Technicolor Cars

Image may contain: outdoor


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.

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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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