two of Tacoma’s pioneering women physicians -- doctors Ella J. Fifield and Eva St. Clair Osborn. The home was a refuge to women marginalized by social mores of the Victorian-era. Doctors Fifield and Osborn, although known for their strong stance on prohibition, played important roles in championing women’s causes in Tacoma and the nation.
Though the building had been abandoned for several years, on April 23, 2019, the Tacoma City Council approved the addition of the White Shield Home to the Local Register of Historic Places.
Since the building was added to the Historic Register in 2019, the condition of the building and the property has steadily deteriorated.
If you have concerns about the condition of the building and the property and wish to report a code compliance issue, call TacomaFIRST 311 at (253) 591-5000 or may file report online (see link in the sidebar). You may also wish to contact the City's Historic Preservation Office.
|Address||5210 S State St.|
|Architect||Bullard & Hill|
Built in 1888 as the Brunswick Hotel, the building was originally located 312-14 East E Street and moved to its current location in 1907 to make way for the freight warehouses that are now known as Freighthouse Square. It is the oldest remaining building and longtime neighborhood icon in the Dome District. The upper floors remain remarkably intact from its days as a workingmen’s hotel with tiny rooms barely large enough for a single bed and a small washstand that open onto a large central lobby area around the stairwell and a shared restroom at the rear. Tradition has it that it operated as a bordello for part of its history. The first floor was home to a series of taverns and restaurants: Louie’s Place (1922-27), Severson & Connell Restaurant (1928-29), Connell & Foster (1930-42), Bill & Ted’s Tavern (1945-58). In 1959, Alfred G. Perella opened Alfred’s Restaurant that would last until 2001 and give the building its current name. The three-story, wood-frame building with paired, narrow windows. The somewhat Italianate cornice consists of a shingled, shed parapet followed by bands of decorative moldings. It is interrupted at the center with a projecting pediment with a sunburst decoration, and the projection is carried down the front façade set off by decorative boards. While the central entrance is retained, the first floor storefront has seen the most modification. About 2003, the building was resided with HardiePlank shiplap siding and the original window sashes were replaced. Luckily however, the original window frames were retained. In 2006, the East D Street overpass project left the building several feet below the Puyallup roadway.
Shifting proposals for the path of Sound Transit through the Dome District and a new bus turn around have raised concerns about threats to the Alfred’s building along with increased development in the neighborhood. Although not currently threatened with demolition, some earlier proposals suggested doing so. The good news is that the owner is interested in listing Alfred’s as a city landmark. Until that’s done, however, we’ll monitor the situation closely.
You can go to the Tacoma Dome Link Extension website (see links) and scroll down to the section “What would Link look like at the Tacoma Dome” to see the various proposals, some of which call for Alfred’s demolition. At the bottom of the page, you can send a comment to preserve Alfred’s.
Immediately adjacent to, and to the south of, the Union Depot/Warehouse Historic District, the Brewery District includes a number of properties of historic significance and design interest. The area is near the south end of the Thea Foss Waterway, near the spot where Nicolas Delin established his sawmill in 1852, home to the first Euro-American settlement in the area that later became New Tacoma.
Part of the district is protected due to Conservation District status; some individual properties are listed on the Tacoma Register of Historic Places. Historic District status was considered by property owners in mid-2001 and was revisited by the Hillside Development Council in approximately 2008. In 2012-13, the Brewery District was again in play during the South Downtown sub-area environmental impact study and planning process. Status as a Historic District would preserve the unique character of the district and should be considered for its potential economic and design implications.
The Hillside Development Council recommends a master development plan coordinated with plans and needs of surrounding districts and entities, developed with input from stakeholders. “Tacoma and this area have experienced an initial surge of development success but desperately need comprehensive planning, direction, promotion, entrepreneurial and governmental support for it to avoid stagnating and to continue to move towards what it could and should be.” For more information, download the 2001 Brewery District Steering Committee Final Report.
The Brewery District’s major threat and loss was Heidelberg. Since that time, the Nisqually Substation (Tree), JET Tools warehouse (7 Seas), and the Horizon properties have all been or are in the process of being rehabbed, and the City Barn is listed and has been partly restored.
|Address||bounded by S. 17th Street, S. Tacoma Way, A Street, Court F|
Once considered "the largest and most modern business block of the South Side (Tacoma Daily Ledger, 5-28-1916), the historic 1916 F. H. Horsfall Building in Tacoma's Lincoln District was designed by architect Emanuel J. Bresemann, credited with designing Steilacoom Town Hall and numerous Tacoma schools and homes. The Horsfall Building was once home to the Liberty Dance Hall, a Hogan's Super Market, and Ricono's Bargain Annex. The Horsfall name can also be found on the family plot in the Old Tacoma Cemetery. Architect Bresemann is also buried there.
The building is one of the few remaining commercial buildings from the earliest days of the historic Lincoln District. It represents the kind of early development that was key to the economic development of this vital commercial district on the eastside of Tacoma.
Following a fire some years ago, the upper floor apartments have remained unoccupied. The building is in need of structural maintenance and thus its future may be threatened. Additionally, its structural integrity was impacted in the mid-1990s due to infrastructure work done by the City. Many years of deferred maintenance have taken their toll.
|Address||801-809 South 38th St|
|Architect||Emanuel J. Bresemann|
Stanley T. and Frederic J. Shaw designed this Gothic Revival style church, dedicated in 1923, as a community gathering place. The social hall was originally open every night of the week. The business community of the Sixth Avenue District supported the church and helped the building committee raise funds. The Sunday school building originally housed 26 classrooms with a roof garden for social functions in the summer months. The auditorium was designed to house 400. The large tower over the front door is truncated but was originally designed to have a tall steeple.
Hector MacLaine made the complicated concrete stonework and window tracery for this building. This was the first time this type of complex work was produced in Tacoma; previous congregations sent to other cities for the molds. MacLaine made more than 200 different molds, each turned with carpenter hand tools. A native of Scotland, Hector was trained as a shipwright. The building was constructed at a cost of $85,000, the largest project undertaken by the Shaw partnership. The building now houses Trinity Presbyterian Church. It is not listed on any historic registries.
|Address||1619 Sixth Avenue|
|Architect||Stanley T. and Frederic J. Shaw|
In 1924 noted Tacoma architect Roland Borhek designed this handsome Colonial Revival house for William C. Hobart. The 2 ½ story, frame house with shallow hipped roof and wide eaves illustrates the exaggerated Georgian details common of high-end Colonial Revival (sometimes called Georgian Revival) houses. The massive round arch with decorative brackets and large side lights set in a projecting center section creates an elaborate portico entry. At the second story, the center section recesses with a decorative metal balustrade and a triple window. One-over-one, double hung windows of varying sizes and configurations with oversized lintels add to the decoration. The house is a contributing structure in the Stadium-Seminary National Register Historic District; however, this designation is honorary and does not protect it. William C. Hobart was a longtime Tacoma timberman, president of Pacific National Lumber and associated with Henry McCleary Timber Co. By 1933, John P. Weyerhaeuser, Jr. of the noted timber empire moved to this house. Famously, on May 24, 1935, John’s son, George, age 9, was kidnapped off the street and a $200,000 ransom demanded. Coming only three years after the Lindbergh kidnapping, the event received worldwide attention. The kidnappers were caught, and George recovered. Needlessly to say, the Weyerhaeuser’s did not continue at the house, and by 1940 it was converted to apartments. The house has been added to over the years, especially at the east and north elevations, but the primary facades along N. 4 th and N. E Streets retain remarkable integrity despite the conversion. Roland E. Borhek (1883- 1955) attended Lehigh Univ. and worked for architect A. Warren Gould of Boston. He followed Gould to Seattle in 1905. In 1908 Borhek came to Tacoma and joined the noted firm of Heath & Twichell. While with them he designed First Church of Christ Scientist (902 Division). He started his own firm in 1910, which would continue until his retirement in 1942. Noted buildings include the Rialto Theater (310 S. 9 th ) Jason Lee Middle School (602 N. Sprague) and the Walker Apts. (405 6th Ave.).
