Doug Mackey was born and raised in North Tacoma. His mother still lives in the house in which Doug was raised. Now 46 years old, Doug still does her yardwork. It’s a big yard.
Last night I received the following email from Historic Tacoma.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation in partnership with American Express has chosen 25 historic properties in the Seattle-Puget Sound area to compete for $1 million in preservation grants. Of those 25 properties, two are located in Tacoma, the Spanish Steps and westside’s Titlow Park Lodge. Sites in Pierce County include the Anderson Island Historical Society’s Johnson Farm; the Orting Soldiers Home, Garfield Hall; and Skansie Brothers Net Shed in Gig Harbor. How can you help assure that these funds come to Tacoma and Pierce County? You can VOTE! Just go to www.partnersinpreservation.org where you can vote for one project each day from April 15th through May 12. Not only can you vote, you can forward this information to friends, family and co-workers or post it on your Facebook page and encourage them to vote. Not only will your vote inform the overall grant making process, but the top vote recipient is guaranteed to have their project funded; a number of the other 25 properties will receive some level of funding. You can learn more about the process on the Partners in Preservation Website….Historic Tacoma encourages you to VOTE for funding for these Pierce County projects and to help spread the word by encouraging others to vote too.
The criteria that determined how these historical sites were selected for this process is explained here.
Several hours after casting my first vote and I still find myself stuggling with the concept of assigning significance to a historic place based upon the contemporary sentiments of the modern majority. Granted, that’s not what Partners In Preservation is advocating – all of these sites are already winners for having made it onto the ballot and this election will not, in itself, determine anything beyond a “grant” to the most popular place. Nevertheless, it would certainly seem absurd if the National Parks Department, in the face of declining revenue, were to hold an online election asking citizens to vote for their favorite national treasure to ensure funding.
Imagine being asked to dissect and then appraise the historical significance of Pearl Harbor relative to Gettysburg. Then again, by offering this very analogy I betray my own message and reveal that in fact I have already placed greater value in Pearl Harbor and Gettysburg as historical landmarks than Tacoma’s Spanish Steps or the 5th Avenue Theatre. In the end, perhaps I’m really just full of myself, and this whole article is just about me trying to fill space on The Melon.
Still, the fact that after two days of voting only one Pierce County historical site - the Skansie Brothers Net Shed – has climbed its way into a top-ten ranking suggest to me that something about this process is sacrilegious.
Scene: Tacoma, 1885
Mayor Jacob Weisbach: Okay, so, we’ve got this problem here where all y’all want jobs but there’s not too many extra ones about. You know the reason why? The Chinese.
Group of White Dudes: Yeah!
Businessman: I would venture to suggest that the problem lies in the fact that you white dudes won’t take jobs you perceive as “Chinese,” and also that you don’t work hard.
Weisbach: Also the problem is profit-driven businessmen!
White Dudes: Let’s burn down his factory!
Weisbach: No, no, that’s not a lawful thing to do. We want to become a state, guys. States don’t do that.
White Dudes: Well, what should we do about the Chinamen?
Weisbach: I have a great solution: sewers. We’ll refuse to connect city sewer lines to privys and laundries in their part of town, and then we’ll arrest them for not being dirty like they are! Drive ‘em out that way! (wipes nose with shit-encrusted handkerchief)
White Dudes: Aw, that’s booooriiiing. But those Chinamen are totally gross.
A White Dude: (raises hand) Um, Mayor Weisbach? You said we’re not a state yet, right? So…this is still the wild west. Technically.
White Dudes: We still live in the wild west? Then fuck it let’s form a mob!
Weisbach: Okay, but you guys – you guys, listen! Hey, I’ve made myself police chief now so you have to listen, so there. You guys, we have to be orderly about all this, ‘cuz we’re almost not the wild west, just a little. So don’t kill anyone on purpose.
Mob: Okay! (They round up and kick out the Chinese, steal their property, and burn their homes. Two men die of exposure while forced to wait through the November night for a train to Portland.)
Seattle: What the fuck, Tacoma? You’ve just totally gone and done something, like, way unlawful.
Tacoma: You’re just jealous ‘cuz we thought of it first and now you’d be copycats.
Seattle: Well, duh. Though you do make Washington Territory look pretty unlawful, FYI, so don’t be so bitchy.
Broadside reproduction courtesy of Washington State Historical Society Digital Collections, http://digitum.washingtonhistory.org/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/ephemera&CISOPTR=106&CISOBOX=1&REC=8
by Jen DrakeThursday, October 29th, 2009
This past Sunday Historic Tacoma, a private non-profit organization, dedicated to Tacoma’s architectural legacy through education and advocacy, hosted a tour entitled “Sacred Spaces” of Tacoma’s churches and temples. These architectural melange represents a colossal torrent of faith and resources within our neighborhoods.
