Tacoma builds Old City Hall in 1893.

  • By Priscilla Long
  • Posted 1/18/2003
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 5068

In 1893, Tacoma’s Old City Hall is constructed at S 7th Street and Pacific Avenue. The Italian Renaissance style building, designed by E. A. Hatherton of San Francisco, features pressed brickwork, terra cotta ornamentation, and a copper tiled roof. The stately, ornate building with its arched and bracketed clock tower reflects the civic pride and promise of Tacoma immediately before the nationwide economic crash in the spring of 1893.

The brick walls at the base of the structure are eight feet thick and were made with bricks brought as ballast on ships. The clock tower is freestanding and its walls tilt inward as they rise, to increase the sense of height. Hugh C. Wallace, future United States ambassador to France, donated the clock and chimes in 1905, in memory of his daughter.

In 1959, City of Tacoma offices moved to a modern building with Pierce County offices and the Old City Hall stood vacant for more than 10 years. During the 1970s it was renovated into boutiques and restaurants, but they did not thrive, and in the 1980s the Old City Hall was converted into professional offices.


Ruth Kirk, and Carmela Alexander, Exploring Washington’s Past: A Road Guide to History (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1990), 336; Paul Dorpat and Genevieve McCoy, Building Washington: A History of Washington State Public Works (Seatle: Tartu Publications, 1998), 349-350.

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