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.
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.
Northern Pacific Headquarters When Nearly New. Digital image. Seattle Now & Then: The Tacoma Public Library. N.p., 12 Nov. 2011. Web.
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
Featured image by Andy Cox from the Recaptured City project
Historic images from the Washington State Historical Society≈