St. Luke’s Memorial Episcopal Church, modeled after an English country church, was my first stop, where I learned that due to increasing land values and growing congregations, many churches were forced to develop in the outskirts of downtown, or even move their original church site to a new location, which is what St. Luke’s did. Originally built on 602 Broadway with funds from Charles Wright, our Northern Pacific Railroad magnate, the church was under utilized and underfunded in the 1920s, and by 1934 destruction plans were underway to use the site for new homes. The potential demolition of St. Luke’s vitalized Tacomans to accomplish the city’s first preservation effort to save St. Luke. Each stone was carefully marked, then moved, one block at a time, to North Grove Street, surrounded by tranquil houses and a quiet neighborhood. A Portland Oregon Architect, Joseph Sherwin, was responsible for the church’s design, as well as our first Pierce County Courthouse and the original Central School.
At the door Chris Van Vechten and I were greeted and directed to the transept where two teenagers greeted us and described the traditional Gothic style and history of St. Luke’s. Most Gothic churches are in the cruciform plan, a Latin cross, with a long nave marking the long slender body (the aisle with seats on either side) and a transverse arm called the transept and beyond that, an extension that houses the altar and choir. In St. Luke’s, the nave houses beautiful clerestory windows, stained glass depicting different aspects of Christ’s life.
Secretly, I have always wanted to gong a church bell — to swing like Tarzan and make the Old Lady’s head turn with distaste at my frantic upswing. St. Luke’s provided me with a chance to half-way meet the mark, and while nobody was looking, I quietly pulled a rope and a loud sound erupted from the bell, lighting Van Vechten’s wild eyes up. I was unceremoniously and loudly shushed by him and the Elder below, due to the choir solemnly singing their liturgies. Gleefully I turned away, and as I slowly climbed down the stairs I looked longingly at that bell tower.
Our next stop was Northwest Baptist Seminary which was originally the home of John and Anna Weyerhaeuser, built in 1923 in the Tudor revival estate design. The seminary has spectacular views of Brown’s Point, Vashon Island, the Olympic Peninsula, Mount Rainier, and even SeaTac’s control tower. After the Weyerhaeuser’s death, the Dominican sisters of Marymount acquired the buildings and turned it into a Catholic junior College for women. Of course, reading the Seminary’s “history” section of their website says nothing about the building history, but rather why they moved from Southern California to Tacoma: “Northwest Baptist Seminary was established at a time when modernism had overtaken many Baptist theological schools where pastors were trained. Bible-believing Baptists were protesting, but as long as they were dependent upon institutions whose faculty members did not believe the Word of God to produce their pastoral leadership, the spiritual darkness would only get worse.”
While I do not know the in’s and out’s of Christians pulling the wool over other Christians like common heathens do, I do know the Tudor house is astoundingly beautiful. Secret doors, in plain sight, are disguised by blending in with the panel wooden walls. Heavy chimneys and decorative timbering gives this mini-mansion a Medieval flavor. The name Tudor suggests it was built in the 1500s during the Tudor Dynasty in England, but of course this Weyerhaeuser re-invention was not, but rather features beautifully patterned brick and is combined with striking decorative timbers.
My next stop was First Church of Christ, Scientist on Division Avenue. Knowing nothing of their faith but thinking they must indeed be uniquely crazy, I was enthralled with every aspect of the structure, the people, and their ideas. After listening in on a mini-history of the place, I picked up a free copy of “The Christian Science Journal” which loudly booms “100th Anniversary of The Christian Science Monitor” on its front cover. The Church of Christ, Scientist headquarter website says that a Mary Baker Eddy first “discovered” Christian Science, and that they are a “universal, practical system of spiritual, prayer-based Christian healing, available and accessible to everyone.”
The land on which the current edifice stands was donated by Hugh Ferguson, who gave it in gratitude for the healing of his wife by the Christian Scientists. In 1911 the current church was built at a cost of $45,000. The Christian Scientists have a fascinating history of constructing interesting and revolutionary ecclesiastical designs, built to engage and entice people inside. The cream-colored building was built on a pyramidal plot, which forced the design to be built in the Greek Revival style, declared “one of Tacoma’s finest showplaces.” The cream-colored building with its ionic capitals atop fluted pillars at the entrance and blue-green copper dome is a well-known Tacoma landmark, and owes its design to Frederick Heath, one of Tacoma’s most prominent architects.
Heath was appointed to the position of school architect in 1902 and is responsible for redesigning the luxurious hotel that was burned to the ground in 1898, which was then turned into Stadium High School in 1906. He is the “Father of the Stadium” as he also designed the bowl next to the high school. His architectural firm was responsible for over 600 projects in the Northwest and in Tacoma, and include sites such as St. Patrick’s, First Lutheran, First Baptist, and of course First Church of Christian Scientist.
