Tacoma is a mid-sized urban port city in and the county seat of Pierce County, Washington, United States. The city is on Washington's Puget Sound, southwest of Seattle, northeast of the state capital, Olympia, and northwest of Mount Rainier National Park. The population was 193,556 at the 2000 census and had a 2008 Washington State Office of Financial Management estimate of 202,700. Tacoma is the second-largest city in the Puget Sound area and the third largest in the state.
Tacoma adopted its name after the nearby Mount Rainier, originally called Mount Tacoma or Mount Tahoma. It is known as the "City of Destiny" because the area was chosen to be the western terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad in the late 1800s. The decision of the railroad was influenced by Tacoma's neighboring Commencement Bay. By connecting the bay with the railroad Tacoma’s motto became “When rails meet sails.” Today Commencement Bay serves the Port of Tacoma, a center of international trade on the Pacific Coast.
Like most central cities, Tacoma suffered a prolonged decline in the mid-20th century as a result of suburbanization, divestment, and federal urban renewal programs. Recently the city has been undergoing a renaissance, investing in the downtown core to establish the University of Washington, Tacoma; Tacoma Link, the first modern electric light rail service in the state; various art and history museums; and a restored inlet, the Thea Foss Waterway.
With a long history of blue-collar labor politics — from the railroad workers of the 1800s, to the longshoremen of the 20th century, to the Labor Ready workers of today — Tacoma has long been known for its rough, gritty image.
Tacoma-Pierce County has been named one of the most livable areas in the country. Tacoma was also recently listed as the 19th most walkable city in the country. In contrast, the city is also ranked as the most stressed-out city in the country in a 2004 survey. However, in 2006, women's magazine Self named Tacoma the "Most Sexually Healthy City" in the United States.
Tacoma was incorporated on November 12, 1875. Its hopes to be the "City of Destiny" were stimulated by selection in 1873 as the western terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad, thanks to lobbying by McCarver and others. The transcontinental link was effected in 1887, but the railroad built its depot on "New Tacoma", two miles (3km) south of the Carr-McCarver development. The two communities grew together and joined. The population grew from 1,098 in 1880 to 36,006 in 1890. Rudyard Kipling visited Tacoma in 1889 and said it was "literally staggering under a boom of the boomiest".
George Francis Train was a resident for a few years in the late 1800s. In 1880, he staged a global circumnavigation starting and ending in Tacoma to promote the city. A plaque in downtown Tacoma marks the start/finish line.
What came to be known as "Tacoma method" was used in November 1885 to expel several thousand Chinese peaceably living in the city. As described by the account prepared by the Chinese Reconciliation Project, on the morning of November 3, 1885, "several hundred men, led by the mayor and other city officials, evicted the Chinese from their homes, corralled them at 7th Street and Pacific Avenue, marched them to the railway station at Lakeview and forced them aboard the morning train to Portland, Oregon. The next day two Chinese settlements were burned to the ground."
The discovery of gold in the Klondike in 1898 led Tacoma's prominence in the region to be eclipsed by the booming development of Seattle.
In 1935 Tacoma received national attention when George Weyerhaeuser, nine-year-old son of prominent lumber industry executive J.P. Weyerhaeuser, was kidnapped while walking home from school. FBI agents from Portland handled the case, in which payment of a ransom of $200,000 secured release of the victim. Four persons were apprehended and convicted. The last to be released was paroled from McNeil Island in 1963; George Weyerhaeuser went on to become chairman of the Board of the Weyerhaeuser Company.
In 1951, an investigation by a state legislative committee revealed widespread corruption in Tacoma's government, which had been organized commission-style since 1910. Voters approved a mayor/city-manager system in 1952.
The first local referendums in the U.S. on computerized voting occurred in Tacoma in 1982 and 1987. On both occasions, voters rejected 3-1 the computer voting systems that local officials sought to purchase. The campaigns, organized by Eleanora Ballasiotes, a conservative Republican, focused on the vulnerabilities of computers to fraud.
In 1998, Tacoma installed a high-speed fiber optic network throughout the community. The municipally owned power company wired the city of 187,000 people, making Tacoma America's #1 wired city.
Tacoma struggled with crime in its Hilltop neighborhood in the 1980s and early 1990s. The problems have declined in recent years as neighborhoods have enacted community policing and other policies. Mayor Bill Baarsma is a member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition, a bi-partisan group with a stated goal of "making the public safer by getting illegal guns off the streets." The coalition is co-chaired by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
In 2004, Tacoma was ranked among the top 30 Most Livable Communities in 2004, in an annual survey conducted by the Partners for Livable Communities.
