1965 was an earthshaking year for downtown Tacoma, both in a literal sense when an April quake of 6.6 rocked the city and in an economic sense when the Tacoma Mall opened in October. No building showed the withering effects more than Union Station, where Amtrak was struggling to find passengers and freight let alone the budget to patch the aging Beaux Arts copper roof. A few desperate schemes to revive the grand old station emerged, notably a quixotic “Depot Galleria” plan in 1975 that added new buildings and tarted up the 1911 depot as an 1890’s Victorian theme market. But by the early 1980’s I-705 was being planned where the east side concourse reached out to the tracks and Amtrak was building a bland little stop out on Portland Avenue. For over a century  Union Station has written Tacoma’s story, thru good and bad it is our diary in a steady hand, shaken and crumbled a bit at times but still here like the city itself.

A small gallery with Jim Fredrickson in mind

union station rotunda 1979
1979 Rotunda

Union Station concourse 1979

Union Station 1942

Union Station cart 1979

union station monad 1979

Jim Fredrickson
Jim Fredrickson, High School and RR switches

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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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