The house is currently for sale along with plans for a 22 or 28 unit apartment building on the parcel, located behind the house. The parcel is located in an area zoned Residential Commercial Mixed Use (RCX) that allows buildings up to 60 ft. in height. Such a large building so close to the house would dwarf it. However, increased development pressure in the neighborhood may endanger the house itself.
We will continue to monitor the situation. Since the house is within the Stadium Seminary National Register District, it would receive minimal protection through the proposed Demolition Review ordinance currently before the Tacoma Planning Commission. We urge you to voice support for the proposed ordinance (one of the Historic Preservation Code Amendments) at the public hearing on May 15 (Council Chambers, 5 pm) or send an email by May 17 to email@example.com.
|Address||420 N. 4th Street|
This one-story, brick building with its stepped parapet and (originally) three store fronts is a classic example of the Early 20th Century Commercial style that was so common in small neighborhood commercial districts across the country. Designed by Tacoma architect E. J. Bresemann in 1923, it was built for Michael W. Marush. Over the years the stores would house bakeries, barbers, restaurants, tailors, and taverns.
Michael Marush emigrated from Croatia in 1900 at the age of 12. Like many of Tacoma’s Croatian community, he was a fisherman, operating the wholesale Marush Fish & Oyster Co. on Dock Street and a retail outlet in the Crystal Palace Market downtown. His son Mark, who lived at the building briefly, played tenor sax in the Fabulous Wailers rock band. Hiis daughter Alma would found a hospital in India.
This building along with its neighbor at 2521-25 has recently been acquired by X2 Brose Proctor LLC & Runrig Holdings LLC with the likely prospect of further high rise development.
|Address||2511-2517 N Proctor|
|Architect||E. J. Bresemann|
Built in 1925, this is classic example of an Early 20th Century Commercial style building with large display windows, brick pilasters and bulkheads, centered recessed door, full-span transom and decorative parapet. The earliest occupant appears to be a confectioner, and from 1929 to 1932 it was a Safeway Grocery. From 1935 to 1982, however, it was the Proctor Pharmacy. Most recently it was home to Backstage Video.
Backstage Video is one of the few remaining video rental stores in the region. With new apartment buildings going up and the recent sales of the buildings where Umpqua bank, Europa restaurant, and Jasmika dress shop are located, development pressure is very great in the business district.
|Address||3818 North 26th Street|
"The William Ross Rust House is a house in Tacoma ... built in 1905 for William Ross Rust, then President of the Tacoma Smelter and Refining Company. The house was designed by Ambrose J. Russell, who worked for Russell & Babcock with Everett Phipps Babcock, and was built by Charles Miller. Russell & Babcock also designed the Washington Governor's Mansion.
"It was built of sandstone from the Wilkeson sandstone quarry in Wilkeson, Washington. The building has a green, glazed terra cotta tile roof, 18 rooms, 4 baths, and 8 fireplaces. It was modeled after the John A. McCall Mansion in Monmouth County, New Jersey (built in 1903, destroyed by fire in 1927)." (source: Wikipedia)
It is on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as the WA State Register of Historic Places and City of Tacoma Historic Register, and is considered a "contributing property" for the North Slope Historic District (also on all three Historic Registers).
The Rust Mansion has long been under renovation by the previous owners, Edgar & Claudia Rombauer. However Mr. Rombauer recently passed away and Ms. Rombauer decided to sell the house. In December 2021, the Rust Mansion was bought by Ashley Burks in a private off-market sale. The Pierce County Assessor's website currently lists the house as owned by B&B Carwash LLC. Ms. Burks began large-scale exterior renovations almost immediately. Since then Ms. Burks has promoted her restoration efforts with a website and many news articles, which has never mentioned that the house is listed on the National, State and City Registers of Historic Places as well as being a contributing structure to the North Slope Historic District. This status requires renovation plans to be reviewed the City's Landmarks Preservation Commission, which so far has not happened. Also, no building alteration permits were applied for until early May.
As a result of inquiries to the City from community members, a Stop Work Order was issued by the City, but work on the exterior of the house continues (interior work requires no review). The contractor working on the house promised in early April to provide the Historic Preservation Office with a Design Review application but that has not been forthcoming. As of May 11, a permits request has been submitted but very little detail about the renovation work. Unapproved work is continuing.
While many, including Historic Tacoma, are looking forward to the restoration of the Rust Mansion, Historic Tacoma is decidedly worried about the owner and her contractor's continued lack of response to queries from the HPO. It is even more concerned that the City and the Historic Preservation Office have not been able immediately to stop the ongoing work on the house. This shows a near complete lack of enforcement of the City's historic preservation ordinance.
Contact the Historic Preservation Office at 253-591-5220 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and Code Compliance & Enforcement at 253-591-5000 to voice your concerns.
06/02/2022 - On May 25, 2022 staff from the City's Historic Preservation Office (HPO) provided an update to the Landmarks Preservation Commission on the status of the Rust Mansion. Permits had finally been submitted for the railing work. Staff reviewed the work that had taken place and determined from these submitted plans that it constituted repair, not replacement and there's no visual change. Additionally, staff indicated that clear parameters had been set with the applicant on what the approved work is. The railing permit is now issued and no additional work is anticipated. Staff reported that the applicant had finally provided information about paint and staff had verified that it's a historical palette and that there would only be painting of already painted surfaces. HPO staff indicated several times that Commissioners or members of the public are encouraged to let the office know if anyone sees anything that would raise other concerns. These positive developments have led to a change in the building's listing on the Watch List, moving it from "Threatened" to "On the Radar."
|Address||1001 N I Street|
|Architect||Ambrose J. Russell|
Tacoma architect Stanley T. Shaw designed this distinctive commercial block in the Italian Renaissance Revival style in 1928, apparently as a business venture for his father, Rev. R. P. Shaw. The building is of variegated brick with five bays across the front that were originally five separate storefronts, each with distinctive second floor detailing. Two bays are decorated with a triplet of round arches supported by Solomonic (twisted) columns. One has a now-enclosed loggia supported by delicate Tuscan columns. Another has four narrow windows above a terra cotta tiled canopy, and the last has a Dutch gable with two round arches. The store fronts, topped with a transom of arches and colonettes, have now been changed into a continuous display window. This commercial building is a remarkable example of the early 20th Century enthusiasm for revival styles of architecture. Perhaps Shaw was inspired by Ralph Adams Cram’s 1925 First Presbyterian Church (20 Tacoma Ave. S.) that is in the same style. For the last few decades, it was occupied by the Northwest Costume Shop.
In 2017 a fire caused major damage to the Northwest Costume Shop’s inventory as well as some interior building. Since 2018 the building and its large rear parking lot has been for sale. The building is not on any landmark registers, and the parcel falls within the 6th Avenue Mixed-Use Center.
The two brick buildings (5419 & 5421) that comprise Stonegate Pizza were both built between 1908 and 1909. Contractors William J. Hillyard & John C. Jensen definitely built 5419, and it’s likely they also built 5421, too, since they built several other commercial buildings along South Tacoma Way at this time.
The 5419 building is somewhat taller and features a extension parapet with brick dentil decorations, a inset signage panel across the parapet, belt courses, and two large windows. In 1969, architects Harris, Reed & Litzenberger received an award for their design of the circular brick infill of the original storefront for Southwell’s Schwinn Cyclery.
The 5421 building has a parapet with a decorative wood coping with end brackets and tile. The second story has two large windows in a stucco façade. The brick storefront has traditional large display windows and recessed entry below a façade-wide transom with brick belt course. This building was extensively renovated after being acquired by Stonegate.
In 2018, Historic Tacoma awarded Stonegate an award for its use of recycled materials in its renovations. It took two and half years to restore.
