Seattle Now & Then: ‘You’ll Like Tacoma,’ 1910

(Click to enlarge photos)

THEN 1: From 1910, this view looks south along Tacoma’s Pacific Avenue, featuring the Northern Pacific headquarters (center left) and city hall. Mount Rainier (aka Tacoma) floats above Commencement Bay. (Paul Dorpat collection)
NOW: A nearer prospect emerges from an offramp with the aid of a 20-foot pole. The Northern Pacific Headquarters, now an office building, was last remodeled in 1983. Old City Hall, placed on the most endangered list of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation in 2011, is being extensively restored by developer SURGE Tacoma and due to reopen in 2023. (Jean Sherrard)

(Published in The Seattle Times online on August 4, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the print Times on August 7, 2022)

Municipal portrait makes ‘You’ll Like Tacoma’ a winning slogan
By Jean Sherrard

Distracted by the trio of natural and architectural jewels strewn across the skyline of this 1910 photo of Tacoma’s north downtown, we easily can miss the discreet banner stretched over a roadway in the foreground shadows.

Its crisp caption: “You’ll like Tacoma.”

The year-old slogan originally had been adopted by Tacoma promoters during arch-rival Seattle’s first world’s fair, the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, meant to encourage visitors to venture south to the self-styled City of Destiny.

Directly across Lake Union from the fairgrounds (today’s University of Washington campus), boosters had erected their Paul Bunyan-sized solicitation in huge, electrically illuminated letters.

THEN 2: Nearly 20-foot-high letters broadcast Tacoma booster’s “modest” message to visitors at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in 1909.

The motto was both “an invitation and a prophecy,” gushed the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “and it fit [Tacoma] like a new glove: neat, apt, modest and winsome.”

The $30,000 campaign also included buttons, flyers and paid ads. Even a “patriotic march song” was commissioned to amplify the message:

You’ll like Tacoma
Where rail meets sail,
Where all are prosperous,
Hearty and hale,
Down on Commencement Bay,
A New York’s growing, day by day,
Tacoma, the peer of all.

THEN 3: Sheet music cover for the promotional song “Tacoma.” (Tacoma Public LIbrary collection)

For Paris-born photographer Paul Leo Richards, his popular “Then” photo, captured a year after the exposition, was a valentine to his adopted city. Fresh off the boat in 1891, the ambitious Frenchman wore many hats — inventor, investor and innovator — but is best known for documenting and celebrating the shining attributes of Tacoma.

This notable municipal portrait also subtly tweaks the Tacoma-Seattle rivalry. Just for fun, let’s keep score:

The Mountain That Was God, a mere 40 miles to the southeast, looms gloriously large. Tacomans persisted in calling it Mount Tacoma or Tahoma, its native moniker, disparaging the Seattle- (and USGS-) approved namesake, English Rear Admiral Peter Rainier. Names aside, Tacoma has always rocked the mountain view.

Point: Grit City.

At center, Northern Pacific Railroad’s Headquarters, completed in 1888, overlooks train-track ribbons and Commencement Bay. The creamy, stucco-covered structure also commemorates Tacoma’s 1873 triumph over Seattle, when the railroad chose the tiny (population 200) unincorporated town as its western terminus, in one fell swoop breaking more than a thousand Queen City hearts.

Point: the City of Destiny for the snub.

At right, just across Pacific Avenue, stands Tacoma’s commanding Old City Hall, built in 1893. A superb example of Italian Renaissance style, its eight-foot-thick foundation walls support a freestanding clock/campanile tower, slightly tapered to emphasize its soaring 10 stories. Seattle, having just erected a more utilitarian flatiron city hall in 1909, might well have expressed envy.

Point: You’ll prefer Tacoma, for the win.

WEB EXTRAS

A 360 degree video will be forthcoming but Jean is in his second day of Covid – not too serious thus far, but his dry cough keeps ruining vocal takes!
And at last here’s the 360 (in the first couple minutes, a cop tries to convince Jean to get out of traffic. Jean nods, and smiles agreeably but continues recording).

We have a handful of extras this week, including more materials featuring photographer Paul Richards.

But this just in! Lane Morgan, daughter of legendary historian Murray Morgan (author of ‘Skid Road’ and many other monumental books of regional history, as well as being mentor and close friend of this column’s founder Paul Dorpat), sends along the following delightful odes to Tacoma, written by her grandfather Henry Victor Morgan between 1912 and the early 20s.

Her favorite:

POULTRY IN TACOMA

Livin’ in Tacoma is one long delight,
Just a been attendin’
Poultry show tonight;
Every hen a-singin’–
Red and white and blue—
“Gee we like Tacoma, Bet your life we do!”
All together sayin’, “Isn’t this sublime?
Don’t you like Tacoma? Ain’t the climate fine?

Ever see such weather on a New Years Day
That is why we’re happy. That is why we lay.”

One Rhode Island biddy
Filled the room with cackle,
Said Tacoma’s Leghorn: “She is from Seattle.”
Answered biddie’s Chanti
Rolling up his eyes,
“Yes, we’re from Seattle,
And we won third prize.”

One lone bird seemed dumpy
At the poultry feast
Said the White Minorka,
“She is from the east;
She is like a trolley, off the beaten track,
Dumpy? She is thinkin’ that she must go back.”

Then the roosters proudly
All began to crow,
“No place like Tacoma! Watch Tacoma grow!”

And, as promised, a bit more about Paul Richards:

 

The only extant photo of Paul Richards, from his passport taken two years before his death

After building a life in Tacoma, he joined the US Army as a photographer and documented the First World War in France. Certainly, he also served as a translator as well. In the final months of the war, tragedy struck in the form of mustard gas. Severely wounded, Richards spent three years convalescing but died in 1921 of his injuries.

One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: ‘You’ll Like Tacoma,’ 1910”

  1. The Interstate 705 designation does not exist north of the 11th Street on-ramp. Everything north of there is a City of Tacoma facility. So that State Patrol officer does not have jurisdiction where Jean was taking the pictures. I myself had a Renton police officer looking at me as I was setting up a tripod in a quiet industrial area at night to get a time exposure shot of a railroad cross arm raising as the Spirit of Washington crossed, so I know what it’s like.

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