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Tacoma ( , ) is a mid-sized urban port city in and the county seat of Pierce County, Washingtonmarker, United Statesmarker. The city is on Washington's Puget Soundmarker, southwest of Seattlemarker, northeast of the state capital, Olympiamarker, and northwest of Mount Rainier National Parkmarker. The population was 193,556, according to the 2000 census, while the Census Bureau estimated its population at 197,181 in 2008. 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 Rainiermarker, 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 Baymarker. 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 and divestment. 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. In 2006, women's magazine Self named Tacoma the "Most Sexually Healthy City" in the United States.


Tacoma was inhabited for thousands of years by American Indians, predominantly the Puyallup people, who lived in settlements on the delta of the Puyallup River and called the area Squa-szucks. It was visited by European and American explorers, including George Vancouver and Charles Wilkes, who named many of the coastal landmarks.

19th century

In 1852 a Swede named Nicolas Delin constructed a sawmill powered by water on a creek near the head of Commencement Bay, but the small settlement that grew up around it was abandoned during the Indian War of 1855-1856. In 1864, pioneer and postmaster Job Carr, a Civil War veteran and land speculator who hoped to profit from the selection of Commencement Bay as the terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad, built a cabin (a replica of Job Carr's cabin, which also served as Tacoma's first post office, was erected in "Old Town" in 2000 near the original site), and later sold most of his claim to developer Morton McCarver (1807-1875), who named his project Tacoma City. The name derived from the indigenous name for Mount Rainiermarker, deriving from the Puyallup tacobet, "mother of waters".

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, future mayor John Wilson Sprague, and others. The transcontinental link was effected in 1887, but the railroad built its depot on "New Tacoma", two miles (3 km) 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 Chinesemarker 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, Oregonmarker. 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.

20th century

Downtown, early 20th century
During a 30-day power shortage in the winter of 1929/1930, Tacoma was provided with electricity from the engines of the aircraft carrier USS Lexingtonmarker.

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. FBImarker 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.

Tacoma featured prominently in the garage rock sound of the mid-1960s with bands including The Wailers and The Sonics; the surf rock band The Ventures were also from Tacoma.

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 Bostonmarker Mayor Thomas Menino and New York Citymarker Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

21st century

On April 26, 2003, Tacoma's chief of police David Brame shot his wife and then killed himself in Gig Harbor, Washingtonmarker. His wife died from injuries a few days later.

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.

Downtown Revival

Hotel Bostwick, located in Tacoma
Beginning in the early 1990s, Tacoma has taken steps to revitalize itself and its image, especially downtown.

The University of Washingtonmarker established a branch campus in Tacoma in 1990. The same year, Union Station was restored.The Museum of Glassmarker 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 Museummarker (2003). America's Car Museum is currently breaking ground in Tacoma.The glass and steel Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Centermarker 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.

The area around the Theatre District is the center of Tacoma's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender culture. Three of the city's gay bars are here as well as the Rainbow Center.


Tacoma is at (47.241371, -122.459389). Its elevation is .

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has an area of . of it is land and of it (20.01%) is water.

Tacoma straddles the neighboring Commencement Bay with several smaller cities surrounding it. Large areas of Tacoma have excellent views of Mt. Rainier.

The city is near several military installations, including Fort Lewismarker and McChord Air Force Basemarker.

Surrounding Cities


As of the census of 2000, there were 193,556 people, 76,152 households, and 45,919 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,864.9 people per square mile (1,492.3/km²). There were 81,102 housing units at an average density of 1,619.4/sq mi (625.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 60.25% White, 12.17% African American, 2.01% Native American, 8.23% Asian, 0.93% Pacific Islander, 3.02% from other races, and 6.28% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 7.11% of the population. 13.2% were of German, 7.7% Irish, 6.8% English, 5.5% Norwegian and 5.4% Americanmarker ancestry according to Census 2000. 83.9% spoke English, 4.9% Spanish, 1.8% Korean, 1.7% Mon-Khmer or Cambodian, 1.7% Vietnamese and 1.2% German as their first language.

There were 76,152 households out of which 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. 31.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size 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.


The government of the city of Tacoma operates under a council-manager system. The city council consists of an elected mayor (Bill Baarsma) and eight elected council members, five from individual city council districts and three others from the city at-large. All serve four-year terms and are elected in odd-numbered years. The council adopts and amends city laws, approves a two-year budget, establishes city policy, appoints citizens to boards and commissions, and performs other actions. The council also meets in "standing committees", which break down the council's work into more defined areas, such as "Environment & Public Works", "Neighborhoods & Housing", and "Public Safety & Human Services". The council meets as a whole most Tuesdays at 5:00 p.m. in the council chambers at 747 Market St. Most meetings are open to the public and provide for public input.

