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It was too far gone to save. But a new Tacoma clock tower will take its place

Tacoma clock tower owner hopes to rebuild

Fred Roberson said he hopes to rebuild the downtown Tacoma landmark that was gutted by fire Sept. 6, 2017.
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Fred Roberson said he hopes to rebuild the downtown Tacoma landmark that was gutted by fire Sept. 6, 2017.

The clock tower that stood across the street from the downtown branch of the Tacoma library is gone ... for now

The 40-foot-tall wooden tower in the 1100 block of Tacoma Avenue South was heavy damaged by fire Sept. 6, four months after its clock was put back into working order.

After promises of the tower’s revival, the charred remains were cleared away over two weekends in March.

“Unfortunately, it was deemed a dangerous building and had to come down,” said Mat Shaw, company manager with the development company of Fred Roberson, who owned the tower.

“Fred looked at all possible ways to rehabilitate the structure, but it was just too charred.”

Roberson said Thursday he was remains heartsick about the fire.

“I would have loved to have kept the clock tower, believe me,” he said. “But I’m afraid it’s history.”

Investigators determined an electrical wiring malfunction within the clock caused the overnight fire that damaged the tower, Tacoma Fire Department spokesman Joe Meineke said.

Flames dried out the remaining wood structure so much that, if left standing, it would be susceptible to catching fire again and burning faster and harder than before, Roberson said.

He said he believes it’s part of his legacy to replace the clock tower, and hopes to build one that’s as similar to the old one as possible.

For years, the clock tower stood at Clock Tower Square, where University Place’s city hall now stands. Roberson had the tower trucked to its downtown Tacoma location in 2004.

He said he hopes to have the new tower built after he completes a project with another of his downtown properties, the Armory.

A self-proclaimed history lover, he’s working to gather memorabilia of the city’s past to display in the Armory once he bequeaths the building to the Broadway Center for Performing Arts.

“I love Tacoma,” he said, “and want to make a difference here.”

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