The Stonegate Pizza buildings are up for sale. The 5400 block of South Tacoma has a concentration of early buildings and has been the focus of attempts to create a historic district. We would hate to lose either or both of these buildings.
|Address||5419 & 5421 South Tacoma Way|
|Architect||William J. Hillyard & John C. Jensen (contrs.)|
The Tacoma Mausoleum, adjacent to Oakwood Cemetery, was designed by noted Tacoma architect George Gove and built in 1909. It was expanded in 1917 and 1919, and a major addition designed by Silas E. Nelson was built in 1926. Referencing an ancient Roman mortuary temple, it was the first such public mausoleum on the Pacific Coast and is the final resting place of many prominent Tacomans, including Henry Rhodes, William Rust and its designer, George Gove. It was placed on the Tacoma Register of Historic Landmarks in 1998.
New roofs are needed, especially on the older buildings. The second addition is closed to the public. A case was opened in 2016 with the city’s Neighborhood and Community Services division. However, it does not appear that the problems have been addressed.
The major post-WWII challenge to American school systems was simply the huge increase in students. The huge growth of Tacoma’s port and nearby military bases was part of this national trend. Locally, the April 13, 1949, earthquake damaged many of Tacoma’s older school buildings. Both Lowell and Whitman were demolished and replaced by new buildings.
The need to quickly build and expand schools meant that cost, more than in other eras, was the driving factor. Architectural tastes had also changed. Previous Revival styles, like Tudor and Gothic, were expensive and seemed out of step with modern, progressive values. Easy to build, easy to expand, and inexpensive was the ideal, and the new International Style fit the bill. The style was named after a 1931 exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art that showcased works by well-known European architects Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and Walter Gropius. Known for its flat roofs and glass or brick walls with no ornamentation, it was sleek, geometric and rigorously utilitarian: “machines for living” in Le Corbusier’s famous quip.
In 1951 the International Style Whitman School was the largest elementary school in Tacoma, with 18 classrooms, a gymnasium, and other facilities. The main form of the poured-concrete, flat-roofed building is a U, with a substantial extension located on the western end. The building is a series of low rectangles, the horizontal massing broken only by a tall “fin” towards the center of the main façade. Windows are banked in long rows, typical of the ribbon window pattern seen in International Style modern buildings. Changes to the exterior have been minimal, and it has excellent integrity. The windows were replaced in a 2003 remodel with units that are period appropriate. Whitman was placed on the Tacoma Register of Historic Places in 2012.
The architects, Charles W. Lea, Jr, Charles T. Pearson, and John G. Richards, emerged from the legendary firm of Heath, Gove and Bell to form a partnership in 1937 that lasted until 1984. Lea was born in Tacoma but grew up in Seattle. Pearson and Richards both graduated Stadium High School. All attended the University of Washington. Notable works by the firm include: Tacoma Savings & Loan Association (1956), Central Lutheran Church (1957), Trinity Lutheran Church, Parkland (1958), the Swasey Branch of the Tacoma Public Library (1960), Kilworth Chapel at the University of Puget Sound (1966), and United Mutual Savings Bank (1973).
From the Historic Register Nomination:
"Charles Winthrop Lea, Jr. was born in Tacoma in 1903, but grew up in Seattle. He received his education at the University of Washington, University of Pennsylvania, and New York University. He worked as a draftsman in various architecture firms in Philadelphia and for the New York firm of Delano & Aldrich before returning to Tacoma in the early 1930s. Lea was known for his residential projects and was praised by his peers for his special talent with Colonial details. In 1937 Lea formed a partnership with Pearson and Richards that lasted until 1984. The firm specialized in the design of banks, churches and high-end residences."
"Charles T. Pearson was a native of Chicago who moved to Tacoma as a child in 1919. He attended Stadium High and earned a degree in architecture from the University of Washington in 1931. Pearson worked for Heath, Gove and Bell in the early portion of his career. Pearson was made an AIA fellow in 1973, and retired from architecture in 1984."
"John Greenway Richards was the founder of one of oldest architectural firms in state. From Waltham, Massachusetts originally, Richards moved to Tacoma as a child in 1920. He graduated from Stadium High School and then attended the University of Washington, earning his architectural license in 1932. Like Pearson and Richards he became an associate of Heath, Gove & Bell."
The Tacoma School Board is considering requesting that Whitman Elementary be removed from the City’s Local Register of Historic Places and demolished. As one of the few Register landmarks in southeast Tacoma as well as one of the few listed mid-century modern buildings, demolition would be a terrible blow.
These several blocks fall within the Stadium - Seminary National Register Historic District and contain some wonderful examples of early Tacoma residential architecture by some of our city's most noted architects. The houses represent some fine examples of Queen Anne, Shingle, Chalet, Mission and Colonial Revival house styles. Here is just a sample:
N. Yakima Avenue:
North G Street:
N. Tacoma Avenue:
These several blocks are currently zoned R-4L (Low density multi-family) and many of the large houses here are now apartments. That designation has not prevented some muddled conversions, but the height limit of 35 ft. has limited demolition. However, this area is slated to be rezoned to R-4 Multifamily with maximum height of 60 ft. That greatly increases the development pressure and the likelihood of demolition. It means the city’s urban plan is to see the remaining houses replaced with three-story apartment buildings. Combined with blocks already zoned for 60 ft, more than 33% of the Stadium-Seminary National Register Historic District would be endangered. This would be a very sad loss for the city and this neighborhood.
We will continue to monitor the situation. You can also send comments to the Planning Commission regarding the proposed up-zone at email@example.com. The public hearing on the up-zone is scheduled for May 1st and you can get more information HERE.
On 09/24/2019, the Tacoma City Council adopted zoning recommendations for these houses (or area) that left their R-4L zoning unchanged, consequently they are currently not threatened by higher density. Additionally, a Demolition Review ordinance was adopted at the same meeting. Since these blocks fall within the Stadium-Seminary National Register District, requests to demolish any of the contributing houses will have to be reviewed by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which offers some additional protection.
The house at 1219 South 13th Street was built by contractors Benjamin F. Wood and David Garrett in 1887 and is a remaining example of the initial settlement of Tacoma’s emerging Hilltop neighborhood. It was built for William H. and Alida G. Jones, who lived here from 1888 to 1892. However, its major significance comes from it being the longtime residence of Henry Joseph and Nettie Craig Jones Asberry from 1903 until 1966. The Asberrys were among the early leaders of Tacoma’s and Washington’s emerging African-American community, and Nettie Asberry would play a pivotal role in early 20th Century civil rights in Tacoma and the Pacific Northwest. The yard is included in this nomination since it was the setting for many of Nettie Asberry’s recitals and other cultural activities. In 1903 Henry and Nettie Asberry bought the house from Charles E. Gibson and his wife for $1,500. Henry was the proprietor of the Tacoma Hotel barbershop, one of the most prestigious in town, from 1892 until hotel burned in 1935. He died at the house in 1939. Nettie taught music in her music room in the house until ~ 1955 and would continue to live there until 1966. She died in 1968 at the age of 103. The house was the location not only of Nettie Asberry’s music teaching but the yard was often the location for her students’ recitals and concerts. The house was the location where Nettie organized the Mozart Club, a youth music appreciation club. In 1908 it would be where she organized the Clover Leaf Club, which would earn a gold medal for best women’s exhibit at the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle. The Clover Leaf Club would eventually be renamed the Tacoma City Association of Colored Women’s Clubs that exists today. The house was the location for much of Henry and Nettie’s civil rights organizing, such as organizing protest meetings against President Wilson’s racial segregation of federal workers and drafting the charter for the Tacoma NAACP chapter. In later years, Nettie taught Black history to local children here.
The Tacoma City Council unanimously approved a resolution on Tuesday, January 4, 2022 naming the Nettie J. Asberry Home as a local landmark. It is now on the City's Historic Register.
|Address||1219 S. 13th St|
|Architect||Benjamin F. Wood and David Garrett (carpenters)|
Historic Tacoma nominated the 1910 building to the Local Register of Historic Places and it was officially listed on the Register in 2014.
The building is currently occupied by Tacoma Street Maintenance. The 2010 Brewery District Development Concept Study and the South Downtown Sub-Area Steering Committee both identified the City Shops & Stables as the centerpiece for a potential catalyst project for the neighborhood. It was also identified as a possible site for a historic-preservation-oriented Public Development Authority.
This Gothic structure is built with brick and faced with Tenino sandstone, arched windows with stained glass, and a bell tower. The interior features oak woodwork, a pipe organ, rooms for social events, a library, and gymnasium. The educational wing was added in 1928. The congregation first gathered in 1873 in a tent in Old Tacoma, moving to a wooden structure erected on St. Helens Avenue in 1883. The cornerstone for this building was laid on September 5, 1907, and on October 11, 1908, the first services were held.
The church members have been active in the community from the congregation’s founding. They introduced the Tacoma Public Forum, which were evening events featuring speakers, including poet William Butler Yeats, with discussion and debate following. The Tacoma Little Theatre, originally known as the Pilgrim Players, started here in the 1920s. The church was used as a dormitory during World War II, housing and feeding soldiers while they were in town. From 1949-1953, the Crippled Children’s School was housed in the basement. In April 1950, the congregation founded the Mayflower Center which concerned itself with the well-being of those over 60 years of age and provided social activities and entertainment on Fridays. In the 1960s, the congregation developed and housed Tacoma’s first food bank.
In late 2013, the Mars Hill Church purchased the building and invested approximately $1 million on repairs and improvements; they re-opened for services in December 2013. Mars Hill disbanded in October 2014. The congregation decided to continue as an independent group; in July 2015 the building was sold and is currently serving its congregation as Resurrection Church.
The property is not currently listed on the National, State or Local Registers of Historic Places.
|Address||209 South J Street|
|Architect||George W. Bullard|
J.L. Wetherby established the Royal Dairy in 1899. For many years the firm’s location was in the 900 block of A Street. In 1927, the company, then run by Bert Walker and George Turnbull and known as the Royal Ice Cream Company, erected this building. The firm changed its name again in 1928 to Medosweet Dairies. It operated under this name until 1960, at which time Foremost Foods bought the company. A shipping and loading dock originally extended the length of the main building in the rear. In the 1960s, a cold storage room and new loading dock were built on the east side of the building, and the Pacific Avenue façade was extended to cover two small adjoining buildings.
While the property faces no known or imminent threat, the property is not currently listed on the National, State or Local Registers of Historic Places. Such a listing would provide the building a greater chance of historic preservation.
After sitting derelict from 1983 until 2010 the building was sold to the 2413 Pacific Avenue Limited Partnership. Seattle developer American Life Inc. then renovated the property and secured a LEED Gold Certification for green building. It is now called the Foremost Dairy Building. A Social Security Administration office occupies the second floor.
|Address||2413 Pacific Avenue|
Hoyt Elementary School, constructed in 1957, is affiliated with Washington Elementary in Tacoma’s Proctor neighborhood. The school was named in honor of Nell Hoyt. Ms. Hoyt was president of the first state convention of the Mothers’ Congress and Parent – Teachers’ Association, which was held in Tacoma in 1911. She is widely known as the force behind the national pre-school movement, which was started here in Tacoma. Her husband was Elwell Hoyt, a druggist who served on the Tacoma School Board from 1912-1918. Hoyt is a four-classroom satellite, built when plans for an addition to Washington proved too costly and time consuming. Much like Washington and its famous “Unit School” plan by architect Heath, Hoyt employed a new twentieth century type of standardized plan developed by Tacoma architect Robert B. Price. Together the two schools (collectively known as Washington-Hoyt) showcase changing technological and cultural trends in a unique way. Price was one of six nationally-known architects selected by the Tacoma-based international company, the Douglas Fir Plywood Association (now the Engineered Wood Association) to create architectural plans showcasing their products. The Tacoma School District benefited from this arrangement because the Douglas Fir Plywood Association paid architect and engineering fees for Hoyt. Hoyt School was the first utilization of the plan, which offered a tremendous amount of flexibility and cost savings from standardization. Each classroom, including the skylight roof, was an integral unit. Although currently painted gray, period photos show a polychromatic paint scheme complete with a mural for the children. The petite scale of the structure, innovative layout and colorful walls were praised for their ability to catch “the vision of the imagination and the inquisitive spirit of young children.” The building was extraordinarily well publicized, and received a Merit Award from the South West Washington Chapter of the AIA (1962), and the “Nation’s School of the Month Award” from the National School Association (1964). The design was so well received that it represented American ingenuity in school design internationally as well. In 1959 a scale model of the school was showcased at an architectural exhibition in Moscow (USSR). The American Plywood Association also heavily promoted the design through their publicized research project “Schools of the Future.”
As part of a group nomination, Hoyt was nominated to the Tacoma Register of Historic Places by Historic Tacoma in early 2014 and added to the Register, by resolution of City Council, on October 28, 2014. Currently the Tacoma School District has done extensive renovation of the buildings and restored its original paint scheme. Currently it operates the Hoyt Early Learning Center at the site. The building has been removed from our Watch List.
|Address||2708 North Union Street|
|Architect||Robert B. Price|
The original 12-room concrete building (the first concrete school building in Tacoma, with additions in 1957 and 1969) commands a striking view of Mount Rainier. The architect was Frederick Heath, one of Tacoma’s foremost architects, who also redesigned Stadium High School, a number of Tacoma’s great churches, and many other Tacoma projects. This two and a half story building shows Romanesque influences with a stucco exterior and keystoned arched windows on the second story. The paneled rosette adorned cornice is protected by a large hipped roof.
The school served a diverse neighborhood of largely working class immigrants. Polish immigration into Pierce County began in the 1890s and was centered in this neighborhood. By the 1920s a large community had settled in the vicinity of Portland Avenue. The close proximity of this neighborhood to the City Waterway and developing tideflats enabled people to walk to work in the rail yards, lumber mills and Cartsen’s slaughterhouse. The cohesiveness of the group is reflected in their meeting hall, church and stores along Portland Avenue that were Polish-owned and -operated.
While Rogers Elementary faces no known or imminent threat, the property is not currently listed on the National, State or Local Registers of Historic Places. Such a listing would provide the building a greater chance of historic preservation.
The school was closed in 2002 and sold by the Tacoma School District to a church. In June 2013, the property was again sold at auction, in two parcels (the school and the adjoining playground), to Janet Lau of Mercer Island. The site is 3.7 acres and is zoned for commercial use.
A subsidiary of Pacific Charter Schools Development (PCSD) has taken a long term lease on the building; they are subleasing to Green Dot Public Schools WA State. Green Dot will operate a public charter school in the building.
Historic Tacoma understands that with the assistance by Korsmo Construction, PCSD has done a sensitive exterior renovation of the older building with minimal exterior changes while substantially remodeling the interior.
The first McKinley School opened in 1906 at East H and Columbia Streets, and was named for William McKinley, the 25th president, who was assassinated in 1901. Almost no primary source material has been found documenting the school. The present school was constructed in 1908 and is the best example of the American Renaissance style in the school district. This style is a variation of the Italian Renaissance Revival that was common in the U.S. from 1890-1930. The style loosely adapted designs and building massing from Renaissance palazzi. Common details are rectangular or square plans, low pitched hipped roofs, use of masonry or stucco, a stringcourse dividing floors, massive cornice, dentils or block modillions, a recessed entry, a raised basement, and full-length windows. The style is most frequently seen in commercial and public buildings. Its massive proportions usually preclude it from use in all but the most expansive residential structures.
Architect John Sutton designed the 1957-58 addition that wraps around the front and one side of the main building, providing seven additional classrooms, a new entry area, administrative offices, and an all-purpose room. The classroom extension on the north end was built on raised stilts providing a play area for children. Translucent panels on the roof provided light to interior corridor and portions of the classrooms.