Beginning in the early 1990s, Tacoma has taken steps to revitalize itself and its image, especially downtown.
The University of Washington established a branch campus in Tacoma in 1990. The same year, Union Station (Tacoma) was restored. The Museum of Glass opened in downtown Tacoma in 2002, showing glass art from the region and around the world. It includes a glassblowing studio.
Tacoma's downtown Cultural District is the site of the Washington State History Museum (1996) and the Tacoma Art Museum (2003). America's Car Museum is currently breaking ground in Tacoma. The glass and steel Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center opened in November 2004.
Downtown Tacoma has a thriving Theatre District, anchored by the 89-year-old Pantages Theater. The Broadway Center for the Performing Arts manages the Pantages, the Rialto Theater, and the Theatre on the Square. Other attractions include the Grand Cinema and the Temple Theatre.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has . is land and water. The total area is 20.01% water.
Tacoma has its feet in Commencement Bay, with several cities surrounding it. Large portions of Tacoma have excellent views of Mt. Rainier.
There were 76,152 households in Tacoma in 2000; 30.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.6% were married couples living together, 13.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.7% were non-families. Almost one third of households (31.7%) were made up of individuals living alone; 10.4% of these were 65 years of age or older. The average household size in 2000 was 2.45 and the average family size was 3.10.
In the city the population was spread out with 25.8% under 18, 10.4% from 18 to 24, 31.6% from 25 to 44, 20.3% from 45 to 64, and 11.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34. For every 100 females there were 95.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $37,879, and the median income for a family was $45,567. Males had a median income of $35,820, versus $27,697 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,130. About 11.4% of families and 15.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.6% of those under the age of 18 and 10.9% of those 65 and older.
Four years later, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that Tacoma's population had increased by 1.7%, to 196,800 (Trends, No. D3 [September 2004])
Normal day-to-day operations of the city government are administered by the city manager, Eric Anderson, who is appointed by the city council.
Beginning in the 1930s, Tacoma became known for the "Tacoma Aroma", a distinctive, acrid odor produced by paper manufacturing on the industrial tide flats. In the late 1990s, Simpson Tacoma Kraft reduced total sulfur emissions by 90%. This largely eliminated the problem; where once the aroma was ever-present, it is now only noticeable occasionally, primarily when the wind is coming from the east.
Tacoma's system of transportation is based primarily on the automobile. The majority of the city has a system of gridded streets oriented in relation to A Street (one block east of Pacific Avenue) and Sixth Avenue, both beginning in downtown Tacoma. Within the city, numbered streets run east to west and are labeled "North" or "South" according to their relationship with Sixth Avenue or Division Street. (West of Division, Sixth Avenue is the lowest-numbered street.) North- and south-running streets are given a name or a letter, and are also labeled "North" or "South" in relation to Sixth Avenue. This can lead to confusion, as many named streets intersect streets of the same number in both North and South Tacoma. For example, the intersection of South 11th Street and Union Avenue is just ten blocks south of North 11th Street and Union Avenue. To the east of the Thea Foss waterway and A Street, streets are similarly divided into "East" and "Northeast", with 0 Street East being equivalent to the Pierce-King line. "Northeast" covers a small wedge of Tacoma and unincorporated Pierce County lying on the hill across the tideflats from downtown. This numeric system extends to the furthest reaches of Pierce County, except for the Key Peninsula, which retains the north-south streets but chooses the Pierce-Kitsap line as the zero point for east-west streets.
In portions of the city dating back to the Tacoma Streetcar Period (1888-1938), denser mixed use business districts exist alongside single family homes. Twelve such districts have active, city-recognized business associations and hold "small town"-style parades and other festivals. The Proctor, Old Town, Dome, Sixth Avenue, Stadium and Lincoln Business Districts are some of the more prominent and popular of these and coordinate their efforts to redevelop urban villages through the Cross District Association of Tacoma In newer portions of the city to the west and south, residential cul-de-sacs, four-lane collector roads and indoor shopping centers are more commonplace.
The dominant intercity transportation link between Tacoma and other parts of the Puget Sound is Interstate 5, which links Tacoma with Seattle to the north and Portland, Oregon, to the south. State Route 16 runs along a concrete viaduct through Tacoma's Nalley Valley, connecting Interstate 5 with Central and West Tacoma, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and the Kitsap Peninsula. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport lies north, in the city of SeaTac.
