Home Grown Obstructionists

Here’s a quaint, deceptive portrait of the members of the Tacoma Delphinium Garden Club in a foreshortened perspective photograph. They are accepting the hands of time from old school clock fixer E. F. Ferrens in front of the tower and empty dial at City Hall in May 26, 1962. While the foreground is all Mayberry the background is dire with unseen diabolical shadings.
RC OCH clockWhen this picture was taken Tacoma’s government had moved to the freshly built County-City Building on Tacoma Avenue where chaos reigned, most of the City Council was recalled and elected officials carried guns to work and public meetings. The grand Italian Renaissance style City Hall was nearly vacant and beginning to deteriorate and Urban Renewal funds were readily available for blight removal. There was a powerful political leaning toward demolishing the “unfashionable monstrosity” along with almost any of the other “period” buildings downtown. Already the Romanesque County Courthouse adjacent to the Modern new joint government building had been demolished for a parking lot and city planners flush with millions in Federal revenue sharing dollars were hatching a scheme for a massive shopping mall that would redirect traffic away from a quickly fading downtown. In the near future whole blocks of the city would be replaced with Brutalist parking garages but for some reason efforts to clear cut old Tacoma never gained popular support.
In some government offices, the Delphinium Garden Club women were seen as part of the problem and subversive for their drive to restore the E. Howard & Co. clock and trigger efforts to save the old City Hall building.
All these forces were in play, while time stood still for this photograph. In the end, the Delphinium Club saved the clock and maybe the city, just in time.

Tacoma Public Library, D134799-2

Image by Andy Cox from the Recaptured City project.

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