In 1999 Tacoma artists Jim Robbins and Bob Henry painted an exterior mural on the south wall of the school. The two artists worked closely with McKinley students, the Eastside Neighborhood Council, and the Safe Streets Campaign. The painting highlights the theme of diversity, featuring Mt. Rainier, a heart-shaped globe, and a face divided into quraters with each piece showcasing different ethnic features. In 2005, the school district considered closing McKinley; parents fought hard against the potential closure and were successful in keeping the school open until its ultimate closure in 2011.
In a building survey conducted by the school district in 2010, McKinley was noted for its architectural and cultural significance and as being highly eligible for Register listing. As part of a group nomination, McKinley was nominated to the Local Register of Historic Places by Historic Tacoma in early 2014 and was added to the Register by City Council resolution on October 29, 2014.
The building was removed from Historic Tacoma’s Watch List following its listing on the Local Register of Historic Places. The building is no longer in regular use but is occasionally used as a “swing school” for students whose regular school is under renovation (e.g. Stewart Middle School students used McKinley from Fall 2015 to Spring 2016 while Stewart was being rehabilitated). It is currently being used as a transition school for Mary Lyon Elementary while it is undergoing renovations.
The neighborhood, former teachers and staff have expressed concern about the fate of the structure which serves as a neighborhood anchor at the intersection of McKinley and S. 38th Street.
|Address||3720 McKinley Avenue|
The three story hotel opened in 1913 and was designed by Tacoma architects Darmer & Cutting for the Pacific Brewing Company. The hotel underwent alterations in 1948; on the first floor, Babe Lafferty’s Cafe and Shamrock Room opened in 1951 followed later by the Cortina Villa Restaurant. The Cortina Villa suffered a fire in 1975 causing the hotel’s second floor residents to flee.
The first floor features red-painted concrete and the second and third floors are of dark brown-reddish brick.
09/02/2020 - The News Tribune reports that the building owner has completed extensive renovations of the building and repurposed it as affordable micro-unit apartments. The article may be viewed online; see our links. The building's Watch List designation is now changed to "Saved".
12/19/2018 - Historic Tacoma is still monitoring the situation and hopes the owners will list the building on the Local Register of Historic Places.
12/04/2020 - Historic Tacoma has listed the Merkle Hotel as "On the Radar" on its Watch List.
|Address||2407-09 Pacific Avenue|
|Architect||Darmer & Cutting|
Built in 1907, 2504 N. Alder is a well preserved two-story, hipped roofed American Foursquare. The extended bay windows at the second floor corners indicate that it’s a regional variant known as a “Seattle Box,” and perhaps based on a pattern from V. W. Voorhees’ Western Home Builder plan book. The full width porch has flat roof supported by Tuscan columns set on a low box rail. On the first story along N. 25th St. are two bays each with triple windows.
Built by 1909, this Colonial Revival house at 2506 N. Alder has a jerkinhead (or clipped) gable front and a bell cast roof. The gable features large boxed eaves with deep cornice returns accentuated by a curving bargeboard with wide overhangs. A variant Palladian window and 24-over-1 divided light windows add to the decoration. The full-width porch has a low hipped roof supported by Tuscan columns on a low box rail. It is an unusual example of exuberant early 20th Century house design.
The house at 2510 N. Alder was also built by 1909 and in the Colonial Revival style. It is side-gabled with a large front-facing dormer. The dormer features a broken-pediment gable with large boxed eaves with deep cornice returns accentuated by a curving bargeboard with wide overhangs. The full-width porch has a low hipped roof supported by square columns on a low box rail.
Edward D. Murphy was a prolific early home builder in Tacoma. He, his wife Cora and son Floyd would live at 2504 N. Alder from the time he built it in 1907 until 1913. It’s likely that he built all three houses. From 1917 until 1920, Charles L. van Amburgh and his family lived at 2504. A master machinist and inventor, van Amburgh received in 1919 his most important patent for the Tsungani alloy used in pistons and other engine parts. That same year he founded the Alloys Motor Parts Manufacturing Co. with a small factory located at 311 Puyallup Ave. Although he retired in 1921, the factory continued in Tacoma until 1964.
Paul Shaw and his family lived next door at 2506 N. Alder from 1909 until 1920. Shaw was president of Tacoma Dental and Photo Supply Co. located on Pacific Ave. His wife Narcissa was active in the Tacoma Ladies Musical Club and her family scrapbook with many clippings of the club is now in the WA State Historical Society.
John M. Frink, Jr., an accountant at Washington Rubber Co., lived at 2510 N. Alder with his wife Loucie and son John Jr. from 1909 until 1915. From 1916 until 1938, it was home to Peter and Nora Veborg, Norwegian immigrants. Mr. Veborg operated a jewelry store at 1147 Broadway.
These three houses are currently zoned R-2 (Single Family Residential), and none are currently for sale. While 2504 is a duplex, the other two houses are single-family. However, they are slated to be rezoned to R-3 Multifamily along with the Big Value Store across the street. There has already been some talk of a multifamily development encompassing the three houses as well as the store site across the street.
We will continue to monitor the situation. You can also send comments to the Planning Commission regarding the proposed up-zone at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On 09/24/2019, Tacoma City Council adopted zoning recommendations for these houses (or area) that left their R-2 zoning unchanged, consequently they are currently not threatened by higher density.
|Architect||E. D. Murphy|
Dominating the City’s skyline at the Foss Waterway, the Murray Morgan Bridge is listed on the Nationa, State and Local Registers of Historic Places. Key to the City’s urban development and Tacoma’s labor history, the bridge opened in 1913, linking the downtown, waterfront, and industrial tide flats. Designed by renowned bridge engineers Waddell and Harrington, the bridge was remarkable for the height of the deck, the overhead span designed for carrying a water pipe, and its construction on a grade.
In 1997 the bridge was renamed after Murray Morgan, a noted Washington historian. Once an important link in Washington’s highway system, the bridge’s statewide relevance diminished when Route 509 and a new bridge at 21st Street was opened in 1997.
Heightened safety concerns after the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis led the State DOT to close the Murray Morgan Bridge in October 2007. Officials agreed that a bridge was needed at this location as a critical piece of the infrastructure.
A number of groups have worked to preserve the Murray Morgan (11th Street) Bridge and return it to active use. In 2007 a coalition of community stakeholders, with support from federal and state legislators, worked for four years to negotiate the transfer of ownership to the City and assemble rehabilitation funding. Partners included the City of Tacoma, the Save Our Bridge advocacy group, Tacoma Historical Society, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, Historic Tacoma and the New Tacoma Neighborhood Council. The case was compelling and the bridge was named to the WA Trust’s 2008 Most Endangered Properties list.
While the bridge continued to deteriorate, State promises to give the bridge to the City were mired in disagreements related to cost and responsibility for deferred maintenance and rehabilitation. Funding was secured in late 2009, and the first phase of rehabilitation was completed in March 2010 with the bridge opened to bicycle and pedestrian traffic on March 30th. On January 4 2011, Tacoma City Council unanimously approved a purchase resolution that awarded a $49.2 million contract to fully rehabilitate the Murray Morgan Bridge and restore motor vehicle traffic to the 98-year-old structure.
The bridge re-opened on February 1, 2013 with a grand opening ceremony on February 15 (Tacoma Weekly, 1/2/13). A second phase of the renovation project, involving sub-surface seismic enhancements, currently lacks funding to begin implementation. The bridge was removed from Historic Tacoma’s Watch List in February 2013.
Originally designed to house the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce, the structure was adapted to government needs after the city and chamber decided to swap properties. Modeled after Italian Renaissance town halls, the 1893 structure features fine brickwork and terracotta ornamentation. The distinctive clock was added to the tower in 1904. The city moved out in 1959 and Old City Hall was saved from the wrecking ball in 1973. In the early 1980s, the structure was rehabilitated to house shops, restaurants and offices.
