When the Point Defiance Pagoda reopens Saturday, it will stand as a harmonious blend of old and new.
Metro Parks Tacoma has spent 21 months and $7 million refurbishing the nearly century-old icon, which a teenage arsonist set ablaze in April 2011.
Some clay roof tiles and original woodwork were lost in the fire, but creative crews found ways to reuse most materials and even brought back lost features like a cupola and mock streetcar tracks.
Holding onto the structures historic fiber meant endless meetings, a delayed completion date and more money, but officials said it was crucial.
We understood how many heartstrings are tied to this building, Metro Parks historian Melissa McGinnis said. This building, even though its a physical thing, is important to the people of Tacoma and Pierce County.
Many people dealt with the loss of the Pagoda by volunteering with the recovery or sharing stories about weddings, memorials and other special moments theyd shared within its 99-year-old walls.
A waiting list for using the building quickly filled up. All prime Friday and Saturday dates during the summer have already booked for the year, park spokeswoman Nancy Johnson said.
Officials hope the interest will extend to Saturdays reopening, when residents are invited to take self-guided tours of the Pagoda and listen to lectures on its history, recovery and future.
Some changes to the treasured building will be obvious.
The parking lot has been replaced with a cement veranda with mock sidecar tracks between it and the Japanese garden, a throwback to the building's original purpose. Old black-and-white photos helped crews replicate a planting circle that used to be out front, though burnt red cement now marks the place instead of flowers.
Youll be able to feel warmth beneath your feet 65 degrees, to be exact thanks to heated flooring installed to combat the cold trapped by the structure's brick walls and concrete floors.
The original 14 windows were salvaged, and now open. A wheelchair lift was added to one of the marble stairways. The hanging 1960s flower lamps were replaced with soft recessed lighting among the wooden trusses.
The musty basement was converted to modern multipurpose rooms that can be used for conferences, luncheons or as dressing rooms.
Mostly though, McGinnis said, visitors will be surprised by how similar the Pagoda looks.
The 7,000 roof tiles were painstakingly hand-cleaned and set back in place. Casts were made of the metal outdoor light fixtures so the originals could be hung inside, away from the hands of vandals.
Most of the scuffed floor tiles from 1914 survived. The few that didnt were replaced by the same manufacturing company in England that made the original tiles.
One of the biggest issues in the restoration was 1914 code requirements being slightly outdated, forcing multiple code requirement upgrades.
The Pagoda needed a sprinkler system and the building had to be ADA-accessible. The walls had no reinforcement, so workers had to drill 15-foot pieces of steel through the walls and 3 feet into the foundation to sustain the building during earthquakes.
Now that the work is finished and a beloved Tacoma building restored, project manager Curtis Hancock said he is proud of his teams effort.
"This building has been full of challenges," he said. But we believe this building shows what we mean by preserving history.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653