Time Runs Out


Time has run out in this photograph from November 1949 on the Romanesque Pierce County Courthouse clock tower. For generations it was possible to synchronize the time used by the county and the city by simply eyesight. A timekeeper could set the hands on one Howard table clock by checking the distant dial on the other because there was never an obstacle between the twin public time pieces. In this photo, the County clock has been removed and the empty face frames a last view toward the North and just out of the portal to the east is the silhouette of Tacoma’s City Hall tower. The emptiness of this photo creeps me out, a time piece with no face, the hours but no hands, the highest point in the city for generations that today floats in mid air, the ghost of a landmark lost.

Tacoma Public Library, Richards Collection, Series D46436-6, Unique 18546

Pierce County Courthouse before the Howard table clock was installed
No caption needed. ca.1955
Courthouse Tower above Carnegie Library

Written by

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.

1 comment

  1. Great site!

    I was curious as to why the building was torn down. Looking at imagery, it looks like this building is where the current court house parking lot is. Was it damaged in the earthquake? Thanks!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: