Fire and Aftermath on South 38th

In the realm of stories partially told this glass plate negative image from 1914 showing a crowd of people milling around Pallies Hall at 768 1/2 South Thirty-eighth Street, near Yakima Avenue in Tacoma. The emulsion damage at the edges of the photo echos the burned out condition of the building and the morning after bewilderment of the curious onlookers. The young couple holding hands and walking away from the charred storefront have the matched footwork of dancers that might have seen the fire leap into the rafters of the upstairs ballroom academy the night before and the old fashion, bonneted ladies commiserating in front of a lost Notions shop suggest they are wondering where their next bolt of gingham is coming from. Is that W.H. Mills himself standing in front of his cobblers shop staring off into an unknown future where there are no guarantees? Are the school boys in their caps chewing on the smoky but free sweets from the smoldering grocery? And what is it about a corner store that brings neighbors together, even in loss and aftermath? Its the day after the fire a century ago, memory as ghost.

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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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