There was a time when everybody knew that you headed to the north end of Pacific Avenue to find the people who ran the city. The joke was that no one knew for sure which side of the street to look for them. That was because before and after City Hall was built in 1893, the headquarters of the Northern Pacific Railroad stood on the choice waterside lot just across the boulevard.

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 NP Building rising in 1887 See: Rising, 1887

Started in the summer of 1887, the NP headquarters building reflected in its style the highest metropolitan hopes for a city that was mostly tree stumps and mud streets. There is a weirdness to many of the early photos of the NPHQ building because it contrasts so sharply with a long gone frontier town background of wooden saloons, plank sided houses and horse drawn streetcars. The building is a sort of forgone conclusion at the end of Pacific today, a building we don’t notice much because of a concrete off ramp that rushes by overhead and a vacant City Hall building looming across the street. But if the NPHQ building has ghosts, they are building a railroad across a continent, launching a start up timber company called Weyerhaeuser, and mostly likely running the city.
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Northern Pacific Headquarters When Nearly New. Digital image. Seattle Now & Then: The Tacoma Public Library. N.p., 12 Nov. 2011. Web.

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Northern Pacific Headquarters Building about 1900

The NPHQ Building replaced the Northern Pacific Land Office Building (1875) which was a wood frame structure at 9th and Broadway. For its story, set in the middle of a frontier city at the water’s edge terminal of the transcontinental railroad check out THE FIRST

1910
The completion of Tacoma’s Renaissance Style City Hall in 1893 cast an afternoon shadow over the NPHQ Building but from the deck of a ship in Commencement Bay or the railyards below the older structure still loomed large. It was the NP’s sale of a staggering 900,000 acres of land grant forest to Frederick Weyerhaeuser that created the timber company and brought their offices to Tacoma in 1900. The First offices of the Weyerhaeuser Company were in the NPHQ building.

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1910.WSHS

Featured image by Andy Cox from the Recaptured City project

Historic images from the Washington State Historical Society≈

Written by tacomahistory

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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