Normal day-to-day operations of the city government are administered by the city manager, Eric Anderson, who is appointed by the city council.

Commerce and industry

[[Image:Commencementbay.jpg|thumb|left|The Port of Tacoma,on Commencement Baymarker, is one of the largest seaports in the Pacific Northwest]]

Tacoma is the home of several international companies including, True Blue Inc. (formerly Labor Ready).

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.

U.S. Oil and Refining operates an oil refinery on the tide flats in the Port of Tacoma. Built in Tacoma in 1952, it currently refines 39,000 barrels of petroleum per day.

The Tacoma Mall is the largest shopping center in Tacoma. It is owned by Simon Property Group. Anchor tenants include JC Penney, Sears, Macy'smarker, and Nordstrommarker.

An economic setback for the city occurred in September 2009 when Russell Investments, which has been located in downtown Tacoma since its inception in 1936, announced it was moving its headquarters to Seattle along with several hundred white collar jobs.

Urban form and transport

City of Tacoma, from the 2001 Comprehensive Plan
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 Peninsulamarker, 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 Seattlemarker to the north and Portland, Oregonmarker, 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 Bridgemarker, and the Kitsap Peninsulamarker. Seattle-Tacoma International Airportmarker lies north, in the city of SeaTacmarker.

Public transport

Tacoma's alternative transportation services include buses, commuter rail, light rail, and ferries. Public bus service is provided by Pierce Transit, which serves Tacoma and Pierce Countymarker. Pierce Transit operates a total of 55 bus routes, using mostly buses powered by compressed natural gas. Most bus service operates at 30-minute frequencies on weekdays, some routes once an hour, while three heavily-ridden "trunk" routes are served every 15 minutes on weekdays and every half hour on weekends.

Sound Transit, the regional transit authority, provides weekday peak-direction Sounder Commuter Rail service and express bus service to and from Seattle seven days a week. (Service to and from Olympiamarker is serviced by Pierce and Intercity Transit.) Sound Transit has also established Tacoma Link light rail, a 2.5 km (1.6-mile) free electric streetcar line linking Tacoma Domemarker Station with the University of Washington, Tacoma, Tacoma's Museum District, and the Theater District. Expansion of the city's rail transit system (either in the form of electric streetcars or light rail) is under consideration by the city of Tacoma and Pierce Transit, and is supported by a local grassroots organization, Tacoma Streetcar.

The Washington State Ferries system, which has a dock at Point Defiancemarker, provides ferry access to Tahlequahmarker at the southern tip of Vashon Islandmarker, typically on the ferry MV Rhododendron.

Greyhound service is also accessible via Tacoma Dome Station. An Amtrak station one block east on Puyallup Avenue serves the Cascades and Coast Starlight routes.

Tacoma highways

Seven highways end in or pass through Tacoma: I-5, I-705, SR 7, SR 16, SR 163, SR 167, and SR 509.

Intercity rail transportation

Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service to Tacoma. Amtrak train 11, the southbound Coast Starlight, is scheduled to depart Tacoma at 10:31 a.m. with service to Olympia-Laceymarker, Portlandmarker, Sacramentomarker, Emeryville, Californiamarker (with bus connection to San Franciscomarker), and Los Angelesmarker. Amtrak train 14, the northbound Coast Starlight, is scheduled to depart Tacoma at 7:11 p.m. daily with service to Seattlemarker. Amtrak Cascades trains, operating as far north as Vancouver, BC and as far south as Eugene, Oregonmarker, serve Tacoma several times daily in both directions.

Public utilities

Tacoma’s relationship with public utilities extends back to 1893. At that time the city was undergoing a boom in population, causing it to exceed the available amount of fresh water supplied by Charles Wright’s Tacoma Light & Water Company. In response to both this demand and a growing desire to have local public control over the utility system, the city council put up a public vote to acquire and expand the private utility. The measure passed on July 1, 1893, with 3,195 in favor of acquiring the utility system and 1,956 voting against. Since then, Tacoma Public Utilities (TPU) has grown from a small water and light utility to be the largest department in the city’s government, employing about 1,200 people.

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.


Point Defiance Parkmarker, one of the largest urban parks in the country, is located in Tacoma. Scenic Five Mile Drive allows access to many of the park's attractions, such as Owen Beach, Camp Six, Fort Nisquallymarker, and the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquariummarker. There are many historic structures within the park, such as the pagoda near the park's entrance.

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.

Titlow Beachmarker, located at the end of 6th Avenue, is a popular scuba diving area.

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 Arboretummarker and the W.marker W.marker Seymour Botanical Conservatorymarker.