Listed as part of the Old City Hall Historic District, it is also on the National, State, and Local Registers of Historic Places.
In 2005 the Stratford Company, based in Seattle and led by George Webb, purchased the building for $3.8 million with the intent of converting it to condos or loft-style apartments. After the bottom fell out of the real estate market, the building was left to deteriorate. A city building inspector declared the building in derelict condition in December 2010. The building was named to the WA Trust’s 2011 Most Endangered Properties List on May 24 2011; the nomination was written and submitted by Gerry Sperry, Historic Tacoma member.
On June 2, 2015, Tacoma City Council voted unanimously to purchase the property from The Stratford Company for $4 million, plus closing costs of approximately $200,000. To make the purchase, the City used funds from a special historic preservation and economic development fund. The City made around $150,000 to $200,000 in repairs to stabilize the building before deciding next steps. The building, which totals 33,685 square feet, was stabilized and protected. Historic Tacoma and preservation supporters applauded this move.
In 2018 the City of Tacoma was able to identify a development partner, SurgeTACOMA; restoration work will commence in 2019. The building is iconic for cultural, historical and architectural reasons and, when rehabbed, will serve as an economic development catalyst for the north part of downtown.
|Address||625 Commerce Street|
This striking Gothic Revival structure, in the heart of the Sixth Avenue Business District, was designed by the prominent Tacoma architectural firm of Heath, Gove and Bell and was constructed of Walker Cut Stone from the Wilkeson quarry. The sanctuary includes stained glass windows on the north and west facades and a bell tower on the northwest corner. The space seats 200 and includes a choir loft, a vaulted ceiling, and a still-functioning pipe organ dedicated in 1926. In a 1927 Tacoma architectural survey conducted by the American Institute of Architects, the church received an honorable mention in the Semi-Public and Cultural Buildings category. The 17,000 square foot Education Wing, designed by prolific Seattle firm, Durham, Anderson & Freed, is of modern design and also features Wilkeson stone on its two-story west facade. The wing takes advantage of natural light from the east, south and west, as well as from a small interior courtyard. Interior features include classrooms, a large kitchen, and classic long, lean fireplaces in large lounge spaces on the first and second floors. The Sixth Avenue Baptist Sunday School was organized in 1886 at Sixth and S. Anderson Street. The church was founded in 1901 with Reverend M.W. Miller as the first pastor. Architects Russell & Heath designed a 2-story frame and shingle church on Sixth and Fife that was used from 1902 until being moved to the rear of the lot for construction of the new sanctuary. The cornerstone for the new church was laid June 8, 1924 and the church was dedicated on April 12, 1925. Throughout the years, the church has served as a center for an array of community services including a food bank, a hospice program, the Boy Scouts, a preschool, Associated Ministries, and Habitat for Humanity.
In 2009 the church congregation decided that it could no longer support the building and placed it on the market. It was sold in mid-2011 to James Sheridan who owns other buildings on Sixth Avenue. Mr. Sheridan made repairs to the building, including a $60K membrane roof over the 1924 structure and interior improvements while retaining the historic fabric of the building. As of mid-2012, part of the building is being leased to the 200+ City Central Church congregation. The sanctuary and a large open space on the first floor are also being marketed as event spaces; for more information, visit the Events on 6th website.
The building was removed from Historic Tacoma’s Watch List in July 2012. While the property faces no known or imminent threat, the property is not currently listed on the National, State or Local Registers of Historic Places. Such a listing would provide the building a greater chance of historic preservation.
Architect Edward Frere Champney made his reputation as lead designer of Seattle’s 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. His flair for the dramatic is expressed in the lodge and its adjacent “Spanish Steps” which link Commerce Street and South Broadway. The building’s reinforced concrete construction was modern for its time but its facade is Neo-Classical in design.
The Elks Temple is listed as part of the Old City Hall Historic District on the Tacoma Register of Historic Places, as well as the State Register of Historic Places and the National Register.
The Elks building sat empty and deteriorating for decades. Its owner at the time wanted to demolish the building, however the City of Tacoma prevailed in court and the immediate demolition threat ended. Subsequently the building remained empty and was deteriorating badly. The building was finally stabilized and boarded up. In October 2009, McMenamins purchased the building with plans to rehabilitate it. The failure of a proposal to construct an adjoining hotel on the vacant property to the north changed the McMenamins’ original plans, now incorporating hotel rooms in the Elks building and retaining the 1937 annex on the north side. Construction, originally slated to begin in spring 2012, began in earnest in 2017. The McMenamin brothers were able to find local equity partners to fund the remaining $6-7M of a $20 million project. Click the links below the photos for more information about this project.
This is a great success story, and we happily remove the Elks Building from our Watch List.
A pioneer architect in Tacoma, Carl August Darmer was responsible for designing a number of prominent buildings in the city, including several hotels, the first Chamber of Commerce Building, the German Lutheran Church on South I Street, First Presbyterian (when it was located at South G and 10th Streets), the Unitarian Church on South Tacoma Avenue, the 1893 Synagogue for Beth Israel, the Point Defiance Park Superintendent’s House and several early school buildings. By the 1950s much of Darmer’s work had been replaced by newer construction. These two commercial structures are rare extant examples of Darmer’s work. Darmer was born in Stralsund, Germany on July 19, 1858 and studied architecture at Hoexter College. In 1882 Darmer traveled to the United States, and was employed as an architect in the firm of Curlett, Mooser and Macy in San Francisco, CA. In 1884 Darmer moved to Tacoma and formed the architectural firm of Farrel & Darmer. Darmer collaborated with a number of other architects, including Charles N. Daniels and John C. Proctor during this time. Darmer worked in Tacoma from 1885 until his retirement in the mid-1930s. He passed away in Tacoma in 1952. Kellogg-Sicker Building: Builders Frank G. Kellogg and Robert Sicker hired Darmer to design the building and J. G. Dickson as the contractor. Like many commercial buildings of the era, the structure housed retail establishments on the main floor and residential units on the second floor. Three main types of tenants occupied the building for most of the twentieth century; dry good stores, grocery stores, and physician/dental offices. By 1968 Browne’s Star Grill was operating from this location. The restaurant had originally opened as a cigar and newspaper stand on 1219 Pacific Avenue. Francis Browne remained owner of the establishment until 1977. The popular neighborhood restaurant continued until it was forced to close its doors when the City of Tacoma purchased the building in 2005.
Pochert Building: Herman Carl Pochert financed the building, which was designed by Darmer and built by the Knoell Brothers construction firm. There were a number of businesses that occupied the building, ranging from shoe stores, to vaudeville theatre, a carpet store, and a hotel. John Samuelson, a native of Sweden, ran Samuelson’s Shoe Store at this address for almost 35 years.
A review of businesses housed in both buildings highlight the multi-ethnic diversity of the neighborhood with Scandinavian, Middle Eastern and Japanese business owners. Historic “K” Street had a strong booster organization. By the 1960s urban flight had left this once bustling area of Tacoma increasingly underutilized.
In 2005, the City purchased half the city block, including the two buildings. In partnership with the New Tacoma Neighborhood Council and the MLK Sub-area Plan Steering Committee, Historic Tacoma submitted a nomination of the buildings, and they were added to the Tacoma Register of Historic Places in mid-2013. At that time, Kevin Grossman and his business partners purchased the empty buildings and rehabilitated them into business spaces downstairs and apartments upstairs.
This is a great success story, and the buildings have been removed from the Watch List.
|Address||1110-1112 Martin Luther King Jr. Way|
|Architect||Carl August Darmer|
The building is currently listed on the Tacoma Register of Historc Places, the Washington Heritage Register and the National Register.
Built in 1928, Fire Station No. 5 (originally No. 15), this Mission style building was designed by architect Morton J. Nicholson and built by Walesby Construction Company. It is listed on the Tacoma, Washington, and National historic registers since 1987. It has not been in service since 2012 when its staff was relocated to Tacoma’s lower east side.
