An estimated 200 of the curious turned out Wednesday — National Walking Day — for the midday kick-off event of Walk Tacoma 2017.
Historians and walkers explored the architecture of three historic buildings in and around Wright Park.
Sue Van Every came from Parkland at the invitation of friends.
“I enjoyed it thoroughly — despite the rain,” she said.
“We walk rain or shine,” said Kristina Walker, executive director of Downtown on the Go, a sponsor of the series, which runs through the spring and summer.
Upcoming tours will include a brewery walk, historic hotel walk and waterfront walk.
Annie Ragin said she’s lived in Tacoma for about 20 years, but learned more of its history during the walk. Her friend Adriene Tillman started participating in the walks last year.
“It’s a good way to learn about the city,” Tillman said.
Here are some highlights of Wednesday’s walk, presented by Katie Pratt and Susan Johnson of Artifacts Consulting, a historic preservation firm in Tacoma, and Melissa McGinnis of Metro Parks Tacoma.
Stadium High School
Original name: Tourist Hotel.
Original architect: Hewitt & Hewitt.
History: Built as a luxury hotel with the backing of the Northern Pacific Railroad and other investors. Construction began in 1891, but halted during a subsequent recession. Sat empty for several years. Caught fire in 1898, earning it the nickname of “beautiful ruins.”
New life: In 1905, the Tacoma School District bought the property and hired architect Frederick Heath (who also designed Lincoln High School, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and the downtown Pythian Temple, among many other Tacoma buildings).
New name: Opened in 1906 as Tacoma High School and was renamed Stadium High School in 1913.
Materials: Yellow Italian brick and Wilkeson sandstone.
Architecture: The school, notable for its castle-like spires, is believed to be the first example of “chateau-esque” architecture in Washington. Its name derives from the style used in building French estates, or chateaus. Other examples in the state include Manresa Castle in Port Townsend and Denny Hall at the University of Washington.
First Church of Christ Scientist
Architect: Frederick Heath.
History: Congregation formed in 1894 and met in another location. A congregant grateful for his wife’s healing through Christian Science donated the property across from Wright Park. The first church on the site was a wood-frame building, which later was demolished. Construction on the current structure began in 1910, and the first service was held in 1911.
Architecture: The building style is known as neo-classical revival, because it harkens back to the designs of early Greece and Rome. It’s notable for its symmetry and its fluted Greek columns. When it opened, newspaper accounts called it the first example of the style in Tacoma.
Materials: The building’s dome is copper, and the structure itself is hollow clay tile, plastered over and tinted to match the terra cotta columns.
W.W. Seymour Conservatory
Design: I. Jay Knapp. The firm also won the contract to build the largely glass structure.
History: Greenhouses and conservatories gained popularity in the Victorian era. Notable examples include the Crystal Palace in London and the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco.
In 1906, William Wolcott Seymour — business man, philanthropist, parks commissioner and, for a brief time, Tacoma mayor — donated $10,000 for beautification or betterment of the city.
There were lots of suggestions, but the winning one came from Ebenezer Roberts, the city’s first parks superintendent. He won over the City Council with weekly gifts of floral bouquets from the greenhouse at Point Defiance Park. He suggested a conservatory in Wright Park.
It opened in November 1908 as the Wright Park Conservatory. Seymour had objected to having the glass structure named for him during his lifetime. But after his death, supporters gained the support of his wife, and in 1936 it was renamed the W.W. Seymour Conservatory.