One of Tacoma’s most striking historic neighborhoods is the Stadium District, located near Stadium High School on Tacoma Avenue. Built on the top of a hill in the style of a French chateau, this extraordinary high school was begun in 1891 and intended to be a grand seven-story railroad hotel. The depression of 1893 left it vacant for several years, until it was transformed into a high school in 1906.
Next door is the Stadium Bowl, the West Coast’s first stadium, and the site of visits by Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Warren Harding, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, along with such sports legends as Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey.
More than 100 turn-of-the-20th-century mansions and stately homes can be found in the area around the stadium, including several of the city’s best B&Bs. Be sure to see the Rust Mansion (1001 N. I St.), a Classical Revival structure built in 1905.
Wright Park (S. 3rd and G Sts.) is a shady place with gardens, paved paths, stone lions, lawn bowling greens, and a delightful surprise: the W. W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory (253/591-5330, www.tacomaparks.com, 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Tues.–Sun., $5 donation). Built in 1908 and on the National Register of Historic Places, this Victorian-style conservatory—one of just three on the West Coast—hosts a bright array of tropical plants and cacti beneath 12,000 panes of glass. This is a great place to visit on a rainy winter day (or any time, for that matter). The Conservatory shop has botanical gifts and a display of carnivorous plants.
One of Tacoma’s most original museums is the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum (407 S. G St., 253/383-2575, www.rain.org/~karpeles, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Tues.–Sun., free). Located in an old Carnegie Library across from Wright Park, the museum displays rotating exhibits of rare and unique documents from all over the world, from D-Day defense plans signed by Adolf Hitler to letters written by Charles Manson.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition