Washington State History Museum opens in Tacoma on August 10, 1996.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 8/10/2006
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 7892
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On August 10, 1996, the Washington State History Museum opens in a new $42 million building on Pacific Avenue in Tacoma. The museum will be one of the important features in the renaissance of downtown Tacoma, which will include a campus of the University of Washington, a convention center, two art museums, and a trolley line to run to the revitalized theater district. Union Station will become the U.S. Courthouse.

The idea of a museum in Tacoma first came from state legislator Dan Grimm. He wrote a letter to John McClelland Jr. (1915-2010), chairman of the Washington State Historical Society's board of trustees suggesting construction of a state history museum and Grimm had in mind Tacoma's downtown. Grimm collaborated with other Tacoma-area legislators such as Brian Ebersole, Lorraine Wojahn (1920-2012), Ruth Fisher, Art Wang, Marilyn Rasmussen, Ken Madsen, and Peter von Reichbauer to approve $34 million in general obligation bonds. The City of Tacoma donated two-and-a-half acres of land on Pacific Avenue through the good offices of City Councilman Tom Stegner.

Museum Director David Nicandri built a statewide constituency for the project and raised $6 million from government agencies, trusts, and local businesses. Big donors included Boeing, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the M. J. Murdoch Charitable Trust, Key Bank, the Ben B. Cheney Foundation, Weyerhaeuser, the Forest Foundation, and the McEarchern Charitable Trust.

Architects Charles Moore and Andersson designed a 106,000 square foot museum that housed a five-eighths scale electricity transmission tower, a 270-seat amphitheater, a museum shop, and a cafe.

Sources: "History is Alive at New Museum," The News Tribune (Tacoma), August 9, 1996, p. A-10; "History Museum Gets a Jump Start," Ibid., April 10, 1996, p. A-6; Duncan Livingston, "Click!: First Nighters at the Museum," Ibid., July 18, 1996, p. SL-2; Marisa Lencioni, "A Grand Opening / Museum Celebration Entertainment Ranges from Polka Breakfasts to the Wailers and Chinese Opera," Ibid., August 9, 1996, p. SL-3; Hector Castro, "Museum Makes History," Ibid., August 11, 1996, p. A-1; Linda Woo, "Face to Face with the Future," Ibid., December 7, 1993, p. B-1.

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