Fire Station No. 5 was built as part of the second expansion of Tacoma’s fire department that occurred in the 1920s. Fire Stations Nos. 10, 14, 15, the fire boat station and the fire alarm station were all authorized by a $12 million-dollar bond issue passed by the citizens of Tacoma on March 13, 1928. This issue contained several public works, but the fire stations were one of the popular items since 1927 had been the costliest year for fire damage in the city’s history.
The new stations were placed in areas with increased development. All were designed by Morton J. Nicholson and reflect major changes in firefighting technology since the first fire station expansion of 1907 to 1916. Motorized equipment replaced horse-drawn equipment, and hence all stations were reduced to one story. This allowed for swifter deployment of firefighters and buildings more in scale to their surrounding neighborhoods. All the stations built at this time are what have been called “bungalow” fire stations; their scale and late Craftsman and Tudor style can only be described as quaint. The domesticity of the design is barely interrupted by small hose towers and apparatus doors.
Fire Station No. 5 was erected in the port industrial area. It utilizes an enlarged version of the floor plan of Fire Stations Nos. 10 and 14 yet is articulated stylistically quite differently. Its Spanish or Mission Revival design reflects the popular period revivals of the period.
While employed as the Assistant City Building Inspector, Morton J. Nicholson designed Fire Stations Nos. 10, 14, 15, the fire boat station and the fire alarm station. He was born in Germantown, PA in 1891, and at the age of four moved with his family to Tacoma. He later graduated from Stadium High School and studied architecture in the offices of his father I. A. Nicholson who was the City Engineer. The younger Nicholson designed several homes and small theaters, including the Paramount at 26th and Proctor and the Community at 56th and M Streets. He also designed theaters in Sumner and Puyallup. Nicholson died on December 27, 1929, not long after the completion of his fire stations.
(Most of this information comes from Caroline Gallacci, Fire Boat Station -Station No. 18, Tacoma Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, 1992.)
Fire Station No. 5 was shuttered in 2012 and has since been used as storage. In 2018, the Tacoma Fire Department and the City of Tacoma considered the possibility of demolishing this building in order to build a new station to meet the fire protection needs of the proposed LNG plant. Public opposition to such a move caused them to consider alternatives to demolition.
We encourage Historic Tacoma members and friends to contact the helpful staff at the Tacoma Historic Preservation Office or your Council Member to show your support for a future for Fire Station #5 which is both secure and supportive to the evolving mission of the Port as well as the preservation objectives of Tacoma and the State of Washington.
The City of Tacoma has decided to acquire property from the Port of Tacoma adjacent to Fire Station #5 in order to build a new fire station for the Tideflats. The historic building may or may not be a part of a larger development. For now, the building will continue to be used for storage. The new station is adjacent but will avoid the existing historic station.
|Address||3510 E 11th Street|
This building was designed by Tacoma architect Charles V. Rueger and built by contractor O. F. Larson & Sons in 1937 as Totem Food Store #4. Totem Food was a local grocery store chain with seven or more stores across the city. By the late 1940s, many of the Totem groceries, including this one, became Safeway stores. Over the years, the grocery has operated under different names and since 2011 as Big Value Store. The handsome brick building is in the French Eclectic style that was popular from 1915 to 1945. This picturesque style is characterized by a steeply pitched hipped roof with flared eaves, decorative hipped dormers and segmental arches on doors and windows. While usually a residential style, it is also found in neighborhood commercial buildings like this one that were designed to blend into their largely residential location. Reuger also designed a very similar building in 1939 in the same style for Totem Food Store #7 at 821 S. 38 th , now the home of Lincoln Pharmacy in the Lincoln District. Charles V. Rueger was born in Ohio but his family to Washington in 1910. Charles studied architecture at the University of Washington and started his own practice in Seattle in 1928. By 1940, he and his wife moved to Tacoma. His brother Clarence joined the practice about 1948, becoming Rueger and Rueger, Architects. He died in 1959. Reuger was known primarily for his work on school buildings, such as Fife Elementary and High Schools, Peninsula High School, Bethel High School, Clover Park High School, Concrete High School and Harbor Heights Elementary. His Bremerton Library is noted for its Art Deco design.
In the summer and fall of 2019, the building was briefly for sale. Although the store and its parking lot are currently zoned R-2 Residential, it was proposed by the City that it and the three houses across Alder would be rezoned to R-3 Multifamily. There had already been some talk of a multifamily development on this site as well as encompassing the three houses across the street.
(05-11-2022) In June 2021, the new owners of the building received their Certificate of Occupancy from the City of Tacoma, following an extensive renovation of the interior space. The building now serves as the offices for Kampbell Legal Planning, owners of the building. The exterior also received much needed maintenance, a new roof and improved landscaping. (12-18-2019) Historic Tacoma has learned that the owner is again considering selling and at least one potential buyer wants to demolish it for a three-story apartment building. Consequently its status has changed to "On the radar". (10-18-2019) In the final 2019 zoning update, the building was left with its current R-2 zoning along with the three houses across the street. At some point in the future, it is likely that just the store and its parking lot will be rezoned to C-1 (Neighborhood Commercial) like the service station and commercial buildings at the intersection of N. Alder and N. 26th Streets. The building is not currently listed for sale. Historic Tacoma will continue to keep an eye on this building.
“The new church is one of the prettiest in Tacoma, commanding an excellent location and being well adapted to expansion at any time” so notes the 12/27/1914 Tacoma Daily Ledger. This striking brick and terra cotta church with parapet bell tower is located near the McKinley Business District. The interior woodwork is a stained natural fir and showcases a vaulted ceiling. Two memorial windows were installed from the old Fowler Church building. One commemorates the father of Governor Ernest Lister and Alfred Lister, Secretary of the School Board, and the other Jeremiah Lister and his wife. Trinity Methodist Church grew out of a merger between the Fowler Methodist Church and the McKinley Park Church. Fowler Church was organized in 1889 with Rev. B.F. Brooks, and McKinley Church was a ‘daughter’ church of Fowler that first started as a mission Sunday school and later organized as a church. The church was formally dedicated on January 10, 1915; programs throughout that week featured banquets, musical, literary programs, and speakers. In 1923, the McKinley Hill Community Building was erected at the rear of the church by Trinity Methodist Church and the McKinley Hill Improvement Club. This frame construction housed a 60’ x 30’ gym with adjoining shower and locker rooms and several spacious clubrooms. This provided daily activities and community building for the McKinley area young people. McKinley Hill began to develop after 1904 when the Northern Pacific Beneficiary Association Hospital was built and when streetcar transportation was extended to southeast Tacoma. Development proceeded in pace with the extension of the streetcar line. Further development was stimulated by the Tacoma and Eastern Railroad depot and freight facility at S. 64th St. and McKinley Ave. The line was the major rail route to Mt. Rainier before popular use of the auto.
After the Trinity congregation disbanded in late 2007, the deteriorated structure became the responsibility of the United Methodist judicatory/Pacific NW Conference which worked with Calvary United Methodist Church to rehabilitate the church for this growing Samoan congregation. Through a significant commitment of time and labor on the part of the congregation and financial support from the conference, rehabilitation was completed in early spring 2009. The church was reconsecrated and dedicated as Kalevaria United Methodist Church on March 28, 2009.
The property has been removed from Historic Tacoma’s Watch List and is a great rehabilitation success story.
|Address||601 E. 35th Street|
|Architect||Heath & Gove|
The Union Club was founded in 1888 by twenty-seven of Tacoma’s founding fathers. The club was designed to entertain visiting dignitaries as well as to have a place for special social celebrations for Tacoma’s elite. One of the many dignitaries entertained here was William Taft. The Clubhouse was built two years later. The neighborhood constitutes the early government, finance and business center of the original Tacoma town site, and the buildings are representative of activity in this area between the early 1800s and 1920s. During this period, the Cascade Division of the Northern Pacific Railroad was completed (1887) and the development of Tacoma as that railroad’s terminus began.
