Tacoma Hotel: Tacoma Historical Society exhibit spotlights lost landmark

The Tacoma Historical Society will present an exhibit next month that focuses on the former Tacoma Hotel.

“Tacoma Historical Society is recognizing one of Tacoma’s lost landmarks,” said Tacoma Historical Society President Bill Baarsma. “Built in 1884, the great Tacoma Hotel announced that Tacoma had become a destination. Over its fifty-year history, the Tacoma Hotel provided lodging for an array of famous visitors — Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling, Sarah Bernhardt, a succession of U.S. presidents, and athletes from Babe Ruth to the entire USC Trojan football team.”

The former Tacoma Hotel was designed by noted architect Stanford White and occupied an entire city block on A Street, between South 9th Street and South 10th Street, in downtown Tacoma. The hotel and grounds quickly gained a reputation as the grandest hotel north of San Francisco, according to Tacoma Historical Society officials. After a spectacular fire destroyed the hotel in 1935, the site was paved and used for parking. A half-century later, George and Jane Russell built a 12-story building on the site. The high-rise served as the headquarters of Russell Investments until 2010. Today, the building is home to State Farm Insurance.

“The exhibit will include not only fascinating artifacts on loan from private collectors, but historic postcards and images from within our collection of the Tacoma Historical Society,” said curator Deb Freedman.

The Tacoma Historical Society will host an opening reception on Thurs., Aug. 7, between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., at the Tacoma Historical Society Museum, located at 919 Pacific Ave., in downtown Tacoma. The exhibit will open to the public on Fri., Aug. 8, which is also the 130th anniversary of the opening of the Tacoma Hotel, and run through Sun., Nov. 29.

The Tacoma Historical Society is hosting a creative calendar of events in conjunction with the exhibit:

  • Thurs., Aug. 7, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. — Opening Reception at the museum;
  • Fri., Aug. 8, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Exhibit Opening (130th anniversary of Tacoma Hotel opening);
  • Fri., Aug. 8, 6 p.m. — Tacoma History trivia night, co-sponsored by the City of Tacoma Landmarks Preservation Commission, at The Forum, 815 Pacific Ave., in downtown Tacoma;
  • Sat., Aug. 16, 1 p.m. — Totem Tales and Jack the Bear stories with Deb Freedman (suitable for children six and up);
  • Thurs., Aug. 21, 6:15 p.m. — Tacoma Hotel neighborhood walk led by Tacoma Public Library’s Brian Kamens, in the footsteps of Jack the Bear;
  • Thurs., Sept. 18, 6:15 p.m. — The Man Behind the Totem: W. F. Sheard, portrayed by Rich Repp;
  • Thurs., Oct. 16, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. — Open House to honor Tacoma Firefighters (active and retired) and remembering the anniversary of the Tacoma Hotel fire on Oct. 17, 1935.

More information is available online here.


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