Shaw House: Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission approves historic nomination

Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission has approved a nomination to add the Shaw House to the City of Tacoma’s Register of Historic Places.

For more than 45 years, the two-story, 113-year-old home, located at 2500 N. Lawrence St., was home to the late Tacoma architect Stanley T. Shaw, his wife, Clara, and their four children.

Shaw was born on April 2, 1896, in Sturgis, Mich., to a family that included his father, Robert, who was a minister; mother, Mary, a homemaker; and one older brother, Frederic. Around the turn of the century, the Shaws moved to Tacoma, where Robert served as interim minister at Immanuel Presbyterian Church. Stanley graduated from Tacoma High School, and Frederic served in the military during World War I. When he returned to Tacoma, Frederic partnered with Stanley to open an architectural firm in downtown Tacoma.

Between 1919 and 1930, the Shaw brothers designed more than a dozen residences, churches, schools, and business headquarters, including the First United Presbyterian Church (built in 1922, located at 1619 6th Ave.); Tacoma Gospel Tabernacle (built in 1923, located at 502 S. M St.); Wainwright Elementary School (built in 1924, located at 130 Alameda St., in Fircrest); Dash Point Elementary School (built in 1924, located at 6546 Dash Point NE, and listed on Pierce County’s Register of Historic Places); an education wing of Immanuel Presbyterian Church (built in 1927, located at 901 N. J St.); and the headquarters for Goodwill Industries (built in 1930, located at 2356 Tacoma Ave. S.).

After Frederic moved to California in 1929, Shaw continued his architectural practice. He designed the Broadway Apartments (built in 1928, located at 31 Broadway) and the Knights of Columbus Hall (built in 1928, located at 2311-19 6th Ave.). In 1931, he purchased the home at North 25th Street and North Lawrence Street, and turned one room into a home office, where he started to garner attention for the residential homes he designed. He was commissioned by Sears, Roebuck & Co. in 1937 to design a model home located at 1920 N. Union St. A local newspaper reported nearly 16,000 people visited the home. Also that year, Stanley contributed two designs to The Blue Book of Home Plans for Homes in the Pacific Northwest, a collection of work by the period’s leading architects.

Although the home at 2500 N. Lawrence St. wasn’t originally built by Shaw, it was where Stanley and Clara raised four children, and it also served as a sort of laboratory for some of Shaw’s architectural ideas. Beyond architecture, Stanley and Clara were active members of several civic organizations. They helped to organize local Quaker meetings, and supported the NAACP, Tacoma YWCA, and the American Friends Service Committee. Stanley died on July 21, 1976, at the age of 80. Clara Shaw sold the house a year later, but remained in Tacoma until her death in 1981.

The Shaw House was nominated to Tacoma’s Register of Historic Places by Sharon Winters and Kendall Reid, who purchased the home in 1997.

Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission conducted a preliminary review of the nomination during a public meeting last month. A public hearing on the nomination was held last week. According to Winters, three members of Shaw’s family attended the public hearing: Shaw’s grandson, Peter Grant; Shaw’s granddaughter (Peter’s sister), Clarita Grant; and Shaw’s great-granddaughter (Peter’s daughter), Genevieve Shaw Grant. A complete audio recording of the public hearing is available online here.

“I’m very keen to see this status accorded to his home, the home that we spent a lot of time in,” Peter Grant told commissioners. “There are just so many memories as a child and spending time there. But the main thing with Stanley was that he was a very creative guy. He imparted that to everybody he knew. It came out in his house, but it also came from his mind. He was a very studied person. Very philosophical about life. I really do appreciate seeing this accorded to him simply because it reflects the man. If he was here, which I wish he was — but he’s probably here in spirit — he would really appreciate this.”

“I spent many, many years at our grandparents’ house,” Clarita Grant told commissioners. “Great memories.”

The nomination will be forwarded to Tacoma City Council for final approval. A decision is expected to be made before the end of this year.

To read the Tacoma Daily Index’s complete and comprehensive coverage of the Shaw House, click on the following links:

Todd Matthews is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index and recipient of an award for Outstanding Achievement in Media from the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation for his work covering historic preservation in Tacoma and Pierce County. He has earned four awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, including first-place honors for his feature article about Seattle’s bike messengerssecond-place honors for his feature article about whistle-blowers in Washington State; third-place honors for his feature article about the University of Washington’s Innocence Project; and third-place honors for his feature interview with Prison Legal News founder Paul Wright. His work has appeared in All About Jazz, City Arts Tacoma, Earshot Jazz, Homeland Security Today, Jazz Steps, Journal of the San Juans, Lynnwood-Mountlake Terrace Enterprise, Prison Legal News, Rain Taxi, Real Change, Seattle Business Monthly, Seattle magazine, Tablet, Washington CEO, Washington Law & Politics, and Washington Free Press. He is a graduate of the University of Washington and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications. His journalism is collected online at wahmee.com.