City of Neighborhoods

Our city is a body that, like any physical body, only thrives when every area thrives…

By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

For several years there was an annual spring gathering in Tacoma with the name of City of Neighborhoods.

The premise was simple; each of Tacoma’s neighborhoods had its own character, personality and history – but each distinct neighborhood was an integral part, an active participant in the common identity, history and yes, destiny of the larger community known as Tacoma.

Each neighborhood was proof that we in Tacoma were more, vastly more, than the sum of our parts.

Like every city perhaps, our city has its differences and biases, its communities that feel “under-served” or neglected, and maybe that’s true.

But the bottom line is that our city is a body that, like any physical body, only thrives when every area thrives.

And when any part of that body is, or even appears to be, neglected or denigrated, the whole city – especially in the eyes of outsiders, suffers.

Many of Tacoma’s neighborhoods are largely self-sufficient and, to a large degree, almost insulated from several of the others, and these others, in many cases, are distinctly defined from the identity of the city as a whole.

Unlike most cities I would think, each one of our neighborhoods has unique and astounding views -the mountain dominates our horizons from every direction and area.

Some neighborhoods, north, west and northeast – and eastside – in particular, have stunning water views. Our water views, of course, are not just water. Our water views include a variety of points of interest including islands, ships, our very active Port and even the occasional whale, seal or eagle.

You could make the argument that we are defined by our place between water and mountain. Geologic history has at least as much impact (maybe even much more) on our identity than any human or cultural impact.

Our city, after all, took its name from the original Native and historic name of the mountain, and our bay, surrounded by the city on three sides, known as Commencement Bay is literally our gateway to the rest of the world.

Each of our neighborhoods participates in and contributes to the larger vision and character of our city.

The emphasis of “City of Neighborhoods“ however, is not on the distinct neighborhoods, but on the “city” that they all contribute to and identify with.

I have lived in, had friends in each of Tacoma’s neighborhoods. I, like many of us, have participated in celebrations, farmers markets and all kinds of events, festivities and grand openings across our city.

When I go “across town” (I must admit that I’ve never liked that term – I don’t like the philosophical and literal distance it presumes) I am almost always struck by the different dynamics, possibilities and perspectives that are so close, yet so distinct.

We in Tacoma have a virtual United Nations within our borders. From Ukrainian churches, to Buddhist temples and Spanish speaking church services, to vast Asian food markets, we have expressions and communities with roots – and continuing relationships – spread and sprawling around the world.

We also have a thriving, and increasingly strong Native community. Our Native representatives have given us everything from unique and memorable place names to foods and attitudes toward (and stories about) local features and our living companions from orcas to eagles.

Our neighborhoods are defined by much more than geography or man-made features (like freeways or rail lines) – we, like other areas, are defined by the literal real estate price/affordability reflected in the current demand and prices for real estate.

The most affordable real estate markets in the area can be found here – in Tacoma, look here –

For Pierce County, look here –

From first-time buyers to families re-locating to this area or down-sizing, don’t you think many of us would find a tour of these homes interesting?

The most expensive real estate markets can be found here: for Tacoma here –, and Pierce County here –

Wouldn’t you love to see up close, the most expensive houses in the area?

One local “tourism” venture I’d like to see would be a local, maybe even monthly tour of the highlights, festivals or celebrations of each neighborhood.

Thanks to recent events and conditions, most of us have found ourselves more home or neighborhood-bound than usual.

This might be the best time for us to focus on and nurture those aspects of our neighborhoods that we have been forced to, or able to, take a closer look at.

And those features that would certainly be appealing to other areas.

We have some events with world-wide roots from Chinese New Year to a variety of holidays – and local incarnations of them, like Tacoma’s Monkeyshines tradition. And, of course, the monthly Beautiful Angle distribution/scavenger hunt of Tacoma-centric poetic/visual feast posters.

And no fan of Tacoma’s history (and unique architecture) misses the annual springtime tour of Tacoma’s historic homes.

And who doesn’t like the arts events (and studio tours) that are part of October’s art appreciation month?

But how about a year’s worth of unique Tacoma events?

Here are just a few suggestions;

How about picking a year – 1890 for example, and have a tour of homes/buildings/businesses and colleges founded that year?

Or how about a theme or the work of an architect, like rail stations, buildings or schools?

The Daffodil Festival used to be one of Tacoma’s (and Pierce County’s) major events. What would take its place?

Various art festivals, from Tacoma Film Festival to Destiny City Film Festival are on the calendar for most of us.

These could culminate in a city-wide celebration – perhaps like our widely appreciated “First Night” celebration.

No matter what we do, we have a community and a history worth celebrating.


Help Document What Makes the McKinley Neighborhood the

McKinley Neighborhood

Beginning February 24th, Historic Tacoma in partnership with the City of Tacoma began documenting the McKinley Neighborhood’s history and architecture.

The McKinley History Project is funded through grants from Tacoma Creates, the National Park Service and the Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. The purpose of the project is to collect stories, research historic buildings and document the history of the people and places in the neighborhood.

Community members can participate in the project by taking the survey about why McKinley matters to them and help update the City’s inventory of historic resources. The project also includes five virtual workshops that are open to the community to attend.

Virtual Workshop Schedule

· February 26, 2021 – Project Kickoff and Virtual Tour with Pretty Gritty Tours

· March 22, 2021 – How to do historical research, especially in a pandemic!

· April 2021 – What is a historic survey and why does it matter?

· May 2021 – All the details on what it means to be a landmark.

· June 2021 – Project wrap-up and overview of historic survey.

More information about the project, the survey and the workshops is available at

– City of Tacoma


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