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The Historic Preservation Program

The City of Tacoma has one of Washington's oldest historic preservation programs, dating back to 1973.  In 1974, Old City Hall became the first building on the Tacoma Register of Historic Places, followed closely by Union Station. Since then, the Tacoma Register of Historic Places has grown to include more than 180 properties, sites and places, as well as six local historic and conservation districts.

The Historic Preservation Office:

Supports the Landmarks Preservation Commission by reviewing landmark nominations and applications for changes to historic landmarks.
Assists the public and other government agencies with historic preservation issues.

Develops programming and events to demonstrate Tacoma's unique history and culture.

Why is historic preservation important?

  • By preserving historic and architecturally significant sites, Tacoma retains its unique identity and sense of place.  
  • Historic buildings offer a glimpse into the history of those who came before us, and contribute to our understanding of our history.
  • Adaptive reuse of historic buildings reduces waste and environmental costs from unnecessary demolitions, by reusing what already exists.
  • Historic buildings are often constructed of high quality materials and construction methods that are no longer available or financially feasible.
  • Historic rehabilitation supports the local economy by driving more dollars to skilled trades, as compared to new construction, which relies more heavily on externally sourced materials.
  • Over the life of the historic preservation program, hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in Tacoma's historic buildings, bringing people and jobs back to the core of the City.


Tacoma's History

Tacoma is a city rich with culture, history and historic architecture. From the earliest Native American inhabitants, to the first Euramerican settlers, to the subsequent waves of immigrants from both the United States and abroad, many peoples have contributed to Tacoma's cultural landscapes and the city that visitors and residents view today. Over the course of its history, Tacoma's appearance and form have changed as a result of the activities of its residents. The Tacoma area has numerous archaeological resources of cultural, ethnohistorical and scientific importance. 


In addition, Tacoma has a rich architectural legacy in the form of buildings dating from the 1870s through the 1970s, which demonstrate the activities, hopes, and aspirations of its people as well as represent significant contributions to design thought. Incorporated in 1874, Tacoma became an important destination as the western terminus for the transcontinental railroad system. The railway connection to the deep-water port on Puget Sound established the city as a major link in national and international commerce, which attracted laborers, investors and industrialists to the region.

Tacoma's downtown features several shining examples of urban adaptive reuse that have won local, state and national awards.  The architecture of Tacoma represents the wealth, hope and vigor of the early days of industry and speculation in the Pacific Northwest.  Nationally renowned architects were commissioned for Tacoma's industrial, residential and commercial buildings. High style examples include the Chicago School, Beaux Arts and Art Deco.

Neighborhoods developed around streetcar lines in a rich tapestry of styles, from vernacular working class homes to middle class Victorian and Craftsman styles to high style homes exhibiting a range of design fads from the 1880s through the 1930s.