Hope for Old City Hall? Historic Tacoma tours iconic, derelict building

A local historic preservation advocacy group whose members recently toured Old City Hall in downtown Tacoma reports that nearly $1 million in mitigation efforts have been completed on the building, which suffered severe water damage last year and was recently placed on watch list for endangered historic properties.

In a June 1 e-mail to Historic Tacoma’s members, the organization noted its board members met with Stratford Company property manager David Morton on May 16 to tour the building.

In November, water pipes froze then burst following an arctic storm, spreading 30,000 gallons of water throughout the six-story building, 118-year-old building owned by the Seattle-based Stratford Company and located at 625 Commerce Street, and causing much damage. “Moisture meter readings throughout the building indicate it is essentially dry — eight to 15 percent — but not as dry as a heated occupied building,” reported Historic Tacoma board member Roger Johnson in the e-mail. “The most damp place was in the foundation wall in the old jail area reading 92 percent.”

Johnson added, “After some delay, asbestos abatement and a $1 million mitigation effort were completed with much of the interior stripped of ceiling and wall sheet rock. Many floor surfaces were also removed, leaving sub floors and some original floors that are damaged by water. In addition to removing the sheet rock, some partition walls and mezzanines have been removed, opening up some spectacular large spaces. Where the mezzanines have been removed, the ceilings are 20 feet high with grand brick arches connecting large spacious interior spaces. The windows are tall and elegant and appear to be in very good condition.”

Two weeks ago, representatives from the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation added Old City Hall to this year’s list of endangered historic properties. “With Old City Hall currently vacant, the hope is that the ownership group will be able to move forward with redevelopment plans,” said Washington Trust Field Director Chris Moore. “In the meantime, issues of deferred maintenance remain a concern.”

“Old City Hall is an iconic historic building that has the potential to be the showcase of Tacoma,” added Johnson in the June 1 e-mail. “Intelligent, thoughtful design on the rehabilitation of the interior will make Old City Hall the premier historic building in Tacoma.”

Downtown Tacoma's Old City Hall. (FILE PHOTOS BY TODD MATTHEWS)


To read the Tacoma Daily Index‘s complete and comprehensive coverage of Old City Hall, 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 third-place honors for his feature article about the University of Washington’s Innocence Project; first-place honors for his feature article about Seattle’s bike messengers; third-place honors for his feature interview with Prison Legal News founder Paul Wright; and second-place honors for his feature article about whistle-blowers in Washington State. His work has also 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.