As high Victoriana goes in Tacoma it’s hard to outdo the Seymour Conservatory at Wright Park. The Gilded Age architectural ornament was part of a collection of trophies, events and civic oddities that were assembled in the park during the first decade or so of the 20th Century including a captured two ton bronze cannon from the Spanish Armada, a bust of Norwegian surrealist Henrick Ibsen, the Clinton Ferry statuary complete with heartbreak back story and a speech by Teddy Roosevelt given from a mammoth cedar stump bandstand in 1903.

The 1908 conservatory is the same age as Stadium High School and it originally presented a set of stylish Corinthian facades at each entry in true Victorian fashion. Today it’s a little like a Tiffany lamp with its patina removed by an overly tidy but well meaning butler. It’s interesting to compare the elegant glass lantern garden house with Peter Sanberg’s building at 15th and Pacific (DaVita), which was built at the same time. One was built by a high socialite who would become mayor on a morality platform and the other by an underworld raconteur who taunted the establishment by telling reporters he was building a nine story brothel. They were both studies in glass, one looking back into the formality of the past and the other towering over a city with a skyline about to rise.


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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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