Architectural & historical significance:
Originally designed to house the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce, the structure was adapted to government needs after the city and chamber decided to swap properties. Modeled after Italian Renaissance town halls, the 1893 structure features fine brickwork and terracotta ornamentation. The distinctive clock was added to the tower in 1904. The city moved out in 1959 and Old City Hall was saved from the wrecking ball in 1973. In the early 1980s, the structure was rehabilitated to house shops, restaurants and offices.
The Stratford Company, based in Seattle and led by George Webb, purchased the building For $3.8 million in 2005 with the intent of converting it to condos or loft-style apartments. After the bottom fell out of the real estate market, the building was left to deteriorate. A city building inspector declared the building in derelict condition in December 2010. The building was named to the WA Trust's 2011 Most Endangered Properties List on May 24 2011; the nomination was written and submitted by Gerry Sperry, Historic Tacoma member.
On June 2, 2015, Tacoma City Council voted unanimously to purchase the property from The Stratford Company for $4 million, plus closing costs of approximately $200,000. To make the purchase, the City will use funds from a special historic preservation and economic development fund. The City plans to make around $150,000 to $200,000 in repairs to stabilize the building before deciding next steps. Historic Tacoma and preservation supporters applaud this move: the building is iconic for cultural, historical and architectural reasons and, when rehabbed, will serve as an economic development catalyst for the north part of downtown.
Photo credit: Gerry Sperry, 2010