Buses and Breweries

In the mid 1920’s motor buses were the coming thing, running over the place bound tracks of Tacoma’s elaborate electric streetcar system and leaving in the dust the horse drawn notion of wagons and stages. Here’s a group portrait on C Street in September 1925 that tells the story with the Municipal stables and wagon barn in the far distance and the City Light Nisqually Power Station just behind. Underfoot and overhead are the tracks and catenary lines of the streetcars that would be abandoned in a little more than a decade, as fleets of buses like these followed the exploding paved road system into the suburbs and beyond. More miles of roads were built in Washington State during the 1920’s than any decade before or since thanks to cheap gas and a gas tax for road building. This streetscape is amazingly unchanged over the last 90 years. Today, word is that a brewery will be installed in the power plant where massive transformers once whined and the nearby Prairie Line is being transformed into a linear public space. Ghosts of the past crashing into dreams of the future. About all that’s missing are a row of buses and a line of dapper bus drivers.

Tacoma Public Library Boland Collection-B13291 Unique 37396.

RecapturedCity by Andy Cox

Bus 6th Ave

Black and white, close oblique angle cellulose nitrate negative image of a Sixth Avenue passenger bus, built by the Kenworth Motor Truck Co., on a dirt road in Tacoma, Pierce County, WA, March 23, 1925. The road appears to be elevated. The Tacoma tideflats are in the lower background.

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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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