Tacoma Power, a division of TPU, provides residents of Tacoma and several bordering municipalities with electrical power generated by eight hydroelectric dams located on the Skokomish River and elsewhere. Environmentalists, fishermen, and the Skokomish Indian Tribe have criticized TPU's operation of Cushman Dam on the North Fork of the Skokomish River; the tribe's $6 billion claim was denied by the U.S. Supreme court in January 2006. The capacity of Tacoma’s hydroelectric system as of 2004 was 713,000 kilowatts, or about 50% of the demand made up by TPU’s customers (the rest is purchased from other utilities). According to TPU, hydroelectricity provides about 87% of Tacoma’s power; coal 3%; natural gas 1%; nuclear 9%; and biomass and wind at less than 1%. Tacoma Power also operates the Click! Network, a municipally-owned cable television and internet service. The residential cost per kilowatt hour of electricity is just over 6 cents.
Tacoma Water provides customers in its service area with water from the Green River Watershed. As of 2004, Tacoma Water provided water services to 93,903 customers. The average annual cost for residential supply was $257.84.
Tacoma Rail, initially a municipally owned street railway line running to the tideflats, was converted to a common-carrier rail switching utility. Tacoma Rail is self-supporting and employs over 90 people.
In addition to municipal garbage collection, Tacoma offers commingled recycling services for paper, cardboard, plastics, and metals.
Another large park in Tacoma is Wapato Park, which has a lake and walking trails that circle the lake. Wapato is located in the south end of Tacoma, at Sheridan and 72nd St.
Wright Park, located near downtown, is a large, English-style park designed in the late 1800s by E.O. Schwagerl and Ebenezer Rhys Roberts. It contains Wright Park Arboretum and the W. W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory.
Frost Park in downtown Tacoma is often utilized for sidewalk chalk contests.
Fireboat No. 1 was built in 1929 for the Port of Tacoma by the Coastline Shipbuilding Company. After 54 years of service in waterfront fire protection, harbor security patrols, search and rescue missions, and water pollution control, Fireboat No. 1 was put up on a permanent dry berth at a public beach near Tacoma’s Old Town neighborhood. She is one of only five fireboats designated as a National Historic Landmark. Visitors are able to walk around her exterior, but her interior is closed to the public.
William Ross Rust House - Colonial / Classic Revival (1905) - Ambrose J. Russell (Architect), Charles Miller (Contractor)
Henry Foss High School operates an International Baccalaureate program. Sheridan Elementary School operates three foreign language immersion programs (Spanish, French, and Japanese). Mount Tahoma High School opened a brand new building in South Tacoma in the fall of 2004. Stadium High School and Wilson High School were remodeled/refurbished and reopened in September 2006. Lincoln High School reopened in the fall of 2007 after a $75 million renovation and expansion.
Tacoma's institutions of higher learning include the University of Puget Sound, Tacoma Community College, Bates Technical College, The Evergreen State College Tacoma Campus, Northwest Baptist Seminary, and University of Washington Tacoma. Pacific Lutheran University is located in Parkland, just south of the city; nearby Lakewood is the home of Clover Park Technical College and Pierce College.
The Museum of Glass boasts an iconic structure standing near the Thea Foss Waterway; the steel cone of the hot shop is arguably the most recognizable structure in the city.
The Tacoma Opera stages several productions a year at the Pantages Theatre and other locations around the city.
The Tacoma farmers' market runs every May through September, every Thursday, in the Theatre District.
Club Sport Founded League Venue
The city has struggled to keep a minor league hockey franchise. The Tacoma Rockets of the WHL were lost to relocation and moved to Kelowna, British Columbia. The Tacoma Sabercats of the former West Coast Hockey League closed due to financial woes. The Tacoma Dome still hosts traveling sports and other events, such as pro wrestling, figure skating tours, and the Harlem Globetrotters. At one point, the Tacoma Dome was home to a professional indoor soccer team, the Tacoma Stars. For the 1994-1995 season, the Seattle SuperSonics played in the Tacoma Dome while the Seattle Center Coliseum was renovated (and renamed Key Arena). The Tacoma Dome also hosted the 1988 and 1989 Women's NCAA Final Four. In 2007, the Tacoma Dome will host four home games of the Tacoma Jazz, who recently replaced the Tacoma Jets on the IBL schedule.
Tacoma was 36th in “50 Smart Places to Live,” a ranking by Kiplinger's Personal Finance (2006)
Richard Brautigan wrote of his Tacoma childhood in his autobiographical short stories "Corporal," "The Armoured Car," "The Auction," and "The Ghost Children of Tacoma," as well as his last finished novel So The Wind Won't Blow It All Away.
Neko Case's '"Thrice All American" (on the album Furnace Room Lullaby) is an ode to Tacoma, which she considers her hometown. Tacoma is also the subject of the Jason Webley song "How Big Is Tacoma?" and Girl Trouble's "My Hometown".