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New Tacoma and Tacoma City merge to become Tacoma in December 1883. Essay 5062 : Printer-Friendly Format

In December 1883, New Tacoma and Tacoma City merge to become Tacoma. New Tacoma (pop. 4,000) is the terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad on Commencement Bay. Tacoma City, or Old Tacoma, (pop. 400) is the settlement formed around the Job Carr claim a short distance to the north. A temporary mayor and nine aldermen are elected.

In 1873, the Northern Pacific Railroad established its terminus just south of Tacoma City and called it New Tacoma. The Tacoma Land Company -- NP's real estate subsidiary -- platted streets and offered lots for sale. The residents of Tacoma City asked to be recognized as a city and it was incorporated on May 21, 1874. Newcomer Alice Blackwell recalled:

"We were practically three communities at this time. There were Old Tacoma, Wharf, and new Tacoma, or 'on the hil,' as we said, meaning Pacific Avenue from where the city hall was built to about Twelfth Street; A Street from Eighth to the Same distance, a few scattered shanty houses a litter farther up. There was much feeling between the Tacomas about the name. We would call the old part 'Old,' while we wanted to be called 'Tacoma' (they insisted that we were not Tacoma proper and called us 'New'). All business was at the wharf -- the railroad and express offices, telegraph, two small stores, and later a printing office" (Morgan, 179).

The two entities enjoyed distinct postal identities and efforts undertaken to link the communities by road were blocked by the Tacoma Land Company. One area of cooperation was a baseball team, but that disbanded after one game.

In 1883, the Territorial Legislature authorized a merger of the towns. General John Sprague, manager of Tacoma Land Company and a former Northern Pacific superintendent was elected the first mayor. Old Tacoma became Old Town and New Tacoma became downtown.

Murray Morgan, Puget's Sound: A Narrative of Early Tacoma and the Southern Sound (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1979), 219.

Travel through time (chronological order):
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Looking north on Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, 1884
Courtesy UW Special Collections (UW5400)

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