By 1918, other railroad companies had developed their facilities in Tacoma and the Port District had been formed thus providing opportunities for further activity, change and expansion in the central business district. The buildings were constructed to meet the social and cultural needs of Tacoma’s citizens as well as to establish the economic base necessary for a city’s growth.
The two and one half story wood frame Colonial Revival building features a hip roof with gable dormers and pilasters flanking two story round bays at both ends of the front facade. The Ionic capital motif of the pilasters is repeated on smaller pilasters between the windows on the second story. The flat roof porch extends to the edges of the bay and is supported by pairs of Ionic columns. The single flat roof on the side is an alteration.
In 1939, the Union Club and the University Club merged because of lagging memberships with both organizations. The property was sold to club member David Smith in 1985 who opened the Palm Room, later named David’s on Broadway. In recent years, however, the building was for sale and unoccupied.
The property was listed on the Tacoma Register of Historic Places by unanimous approval of City Council on July 21, 2009. The nomination was submitted by Historic Tacoma with the support and research of neighborhood residents. In 2016 the property was purchased by Amber and Eli Moreno, who undertook a major renovation of the building. They now operate it as a co-working and event space, known as Union Club Tacoma.
This is an excellent reuse outcome, and the property has been removed from the Watch List.
Early in the 20th century, the Wedge was a very desirable area due to the close proximity to schools, churches and the hospital. The streetcars lines ran on the 3 boundaries of the Wedge district and residents could easily get to any location in Tacoma. Pivotal structures are the Titlow Mansion (410 S. Sheridan), J.C. Todd House (502 S. Sheridan), Tweeden House (514 S. Sheridan), and the Nelsen House (405 S. Sheridan).
The continued expansion of the MultiCare Health Systems campus was a growing concern. Under the City’s proposed Mixed Use Center for MLK, the hospital/medical zone (MultiCare) footprint would expand from L (in the Wedge) to I Street (bordering the park) with heights up to 150′. In late 2008, the neighborhood submitted a nomination for a Wedge Historic District to the City of Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. In 2010, the nomination was approved by the Landmarks and Planning Commissions with boundaries including MultiCare properties. In spring 2011, City Council approved creation of the Wedge Historic District and the adjoining Conservation District with several properties, including MultiCare’s, excluded from the Historic District. The district has been removed from the Watch List.
|Address||bounded by 6th Avenue, Division Street, and South M|
|Architect||Andrew Larsen, Frank Hill, Silas Nelsen|
At 118 years of age for the Walhgren house at 205 N. Yakima Avenue and 71 years of age for the Walhgren Florist Shop at 201 N. Yakima Avenue, both buildings meet the minimum criteria for inclusion on Tacoma’s Register of Historic Places. Its history and residents are indicative of the development of that district as well as Tacoma itself, especially the important place the flower and bulb industry had in Tacoma and the South Sound from the 1920s through the 1960s. As a boarding house from the late 1920s until the 1980s, it is an example of working class or “missing middle” housing. Although the house has had some changes, those have been largely minor and are largely historic themselves. The florist shop is a fine example of early small-scale modernist architecture.
A development proposal has been submitted for review by the City of Tacoma. This project would demolish both buildings in order to build a multi-story apartment building.
Please contact your City Council member and the Landmarks Commission to voice your support for the preservation of these historic structures in Tacoma's historic North Slope Historic District.
UPDATE (4/14/2021): At its meeting on April 13, the City Council voted AGAINST the Landmarks Commission's unanimous recommendation that the former Wahlgren's Flower Shop building at 201 N Yakima be placed on the Historic Register. The building has now been demolished. 01-25-2021 - The Landmarks Commission unanimously recommended that the Florist Shop building (201 N Yakima) be added to the Historic Register, however the adjacent house (205 N Yakima) was not. The nomination recommendation was then considered by the City Council's Infrastructure, Planning, and Sustainability Committee; it also unanimously recommended that the Florist Shop be added to the Historic Register. The nomination will now go before the full City Council for consideration. 09-03-2020 - A public hearing on the Historic Register nomination submitted by Historic Tacoma has been scheduled for Wednesday, September 9, 2020 before the Landmarks Commission.
This small (550 sf) house on the alley behind the Jasmika store was the home of Michael D. and Elizabeth Coleman by 1905 until 1912. It was the oldest building in the Proctor Business District. Coleman owned the corner lot next door at North Proctor and North 26th where in 1908 he built a two-story commercial building. It was the first commercial building in what would become the Proctor Business District. The house continued as a residence until about 1928. As early as 1919, however, city directories also list a business at 3820, suggesting another building at the street front. By 1928, it has a separate address, 3820 ½ and was home to Martin’s Barbershop. Over the years it would be a bakery, shoe repair shop, and beauty shop, probably accessed from the alley. After 1948, however, no further listings appear, and the house appears to have been used as storage for the businesses on the street front.
The parcel where Jasminka and the Coleman house was sold in 2019. A demolition permit was requested for the Coleman House by the new owners. Development pressure in the district is great and the adjacent buildings at 2511-2525 N. Proctor next door have just been acquired by new developers as well.
While the house was in deteriorated condition, it was an important link to early Proctor. While not the best solution, moving it to another location and perhaps restoring it for a museum and visitors center would have been a better outcome.
UPDATE (04-30-2020): The building was demolished in February 2020.
Built in 1890-91, the building’s significance stems from its breakthrough design and from the fame of the Chicago architects who designed it, Daniel Burnham and John Root, considered among the fathers of the American skyscraper. The Luzon was a transition building for the firm because it incorporated a relatively light steel framework along with traditional masonry construction. Before the Luzon era, major buildings were limited in height because all of their weight was borne by their thick masonry walls. Once Burnham and Root substituted steel framework for the heavy masonry, taller buildings became a possibility. The Luzon was one of two Burnham and Root buildings in Tacoma, the other, the 12-story Fidelity Building at South 11th and Broadway, was torn down in the early 1950s.
The Luzon was demolished in September 2009. In 2008, the Gintz Group had proposed a complete renovation of the Luzon Building with an estimated project cost of $8.1M. The developer was approved for federal tax credits and arranged a 15-month no-interest loan from the City of Tacoma to help finance the project. Unable to obtain financing, in mid-April 2009, the Gintz Group put the building back on the market. In early August, LI Investments proposed a $6M project, but their purchase offer was rejected by Gintz. The property was listed on the National, State and Local Registers of Historic Places and was one of Tacoma’s foremost architectural treasures. Due to its condition of “progressive collapse” and public safety risk, and failure of the owner to take action to stabilize or rehabilitate the building, the City demolished the building in late September 2009.
|Address||1302 Pacific Avenue|
|Architect||Daniel Burnham and John Root|
This single story, reinforced concrete commercial building is in the Art Deco style with Egyptian Revival touches. The textured stucco exterior with a curved, corner entry are Art Deco, but the massive round pilasters along the east and south sides add an Egyptian Revival flare. With the original huge display windows between those columns and the heavy entablature above, Tacoma had its own Temple of Karnak. The discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 fueled a brief popularity for ancient Egyptian elements, often incorporated into Art Deco buildings.
Built as a Lincoln automotive dealership in 1925, it was converted into the Olympic Dairy in 1940. It documents the changing commercial development of the Hilltop. Following its 1940 renovation, the dairy plant was praised as "one of the most modern of its kind on the Pacific Coast…” Raised on the building's corner was a gigantic rotating milk bottle, long since removed. It has struggled since the dairy left, having a unique physical size and character.
Current plans call for the demolition of the building to make way for two housing projects. One is senior housing by Mercy Housing, and the other is a micro-apartment building by KOZ Development LLC. However, we hope that the history of the building will be documented and displayed in public areas of the new buildings.
The building was demolished in late June 2020.