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Week 63 - Tacoma Historical Society

For the 63rd week of "7 QUESTION SUNDAY" we shine the spotlight on a group keeping the history of Tacoma preserved for generations to come, the Tacoma Historical Socitey.

4EVRGRN: Hey Tacoma Historical Society, tell us a little about your group.

THS: Tacoma Historical Society's mission is to collect, document, and share the unique history of Tacoma, Washington, and it is our passion to share it with you. At Tacoma Historical Society and Tacoma Historical Society Museum, we forge connections between generations, foster an appreciation for the past, and cultivate a sense of place within our community.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, our museum has been closed (check for current updates online), but we've been redirecting our efforts to sharing as much content online as possible, both on our website at www.tacomahistory.org and via our social media channels. When it is safe to do so, we look forward to welcoming you back to our physical museum as well. 

I'll interpret PNW as Tacoma!

1) What is a historical fact most people OUTSIDE the area don’t know about Tacoma?

THS: In the late 1800s, after the Northern Pacific Railroad chose Tacoma over Seattle as its western terminus, Tacoma's stature nationally as a booming and desired new city on the west coast was just as prominent as Seattle's. Even though Seattle would go on to be the larger metropolis, Tacoma has a wealth of fascinating history and infrastructure dating all the way back to that time.

2) What sets this area’s history apart from other US History?

THS: Urban development and population growth from people of European descent took place later in Tacoma and the Pacific Northwest than in many other parts of the country. This shaped the type of architecture that we see in our neighborhoods, and also influenced the different types of immigrant populations that settled here. 

3) What is a historical fact most people INSIDE the area don’t know about Tacoma?

THS: There are so many I could share, but I'll focus on one that relates to our current exhibit, "Bank on Tacoma", which explores the history of banking in Tacoma. Most people probably don't know that in the Panic of 1893, a serious economic depression that hit the entire United States, Tacoma was hit harder than nearly any other city in the country. It took our city a long time to recover from this.

4) Place someone visiting Tacoma must see?

THS: It's hard to give just one answer to this question, because Tacoma has so many great historic places to see! One would be some of our wonderful historic parks, the most dramatic being Point Defiance. But there are also some wonderful historic buildings to see. Just a few examples would be: Stadium High School and the dramatic Stadium Bowl overlooking Commencement Bay; the Elks Club which was recently renovated by McMenamins; and Old City Hall, which will soon be renovated and once again open to the public.

5) What is a struggle those who aim to preserve Tacoma history currently face?

THS: The COVID pandemic has hit small museums and historical societies hard, as we've had to cancel important fundraising events, and we're unable to welcome visitors to our museum or hold public events. But this has also been a great opportunity and learning moment for us, as we've expanded our ability to share content virtually, something we'll continue doing even after the pandemic!

6) How does our history shape our current society?

THS: Events of the past shape every aspect of our current society. Exploring our history is a great way to understand why our world is the way it is today. And exploring the history of your own city, or even neighborhood, makes that understanding more local and personal. Why do we have the particular industries in Tacoma that we do? Why does one neighborhood look different than another? Who was in a position of power at different points in history to make decisions that shape our daily lives? These are the kind of questions we love to explore, to help our fellow Tacomans understand more about the city they call home.

7) What’s a funny piece of Tacoma history?

THS: This was a tough question, because Tacoma has so many stories that are serious, interesting, dramatic, and even tragic! But here's a funny one - last year, we found a vinyl record in our collection. A local band called 'The Kicks' came out with a fun and silly song called "Doma Tacoma" in 1983, in honor of the opening of the Tacoma Dome. Here's the audio:


Learn more by following along with their socials:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/tacomahistoricalsociety/

Instagram:  @tacomahistoricalsociety

Twitter:  @tacoma_history
YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChjxuBi-c9jCpf2mujdXAtA