Grand Hotel of the Jazz Age

Once Tacoma’s heart and highest hopes were vested deep in the Winthrop Hotel. The modern 12 story steel frame building was opened in May 1925 after a community subscription drive by the Citizens Hotel Corporation funded the project. Some called it a civic moral recovery project after a fiery effort that went several rounds to rename the mountain “Tacoma” failed. Even with John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt on Tacoma’s side, the issue was settled in 1924 after Senator Clarence Dill moved the name change through the U.S. Senate only to have the House send the question back to the Geographic Names Board where it was denied. This historic image dates from exactly that time, when Tacomans felt like their heart had been torn out by powerful forces beyond.
Soon after, the new hotel adopted the name of Theodor Winthrop, the adventurer who authored the book “the Saddle and the Canoe” before supposedly becoming the first Union officer killed in the Civil War. Hard way to promote a best seller but it worked and a passage from the book was famously cited by Job Carr and his family, Mathew McCarver and a circle of early founders in naming the city after the mountain, Tacoma. Withrop called the native Salish name for the mountain “melodious” and added the misspelled quip “Mount Regnier Christians have dubbed it, in stupid nomenclature, perpetuating the name of somebody or nobody”.
With its advanced fire proof construction, fire sprinklers, gracious baths in every room, speedy elevators, and a multi stories parking garage the Winthop was the last word in modern architecture and the city’s coded last word on the name of The Mountain.

Tacoma Public Library, BOLAND-B10395

Winthrop RC

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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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