In 1891 when Tacoma photographer Thomas Rutter recorded this sun-lighted portrait of it, the Tacoma Hotel was already six years old. Historian Murray Morgan, Tacoma’s favorite son, described the hotel as Tacoma’s “focal point of pride.” Morgan added, “Let a visitor question the likelihood of the city’s ascendancy and he was likely to be lectured on the grandeur of the hostelry under construction . . . on the edge of the downtown bluff.”
From its prospect on A Street the hotel looked over Commencement Bay and its tideflats to Mt. Tacoma, sometimes “mistakenly named” Mt. Rainier by visitors from out of town – like from Seattle. The battle over what to call “The Mountain that was God” was a long and recurring one between the two cities.
Seattle had its own grand hotel with turrets, overlooking its own Mt. Rainier and the city from Denny Hill. However, its career as an elegant hostelry was pathetic when compared to the Tacoma. Constructed as the Denny Hotel in 1890 the builders quarreled so that it didn’t open until 1903 when it was renamed the Washington. Three years later during the Denny Regrade it was razed with the hill.
With many additions and much polishing the Tacoma Hotel kept its place until 1935 when after 51 years of hosting it was destroyed by fire. Built in a variation of the Tudor style, the Tacoma Hotel was constructed of red brick, white stucco and white stone trim. Following the fire, bricks and stones salvaged from the ruins were prized and used in the building of new homes or proudly extending old ones.
During its half-century the Tacoma Hotel welcomed seven presidents and most famously one 800 lb. bear name Jack. Raised in the hotel since he was a cub, Jack was admired for drinking beer from a mug without spilling a drop on the hardwood floor of the hotel’s 80-foot long bar and billiards room. One afternoon after having his beer, and deciding to tour Tacoma, the friendly beast slipped his collar. Jack was soon shot twice on Tacoma’s “main street” Pacific Avenue by a policeman named Kenna. Carried back to the hotel Jack was attended by friends and doctors but could not be saved. For many days after, Officer Kenna was the most unpopular man in Tacoma. The newspapers called him “stupid.”
Anything to add, Paul?
Yup Jean, and in SIX parts.
First, Ron Edge in his crusade to find birdseyes, early aerials and early maps, will put up four birdseye views of Tacoma. The first one dates from 1878 and the last from 1890. One can find the hotel in all but the ’78 rendering. The 1884 sketch includes the hotel but without the turreted extension to the southeast – the addition seen in the “then” photo above. There are no doubt other evidences of the out-of-date qualities of all the birdseyes because throughout the 1880s Tacoma was growing with a frenzy about equal to that of Seattle. It was, after all, the company town for the Northern Pacific Railroad, an alliance that gave it frequent advantages until the financial panic of 1893, when Seattle’s more diverse wealth was better able to make it thru the depression that followed and even grow during it.
(Click TWICE to ENLARGE)
Second, we will insert a few more photos of the Tacoma Hotel, including one (and possibly two) taken by F.J.Haynes the Northern Pacific photographer that shows it before the 1890 addition.
Third: Ron Edge will insert several “buttons” that when clicked will take the reader to previous features from this blog that have touched on Tacoma subjects, one of them as recent as Nov. 12, 2011 when we visited the Tacoma Public Library for the dedication of the Murray and Rosa Morgan Room.
[Click the above to call forth the recent feature from Nov. 12, 2011 that includes a variety of Tacoma subjects we have connected to the dedication of the Murray and Rosa Morgan Room in the Seattle Public Library.]
[Click the above for the Dec. 5, 2008 feature on Mt. Rainier – aka Mt. Tacoma – Five Times]
F0urth: more buttons. These will take the reader to several illustrated texts on subjects out of Tacoma history that appeared first in the book, “Building Washington,” which can also be explored on this blog through its library. PLEASE note that all of these excerpts are dated no further than 1998 when the book was published.
The PORT of TACOMA
[Click to Enlarge — to read]
The TACOMA NARROWS BRIDGE
[Click to Enlarge – to read]
A CURVILINEAR TACOMA
TACOMA STREETS and BRIDGES
TACOMA’S BELT LINE
TACOMA CITY WATER
TACOMA CITY LIGHT
Fifth: Next we hang a small gallery of Tacoma photographs, which we title “Seeing Tacoma” or alternatively “You’ll Like Tacoma.” We will explain those hanging, but only with mere captions, and only when we know something.
Sixth: At last the last button and another return – this one for a “travels with Jean” feature I did in 2008 that describes what fun it is to, well, travel with Jean.
One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: the Tacoma Hotel”
The photo you credit as Masons is actually Knights of Pythias, Commencement Lodge #7. It is still there and active if you want a tour.