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.


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. 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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