Great 1922 image on the approach to the Morgan Bridge at the Perkins Building. These folks worked for the Central Steam Company that provided piped steam to most of the downtown through a system of tunnels under the sidewalks on the east side of the streets. The main steam plant is in the background and the business office is there in the Perkins Building. I missed the recent underground Tacoma tour but I’m sure the storteller guides entertained folks with dark myths and legends about how Tacoma’s tunnels concealed the city’s nefarious underworld, how bootleggers and Shanghai goons slipped down the inky passageways. And how people walking on the downtown streets above would catch a shadow of something moving underneath the glass brick grates in the sidewalk at night. Its wonderful the way this photo is torn and battered a bit suggesting somehow that the propriety and upstanding daylight respectability of this group is not exactly what it appears. Use of the steam tunnels, legitimate or not, was after all controlled by someone and they are probably in this picture.

Perkins Bld

Written by tacomahistory

This site is about the way history, in this case of a city and it's surrounds, is remembered or recorded in stories and small bits of memory. It's also about the way images and stories go together, how they inform and enrich each other and how we as thinking people fill in the content between a narrative and a visual document. So here is my city in time past, the way it looked and the people and events that create its character. For more than 20 years I have taught a 5 credit course on the History of Tacoma at the University of Washington Tacoma. With an average of 30 or 40 students a year, each doing a research paper as their primary focus for the course, I have benefited from many paths of inquiry and many researched and assembled stories. Here are some of them in the retelling along with the treasures of photographs and images in the collections of the Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma Public Library, University of Washington Digital Archives, Washington State Archives at the Office of the Secretary of State, Library of Congress, Washington State University, Alaska State Library, and many other archives, libraries and private collections.

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