With a late-afternoon sun casting long shadows onto the buildings brick facade, Annette Munoz snapped photos Saturday of a nearly century-old icon restored to its former glory and then some.
"The pagoda truly is a treasure for our city, Munoz, a lifelong Tacoma resident, said between snapshots. Im glad the parks district put the time and investment into restoring it.
Munoz was among more than 500 people to celebrate the historic pagodas grand reopening on a picturesque winter day in Point Defiance Park.
The three-hour open house provided the public its first look at the fruits of a $7 million, 21-month restoration project that involved refurbishing the gabled structure, which was heavily damaged by arson in April 2011.
Among the festivities, visitors were treated to a catered reception, a slide show about the restoration work and a chance to fold paper cranes meant to symbolize hope in one of the new multipurpose rooms on the pagodas ground floor.
The new public event spaces are among about $2 million of add-ons to the historic Asian-theme pavilion, Metro Parks Tacoma spokeswoman Nancy Johnson said. Other new features include radiant heat below the original tile floors, a second kitchen on the ground floor and an expansive outdoor plaza, she said.
But the bulk of the restoration work about $5 million of which parks officials think insurance will cover was aimed at salvaging and revamping the original wood, brick and tile architecture and bringing the building up to modern codes.
Connie Worthen of Gig Harbor was among those who liked what they saw Saturday.
Its truly amazing, Worthen said, craning her neck toward the main floors vaulted ceilings. I cant believe they were able to save most of the old crossbeams. The firefighters did an amazing job.
Touring the pagoda brought fond memories for Lakewood resident Cynthia Johnson, whose daughter was married there on a sunny August day in 2010.
It looks a little different, Johnson said. But if you hadnt been here in a while, youd just think your memory was a little off.
For Munoz, who has visited the pavilion scores of times and holds Point Defiance as a special place, the renewed pagoda is even better than the original.
I love that they restored the cupola, she said, motioning to the small brick dome above a tiled roof. That hasnt been there for years. And now they have the meeting rooms downstairs. Thats going to be a really nice thing for the community.
Lewis Kamb: 253-597-8542