Old Tacoma City Hall
Perhaps some spirits are still incarcerated here…
Spirits who really loved this place, tried to get the attention of the living to
do something about its deplorable condition.
Lonely entities seek attention and get their chuckles at the same time.
The six story Old Tacoma City Hall, with its arched and bracketed clock and bell tower, is a glorious 1893 Italian Renaissance style structure, designed by E.A. Hatherton, a San Francisco architect. The bricks found at the base of the building that make up the eight foot thick walls were originally used as ballast on local ships. Bells and whistles that made the building stately and ornate were an integral part of its construction, as this city hall was to be the apple of Tacoma’s eye. Pressed brickwork, terra cotta ornamentation and a copper tiled roof, are just a few of its many architectural features.
The Clock Tower, with its four massive bells, has walls that tilt inward to increase the sense of height. The clock and chimes were donated in 1905 by Hugh C. Wallace in memory of his daughter, who died too young. Wallace went on to become the United States Ambassador to France.
Inside it is described as a “unique blend of classic architectural details including copper embellishments, tall windows, sweeping archways, exposed brick interiors and high ceilings (16 ft), complemented by contemporary upgrades and modern conveniences to create a unique and distinctive office environment.”
The owners, The Stratford Company, are actively trying to lease the space to businesses, while looking for investors to finance the construction of apartments, and/or a buyer to take it all on. So far, they have two smaller businesses, and one large one, which is better than a poke in the eye. Hopefully, they will get more customers using these unique spaces soon.
From 1893 to 1959, this impressive city hall was home to Tacoma City Government, complete with a jail in the basement. However, by 1959, it was in need of some TLC and a boatload of funds for a renovation and repair. As the city didn’t have a boatload of money, they moved the government into a new modern building that was also home to Pierce County Offices. The Old Tacoma City Hall stood vacant for more than 10 years, as a daunting fixer upper opportunity.
It was nearly torn down, but was saved J. I. T. In 1974, the Old Tacoma City Hall was placed on The National Registry of Historic Places, which generated some interest in the building, but no non-profit preservation group stepped up to raise funds to restore the building, meaning that it would be a long, uphill climb to full restoration. Some money was raised to do some renovations, and boutiques and restaurants opened for business. Most of the ground floor became T.B. & G., the Tacoma Bar & Grill. In the 1980s, some of the space was converted into professional offices. At its high point, 40 commercial outfits and a restaurant made their business homes here. Yet, the building continued to deteriorate.
In the mid-2000s, The Stratford Company bought Old City Hall, terminated leases, causing most of the tenant businesses to move out, except two, to make room for new condos U.h oh. In 2007-08, the recession came, and the condo market circled the drain, leaving the Seattle based owners of the building with hardly any cash flow, and a foreclosure by the bank looming in their future.
Old City Hall did have one champion though, Councilman David Boe, whose office was kitty corner from the old clock tower. For more than a year, since 2007, he had been trying to sound the alarm about the city’s much beloved Old City Hall; “Ripped canopies, missing bricks, boarded-up windows, birds living inside”, to name just a few conditions. The two remaining tenants couldn’t always use their offices because of the lack of heat and electricity.
Disaster came in November of 2008, when the inside fire sprinklers broke, sending 30,000 gallons of water into the building, soaking walls and carpets, creating an incubator for the dreaded black mold. Things didn’t look too rosy for Old City Hall; the owners were reluctant to fix the damage, and the Tacoma City Council didn’t have the teeth to do so. Old City Hall was traveling down the same path as the Lutz Building, an historic Tacoma building that rotted from the inside until it couldn’t be saved, and had to be torn down. Suddenly, Councilman Boe’s words began to hit home with a lot of people, on the council and in the community, and a change of laws was in the wind.
An urgent call to action, posted on Kevin Freitas’s web page helped, as well as The Tacoma News Tribune writer Peter Callaghan’s articles in Nov. 2010. A new law with teeth was soon passed. A city inspector declared the building to be in derelict condition. The Old City Hall was slated to be sold at auction in March of 2011, but The Stratford Company got their act together, and managed to pay both their back taxes, and late mortgage payments, and invested 1 million dollars to clean up the water damage, and removed old carpet, drywall and flooring. They further came up with a 14 million dollar rehab program, including creating 81 loft-styled apartments. The Stratford Company had trouble getting investors for this plan, and getting back commercial tenants for their three-and-a-half floor space for retail and offices as well. Businesses didn’t quite trust The Stratford Company, and the building needed a boatload of work, perhaps too daunting a project for most investors.
