Stadium Style

So here’s a study in fashion from Fall of 1947. These young women are modeling the latest in style for a newspaper special section on fashion sponsored by the big downtown department stores like Rhodes and the trendy women’s shops like Lyons. They have all graduated from Stadium High School and are posing in the shadow of the Châteauesque landmark before heading off to college.

But fashion changes and before these bright students could graduate, The Citizens Advisory Committee appointed by the School Board and representing 175 civic and service organizations, began calling for the demolition and replacement of the 1906 building. The mid 1950’s brought Stadium High School to the brink of destruction as its architectural counterparts like the Romanesque County Courthouse and Italianate City Hall were marked for annihilation. Elsewhere downtown, the department stores and dress shops were seeing their last days, even though they didn’t know it. Charmed by the modern notion that they would thrive nearer the new interstate in a car friendly shopping mall, many moved but few survived.

Like Tacoma’s Old City Hall, Stadium was saved by the distraction of a shiny new building that flashed glass and aluminum and a new post war idea about how American cities should look. In a way Wilson High School saved Stadium. The year Wilson was finished they put a new roof on the old castle, fixed the windows, added a little paint and did some work on the gym. That was 1958 and by the time those repairs were worn out, fashion was back on Stadium’s side. Timeless style should carry it from here on.



courthouse demo

July 1959 demolition of the Pierce County Courthouse. The fate narrowly avoided by Stadium High School just one year earlier.

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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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