Old Tacoma City Hall
Being a former hotbed of political deals, and government business, spirits are still there!
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 6 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 feet thick walls were originally used as ballast on ships in this era. Bells and whistles that made this building stately and ornate were an integral part in this construction, as this city hall was to be the apple of civic pride for this portal town, Tacoma; a city that sits beside Commencement Bay, that leads to Puget Sound. There is pressed brickwork, terra cotta ornamentation and a copper tiled roof, just to name a few.
The Clock Tower, with its four massive bells inside stands on its own, and 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 onto 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 of this building, The Stratford Company are actively trying to lease the space to businesses, while looking for investors to finance the construction of the apartments, and/or a buyer to take it all on. So far, they have 2 smaller businesses, and 1 large one, which is better than a poke in the eye. Hopefully, they will get more businesses using these unique spaces soon.
From 1893 to 1959, this glorious city hall was home to Tacoma City Government, complete with a jail in the basement. However, by 1959, this historic relic was in need of some TLC and a boatload of funds for a renovation and repair, that would give the structure a much needed face lift and a modernization of its facilities. As the city didn’t have a boatload of money, they moved Tacoma City Government into a new modern building that also was home to Pierce County Offices. The Old Tacoma City Hall stood vacant for more than 10 years, as a daunting fixer upper opportunity.
The Old Tacoma City Hall 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 came together 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 it’s high point, 40 commercial businesses and a restaurant made their business home 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 the new condos to be built in Old City Hall. Uh 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 happened 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; a historic Tacoma building that rotted from the inside until it couldn’t be saved, and had to be torn down. Suddenly, Councilman David Boe’s words began to hit home with a lot of people on the council and in the community, and change in laws was in the wind.
An urgent call to action, posted on Kevin Freitas 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 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 3 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 the loose bricks, by February 12th, 2012, which they accomplished. The Stratford Company did 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 found on its six floors. 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 some unfinished business.
The building once was home to the city government of Tacoma, that 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 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.
Buildings/structures that are struggling fixer-upper opportunities sometimes draw back into this world entities who really loved this place, 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 the place, 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 to be wrong with it. Afterwards, the stove worked again with not another hitch.
Gus would stop his pranks, when the new employee would start 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 all by itself, as reported by tenants, visitors and security guards.
The entity(ies) that haunts the old city hall likes 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 that had their lights on, are off by the time they enter the room.
An Unknown Entity(ies)
They ring the bells manually 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 that no one living was making the bells to ring, but 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 people go past.
Near the old council chambers, disembodied coughs, or someone nervously clearing his throat can be heard, perhaps a bit on edge before coming before the city council.
Most probably so. Though my 2 book sources are old, the same activity is still happening, according to on-line 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 on line 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
South Seventh At Pacific Avenue
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