Jefferson Park in North Tacoma is the location of a new sprayground; an area designed to be a safe and unique play area where water is sprayed from structures or ground sprays and then drained away before it can accumulate.

Frost Park in downtown Tacoma is often utilized for sidewalk chalk contests.

Historic landmarks

Engine House No.marker 9marker is a fire station built in 1907. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Currently, the building houses a pub which brews its own beer.

Stadium High Schoolmarker, part of the Tacoma School District and setting for the movie 10 Things I Hate About You starring Heath Ledger.

Fireboat No.marker 1marker 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 Housemarker - Colonial / Classic Revival (1905) - Ambrose J. Russell (Architect), Charles Miller (Contractor)

Murray Morgan Bridgemarker - 1911 steel lift bridge across the Thea Foss Waterway; it is currently closed to all automobile traffic due to its deteriorating condition, but may be rebuilt in the future. It is still open to pedestrians and bicyclists.


Tacoma's main public school district is Tacoma Public Schools. The district contains 36 elementary schools, eleven middle schools, five high schools, one alternative high school, a Science and Math Institute (SAMI), and one school of the arts (SOTAmarker).

Henry Foss High School operates an International Baccalaureate program. Sheridan Elementary School operated 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 Schoolmarker and Wilson High School were remodeled/refurbished and reopened in September 2006. Lincoln High Schoolmarker reopened in the fall of 2007 after a $75 million renovation and expansion.

Private schools in the area include the Annie Wright School and Bellarmine Preparatory Schoolmarker.

Tacoma's institutions of higher learning include the University of Puget Soundmarker, Tacoma Community Collegemarker, Bates Technical College, The Evergreen State Collegemarker Tacoma Campus, Northwest Baptist Seminary, and University of Washington Tacoma. Pacific Lutheran Universitymarker is located in Parklandmarker, just south of the city; nearby Lakewoodmarker is the home of Clover Park Technical Collegemarker and Pierce Collegemarker.

Cultural attractions

The Museum of Glassmarker boasts an iconic structure standing near the Thea Foss Waterway; the steel cone of the hot shop is one of the most recognizable structures in the city.

Tacoma Art Museummarker was founded in 1935 and reopened in 2003 in a new building on Pacific Avenue in Tacoma - now one of three organizations forming the "museum district" (others are Museum of Glass and Washington State History Museum). It is considered a model for mid-sized regional museums.

The Broadway Center for the Performing Arts is the home to three theaters, two of which are on the National Historic Register. Performing within the three theaters are several performing arts organizations, including the Tacoma Opera, Tacoma Symphony Orchestra, Northwest Sinfionetta, Tacoma City Ballet, Tacoma Concert Band, Tacoma Philharmonic, Tacoma Youth Symphony, Puget Sound Revels and Theatre Northwest.

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot celebrates their 10th anniversary in 2009. Their motto is "taking the fear out of Shakespeare". They offer both educational opportunities and inspired theater in and around Tacoma.

Tacoma hosts part of the annual four-part Daffodil Parade, which takes place every April in Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumnermarker, and Ortingmarker.

The Tacoma farmers' market runs every May through September, every Thursday, in the Theatre District.

Mass media

The city's major daily newspaper is The News Tribune, a subsidiary of McClatchy Newspapers since 1986. Its circulation is about 128,000 (144,000 on Sundays), making it the third-largest newspaper in the state of Washington. A daily newspaper has been in circulation in Tacoma since 1883. Between 1907 and 1918, three dailies were published: The Tacoma Ledger, The News, and The Tacoma Tribune.

Local papers include the Tacoma Weekly, the Tacoma Daily Index and the South Sound alternative newsweekly Weekly Volcano.

Professional sports teams

Tacoma Rainiers

Tacoma Jazz

Tacoma Tide

Club Sport Founded League Venue
Baseball 1960 Pacific Coast League Cheney Stadiummarker
Basketball 2005 International Basketball League Tacoma Domemarker
Soccer 2006 USL Premier Development League Curtis Senior High School

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 Domemarker 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 Coliseummarker was renovated (and renamed KeyArenamarker). 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.

Noteworthy Tacomans

Tacoma has been the home to many athletes, artists, and performers. See People from Tacoma and Tacoma musical groups.


Tacoma was 36th in “50 Smart Places to Live,” a ranking by Kiplinger's Personal Finance (2006)

Toyota named a popular line of pickup trucks the Toyota Tacoma after the city.

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".


Sister cities

See also


  2. See, generally,
  3. Sound Politics: Garbage In, Garbage Out
  4. Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center
  5. Broadway Center For the Performing Arts

External links

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