Special Reports

Everything you want to know about Narrows is a click away

A lot of people know that the only fatality when Galloping Gertie fell into the Tacoma Narrows on Nov. 7, 1940, was a dog.

The little pooch was paralyzed with fear and could not be coaxed out of his owner's car as it rocked back and forth on the ill-fated bridge.

But what was the dog's name? Was he in the front seat or back? How far did he fall? And is it true he had only three legs?

Those who care about such arcane details can turn to a new Narrows history Web site launched last week by the state Department of Transportation.

The site includes an exhaustive history not only of Galloping Gertie and its infamous collapse, but all crossings of the Tacoma Narrows, beginning with prehistoric tribes.

"The site includes new information never shared before and sheds light on old information found in other historical documents," said Vicki Steigner, DOT's history Web site coordinator. "We brought all that information together into one comprehensive Web site."

The site was designed for the general public but has special features and lesson plans for seventh-grade students, according to DOT spokeswoman Claudia Cornish.

It is divided into four sections: "Art," "Machine," "People" and "Connections," and includes an array of graphics, historic photographs, and video and audio clips.

The Transportation Department hired Western Shore Heritage Services of Bainbridge Island to create the site. So far, the agency has spent $60,000 on the project, which is part of mitigation required by the National Environmental Policy and the National Historic Preservation acts.

Galloping Gertie was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. The listing for the current bridge, which turned 54 this year, is pending.

The history Web site is intended to partly make up for effects on the current bridge by construction of the new $849 million suspension bridge next to it. The new bridge, now about one-third complete, is scheduled to open in 2007.

As for the dog - whose name was Tubby - the details are available on the site in a section called "Tubby Trivia."

He was a black cocker spaniel, last seen in the back seat of Tacoma News Tribune copy editor Leonard Coatsworth's car, which dropped about 200 feet to the Narrows.

But three legs or four? Not even the Web site can resolve that question definitively.

It notes that Coatsworth's wife said in a 1975 interview that the dog had just three legs.

But Howard Clifford, the last man off the bridge before it fell and one of three men who tried to save Tubby, insists the dog was whole and healthy.

Rob Carson: 253-597-8693


On the Net

The state Department of Transportation's new history Web site is at www.wsdot.wa.gov/ TNBhistory