Officials and Historians Gather to Celebrate Tacoma Union Station U.S. Courthouse
GSA Regional Administrator George Northcroft, Congressman Norm Dicks, Washington Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, and Chief Judge Robert Lasnik, were among the dignitaries gathered on Sunday, May 1 to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the opening of Tacoma Union Station.
This centennial celebration was an opportunity to reflect on the importance this facility played in Tacoma’s history. More recently the conversion of the station into a Federal Courthouse provided the impetus for the revitalization of downtown Tacoma.
"New Tacoma" was established as the western terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad in the 1870's and Tacoma was dominated by railroad interests for the first 70 years of its existence. The construction of the current Union Station in 1911 was a major milestone for Tacoma marking it as a first-class transportation hub. The building was designed by Charles Reed and Allen Stem, the architectural firm that designed railroad stations all across the country including Grand Central Station in New York.
The 1992 renovation of Tacoma Union Station and its adaptive reuse as a U.S. Courthouse was the impetus for the current renaissance of downtown Tacoma. This GSA project saved one of Tacoma's most important buildings from the wrecking ball and is perhaps the foremost example in the nation of federal, state, and local cooperation creating a positive environment leading to the rebirth of a downtown urban area.
Local historian Michael Sullivan recounted the history of the railroads in Tacoma and read a list of dozens of important people who had travelled through Union Station including Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt, singer Bing Crosby, comedian Bob Hope, criminals Machine Gun Kelly and Al Capone, heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsy, and baseball great Babe Ruth.
Mr. Northcroft congratulated Tacoma on the transformation that has taken place since GSA reopened the building as a U.S. Courthouse and said the city can look forward to another 100 years of its use.
Following the ceremony, a series of panel discussions were held at the Washington State History Museum. These panel discussions focused on Tacoma’s diverse cultural history, its relationship with the railroads and the conversion of Union Station into a U.S. Courthouse.