A new deadline was placed on The Stratford Company to repair broken windows and remove loose bricks, by February 12th, 2012, which they accomplished. Then they put the Old City Hall property back onto the real estate market for $3.5. million, with broker David Morton. They have since changed brokers, going with Tom Brown and Eric Cederstrand as of December, 2012. The price has risen to $5,950,000 for the 81, 072 sq. ft. of commercial and apartment loft space. While the historic building is for sale, they are also busy still trying to lease the floors as well, with some success.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
No one knows who and how many spirits call the Old Tacoma City Hall their home. Some possible theories as to who they are are listed below for your amusement.
Buildings that historically have been a hotbed of political deals, and government business for the people, sometime harbor spirits that are still at it, perhaps trying to finish unfinished business.
The building once was home to the city government of Tacoma, and truly was a place of drama, decision-making, deal conferences, and lots of paperwork and processing.
In many stories found on hauntedhouses.com, entities are lonely, and miss worldly interaction, so they engage the living for chuckles and company.
The entity named Gus described below sure loved being recognized and talked to by the living, as his antics were done for attention.
Places that are struggling fixer-upper opportunities sometimes draw back into this world entities who really loved them, and try to get the attention of the living to do something about the disrepair and shabbiness in any manner they can think of.
The Old Tacoma City Hall has been in woeful condition for quite awhile. This could’ve drawn entities back into this world who loved it, who perhaps are the culprits in some of the activity described below. Mysterious bell ringing and light play could be an entity or entities trying to get the living’s attention to spruce up their favorite building in this world.
Ghosts and Spirits love to play with/enjoy electrical items, and can’t resist the temptation to do so.
Items run by electricity are popular with the spirits in Old Tacoma Hall.
He is named Gus by the Tacoma Bar and Grill Restaurant, once located on the first floor.
Activity in the old Bar area of the restaurant:
Gus had an initiation act for each new employee. He would knock each bottle of alcohol off the shelf, assembly line fashion in front of the startled employee, yet the bottles never broke.
On opening day for the restaurant, the stove stopped working, and nothing was deemed wrong with it. Afterwards, it worked again with not another hitch.
Gus would stop his pranks, when the new employee started talking to him. Apparently, he was lonely, and wanted attention in this manner.
Mischief played on other tenants:
Tenants have been locked out of their offices, and doors slam by themselves.
Entity(ies) and the Security Guards
The elevator goes up and down by itself, as reported by tenants, visitors and security guards.
The entity or entities that haunt the old city hall like to exercise the security guards to keep things lively. Security guards had spend many a night chasing intelligent shadows throughout the building.
Guards would see shadows floating down the halls, and go around them, as they patrolled the halls.
Lights are turned on and off.
From the outside, people have seen lights turn on and off by themselves, causing the guards to check to see if anyone is there. After every investigation, the living find that the rooms in question are dark by the time they enter.
An Unknown Entity(ies)
They ring the bells in the city hall at all hours of the night.
To catch the practical jokers, the manager spent the night in the building, but found no one living was making the bells ring. He left in the morning, convinced that an entity was haunting the place.
When alone in the hallways, some people have felt the rush of unseen presences go past.
Near the old council chambers, disembodied coughs, or someone nervously clearing their throat can be heard, perhaps a bit on edge before coming before the city council.
Most probably so. Though my two book sources are old, the same activity still happens, according to online sources.
Past politicians, employees, staff and perhaps a prisoner or two from the jail are all possibilities for the shadows seen and chased, and other paranormal activity that has been reported. Some may be lonely, in need of entertainment, so they try to engage the guards, and anyone else who will pay them attention, and even chase them!
Others may be trying to get caught up on their paperwork, or prepare for a council meeting/court appearance that they didn’t get to before dying or leaving office, thus they turn on the lights, use the elevator, and go about their business.
The lights, and bell activity could also strongly suggest that someone is trying to get the living to come inside and perhaps see what needs to be done.
There have been a lot of personal experiences reported to others. Former security guards, former tenants, etc. have their stories to tell to authors, and websites. Paranormal investigators haven’t been let into the building, as far as I can tell. If they have done a private investigation nothing online has been published. It is wise not to encourage the paranormal community to investigate and make known that the building comes with residents that are hard to evict, when trying to sell or lease it.
625 Commerce Street
Tacoma, WA 98402
Old Tacoma City Hall can be found just off The Parkway, across from Fireman’s Park, on Commerce Street at South Seventh and Pacific Avenue, at the heart of Tacoma’s business district, and on the edge of the theater district.
- Ghost Stories of Washington
by Barbara Smith
Old City Hall
Lone Pine Publishing
- Ghost Hunter’s Guide to Seattle and Puget Sound
by Jeff Dwyer
Pelican Publishing Company
- tacomaweekly.com – Steve Dunkelberger
Thursday, 20 October 2011
- waymarking.com * cityoftacoma.org * historictacoma.org
- Read more here: blog.thenewstribune.com
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr