Special Reports

Tacoma grows, and the park grows with it

Tacoma boomed after the turn of the century and the city’s new showpiece park blossomed with it.

A second track had been added to the streetcar line in 1903 to accommodate all of the visitors from Tacoma and beyond.

Those visitors found a growing array of attractions limited by only imagination and resources – both of which were in plentiful supply in the ambitious community of the early 1900s.

A huge indoor saltwater swimming pool was built near the already thriving waterfront. The trails around the Point’s forested area evolved into Five Mile Drive to accommodate early automobiles. The plush Japanese-style Pagoda was built as a streetcar station.

Visitors could rent a rowboat at the waterfront, then sample some of the Boathouse restaurant’s famous clam chowder. If they didn’t own a car, they could venture into the backwoods on a tour bus. They might marvel at the growing collection of zoo animals, which by 1910 included elk, bison, bears, monkeys and lions.

It was during this era that leaders of Tacoma’s newly formed Metropolitan Park District recognized the need for a guiding vision for the young park. In 1910, they commissioned landscape architects Hare & Hare of Kansas City, Mo., to complete the park’s first master plan.

The plan’s influence came to be seen in the zoo’s hillside location, the Japanese motif in buildings and gardens and the creation of a seawall esplanade along the waterfront.