More to 6th Avenue than meets the eye

Photo by Morf Morford
Photo by Morf Morford

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

Most of us know 6th Avenue by its middle: restaurants, clubs, gift shops and recreational marijuana stores. But there is much more to one of the central streets of Tacoma than what most of us see.

You could make the point that 6th Avenue begins in the sunrise and ends in the sunset. You could also argue that 6th Avenue begins at one waterfront and ends at another. You could also make the point that 6th Avenue begins in one park and ends in another

Many years ago, up until July 1, 1940 to be exact (the date of the opening of the first Narrows Bridge, known locally as Galloping Gertie), there was a ferry that ran from the end of 6th Avenue (it was called the 6th Avenue Ferry) to Point Fosdick. This was a common and most direct route for many naval shipyard workers who lived in Tacoma but worked in Bremerton (before 1940). You can see a history and a photo of the ruins of the 6th Avenue ferry here –

How many streets are nationally recognized for their immediate access to prime scuba training? And yes, that means octopus, wolf-eels, Sea Lemons, and Pacific Spiny Lumpsuckers. Details here –

You could also say that 6th Avenue divides Tacoma. But you could also make an equally strong argument that 6th Avenue, like no other street in Tacoma, unites our city. There are elegant and (historically) affordable classic homes on both sides of much of 6th Avenue.

Like every street, there are different characteristics that define and personify different neighborhoods. I would argue that 6th Avenue has more extremes – in almost every sense – than most streets anywhere – let alone in Tacoma.

Last stop sign on 6th Avenue Photo by Morf Morford
Last stop sign on 6th Avenue
Photo by Morf Morford

Here are just a few examples; like most streets, there is a smattering of residential areas among the businesses and strip malls, but how many streets have a state college on one end ( and a juvenile incarceration facility near the other end (

For a local view of everyday life along 6th Avenue, take a look here: For an index of food, services and businesses along 6th Avenue, look here: In addition, on August 16th, Pretty Gritty Tours and the City of Tacoma’s Historic Preservation Office will be offering a free walking tour of 6th Ave, highlighting the sites to see and the history that made this excellent district. The tour will begin at 10:30 am and finish at Noon. We will assemble in front of Bluebeard Coffee at the corner of 6th & State.  For questions, please contact  RSVP on Facebook:

The Beach Tavern Photo by Morf Morford
The Beach Tavern
Photo by Morf Morford

In various places you can find stunning views of Mt.Rainier, The Olympics and Puget Sound. From the western side you can see the Narrows Bridges, and from the eastern vista you can see the never-ending pulse of the lights and cranes of the Port of Tacoma.

Prior to the completion of Highway 16, in 1964, 6th Avenue connected directly to The Narrows Bridge. 6th Avenue is also the last link to a once famous street in Tacoma – Bantz Boulevard. Bantz Boulevard is currently a short spur off 6th Avenue (near Tacoma Boys) but in the muscle car days of the early 1960s was a haven for late-night car racing.

On one end you have Stadium Thriftway and near the other end you have The Highland Hill Safeway (and several other stores) and a Grocery Outlet. And, of course, the seemingly infinite fruits and vegetables of Tacoma Boys.

When it comes to food, somewhere along 6th Avenue you can find Greek, Italian, Chinese, Southeast Asian, and all-American fare from burgers to world-famous pizza.

The western end of 6th Ave was known as Hollywood- by-the-sea. Charlie Chaplin, among many others, spent time there ( For more on the Puget Sound’s influence on the film industry, look here:

As I mentioned, 6th Avenue follows the line of the sun. 6th Avenue is only approximately straight, with hills on both ends. Somewhere along the east/west line that follows the sun I’d like to see something that honors 6th Avenue’s solar alignment – a 6th Avenue Stonehenge, if you will. Now there’s a community project suitable for the diversity and eccentricity of 6th Avenue.




Vinyl Mecca on 6th Avenue 

For a variety of reasons, Tacoma’s vinyl record shops have clustered along 6th Avenue. If you have a turntable and are looking for that unique vinyl vibe, take a look at any of these places. It will be worth it.

Each store has its own niche and area of expertise. Whether you are an experienced or novice music nerd, these record stores are your source for audio surprises.

These are brick and mortar stores, but they all have an online presence.

– Rocket Records, 3843 6th Ave, (253) 756-5186

– Turntable Treasures/House of Records

608 N Prospect St;  (253) 272-9229

– Drastic Plastic, 3005 6th Avenue,  (253) 272-2886

– Golden Oldies, 3521 6th Avenue, (253) 581-7947 Golden Oldies specializes in records – and legends – of Tacoma’s rock roots.

– High Voltage, 2612 6th Avenue; (253) 627-4278

Last stop sign on 6th AvenuePhoto by Morf Morford

Last stop sign on 6th Avenue Photo by Morf Morford