Annie Wright


From the Recaptured City project with new revisions…

This 1949 view of the Tudor Gothic Buildings at Annie Wright School reflects a time when dense ivy and trim lawns were the ideal signage for a girls college preparatory school. Designed and built in 1924 by the architectural firm of Sutton, Whitney & Dugan, Annie Wright was started in 1884 with a donation from Tacoma’s early godfather and railroad tycoon Charles Wright. It was Wright that commissioned the landscape genius Frederick Law Olmstead to design a Plan for Tacoma in 1873, still the most beautiful missed opportunity from the city’s early days. A glimmer of its unrealized promise is woven into the park that bears his name.
TPL Richards Studio Collection Series D42829-4 (Unique; 1/980)


WSHS 1890

Annie Wright Seminary School was one of Tacoma’s first cultural institutions, a gift from Charles Wright, Annie’s father and Tacoma’s philanthropic godfather. This image is from 1884 and it shows the first architectural version of Annie Wright School at the corner of Tacoma Avenue North and Division Avenue. The gulch that will become Stadium Bowl falls  out of the picture on the right and the muddy road wandering into the trees is Tacoma Avenue headed toward the present location of the school.

wshs 1894

Looking back from about 3rd and Tacoma Avenue (where the Dorothy Apartments are today) six or seven years later, Annie Wright is the striking bellwether landmark for the developing neighborhood. Tacoma Avenue has plank sidewalks and a central track for a streetcar that was still horsedrawn in 1890.


By 1915, Annie Wright was seeming a bit shabby next to the spectacular Tacoma High School and stadium. Division and Tacoma was a busy crossing for North and West end streetcar lines and the surrounding streets and boulevards were filling up with grand homes in permanent masonry materials and trendy post Victorian architectural styles. In a decade the wood frame building would be demolished and the descendant Tudor influenced Annie Wright would be operating as a modern boarding school, full of uniformed all female students, teachers and a future looking parking lot. The site of the gothic Queen Anne building is today the heart of the Stadium district with a row of shops along the Tacoma sidewalk where the front lawn once graced the building. The sandstone foundation and basement the main structure were leveled and today sit beneath Stadium Thriftway and the former Titus Motors (Rhein Haus restaurant).


The same year the new Annie Wright Seminary was completed in 1925, the building took a star turn in the Tacoma made and recently rediscovered feature film The Eyes of the Totem .

Here’s a trailer from the film and a unique look at Annie Wright School more than 90 years ago…..Watch for it!


Thanks to image magician Andy Cox.

And thanks to Annie Wright School for teaching all of us the value of historic places and carefully preserved buildings.


1 comment

  1. I so enjoy these articles. Short, well written and researched and full of interesting historic details.
    Keep up the great work.
    Cathy Taylor


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