During the golden age of streetcars it was common to build a folly or amusement at the end of the line to generate traffic on weekends and create an exotic destination costing travelers full fare. For New Yorkers the end of the line at the end of the 19th century was Coney Island. In Tacoma it was Point Defiance Park with its roaming buffalo and caged bears, its carousels and thrill rides and its beaches and deep dark forest. Finished just three years after Union Station, a movie set replica of a Japanese Pagoda once greeted streetcar adventurers to the park and today the century old survivor remains as one of Tacoma’s more quirky and charming landmarks. Like a prop from a Gilbert & Sullivan opera, the pagoda just keeps on entertaining us with wit, wonder and one too many near death experiences. To quote the Lord High Pooh Baa in the Mikado “I’m not nearly finished!”.

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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