Before Antique Row, the LeMay Car Museum and even the Brutalist parking garages downtown, automobile dealerships and sales offices lined Broadway and St. Helen in the Old City Hall district. The streetcar lines disappeared and buildings that once graced the sidewalks with display windows and shop entries were replaced with garage doors and service bays. In the 1920’s it was the first part of the downtown to give up pedestrian traffic as the theatre district and Winthrop Hotel area became a boundary for walkers and window shoppers. By the mid 1950’s the new Interstate highway would attract auto dealers away from the downtown followed by the big retailers and merchants when the Tacoma Mall was built. It was a familiar urban drama played out in cities across America. It’s the storyline for the colorful animated film “Cars”. Here’s a look at Broadway in the Spring of 1950 and the animation of Tacoma’s graffiti artists a few years ago replacing Cadillacs and Pontiacs with a Technicolor backstory all their own.
From the ReCaptured City project with images by Andy Cox.