My last stop was at Urban Grace (originally First Baptist Church), 902 Market Street, also designed by Frederick Heath and finished around 1923. While my favorite structure was St. Luke’s Episcopal, my favorite person was Sugar Ray, who was my tour guide at Urban Grace. Ray, a member since the early inception of the church, showed me his cradle roll picture of 1925′s class. A cute baby and now a fun young-in-heart man, he guided me by my elbow around the three stories of Urban Grace’s past history and current future, recalling the time his young son blurted out a funny prayer in one room, and his father conducting Elder meetings in another, and the story of the church splintering into factions, with one group tromping off to Fircrest to start their own Baptist branch. The church’s Financiers thought it wouldn’t last long in downtown Tacoma, so as part of the loan deal, the church was required to be built for a backup plan: a theatre. Born in the same era as the Rialto and Pantages theatres just down the street, Urban Grace has an auditorium that seats 1,250 and a banquet hall with a stage. The seating in the sanctuary has Opera chairs rather than pews, and a double layer-seating for better viewing. The subdued Gothic Revival-styled structure has glazed terracotta facing over the typical Gothic Revival cut stone on the outside.
Urban Grace serves not only as a church, but as a building dedicated to nonprofit work. I met a young woman who was a graduate of the Palmer Scholarship fund, which helps send low-income minority students to school and also provide mentorships and counseling where needed. I also met a representative of MLK Ballet, also housed in Urban Grace’s facility, which is a tuition-free dance program committed to quality education, dance facilities, and professional instructors.
As Historic Tacoma points out, Tacoma’s religious buildings represent a substantial investment by the community and for the community. The $550,000 spent to build First Presbyterian in 1924 would be more than 83 million dollars in 2009′s currency. These churches are a significant landmark of the past. While many, such as the 6th Avenue Baptist Church, are closing doors and shutting down, many still continue strong and have learned to cope with our culture’s current contempt of religion, such as Urban Grace’s partnerships with multiple nonprofits that work well with Urban Grace’s mission. since 1968 protestant memberships have declined by 22% and yet the same needs for food, clothing banks, pre-schools, daycare, and meeting spaces have continued into our time, with churches learning to take whatever they can get to work within their communities.
Touring four of Tacoma’s churches gave me a sense of pride in the place I call home, and a deeper sense of the people who live here. At St. Luke’s I viewed the crypt, filled with the ashes of previous church members, and wondered at their histories, tied indefinitely with the church’s stones, pews, and potluck halls. Pat Harrington, a local fictional author, explained the significance of the crypt’s dove carving, and I couldn’t help but ponder the people of Tacoma, both dead and alive.
I suppose that was the point of the tour — to appreciate the past and to grasp the significance of the people through the work they left behind.
Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnanya/1784586023/
Tacoma is Antonio Edwards city. After 25 years, he can’t think of living anywhere else and as Poet Laureate of Tacoma is determined to helping transform the City of Destiny into the bustling arts scene foreseen by prophecies.
The Melon sat down with Antonio to discuss his art, his message and his accomplishments as Poet Laureate. Listen for a presentation of his poem “Hilltopia” at the end of our interview.
photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/maybelline/
Many Tacomans are familiar with those friendly but succinct cartoon worms constantly spouting off their political perspectives in comic form, or the groundbreaking Tacoma Confidential article which reported on domestic violence allegations against Tacoma Police Chief David Brame, who later killed himself and his wife. The cult followed New Takhoman has a long history in Tacoma as does its iconic publisher John Hathaway.
This interview with Hathaway, recorded at the Flying Boots Cafe on 38th St by, Electric Elliot, covers the history, controversies and inspirations of The New Takhoman and its “tell it like it is” creator.
Read The New Takhoman at: http://www.thenewtakhoman.com/
by Matt StevensFriday, June 19th, 2009
Walter Isaacson’s biography of the first Yankee is great reminder of the breath of skills and knowledge that this great Founding Father possessed. Issacson’s biography traces Franklin from his birth in Boston to running away to Philadelphia and starting his own press and Franklin eventual departure to London and then France during the war to bring out America’s true nature. Isaacson’s theme is that Franklin was the first American, the first individual to recognize the need for one nation of individual states, and the first to push for that outcome wholeheartedly.
by Jen DrakeMonday, April 13th, 2009
A Jack Handey Saturday Night Live quote puts it best: “I’d rather be rich than stupid.”
Sometimes, I wonder if being stupid wouldn’t also be helpful at this point in the game. Alas, I am neither rich nor stupid, just partly naive.
Last fall I lost my job, and since I was already feeling the pressure of jumping into a higher paying bracket but seeing no options opening up with a degree in History, the same day I was laid off I enrolled at Tacoma Community College, an ethnically diverse campus with mostly a single-degree focus: nursing.
Nursing is something I vowed to never get near nor even discuss as a career possibility, but as the field becomes more open, and the pay scale is jumping high, I cannot help but look as a real opportunity. My brother’s friend earns $56 an hour in Hawaii as a nurse. I lust after that kind of pay.
On the first day of my evolutionary ecology class, we formed a circle and practically held hands as a support group while listing off our majors. I was one of two that listed Doctor of Physical Therapy as an intended goal. The rest were either nursing or pharmacology. A few of the older students (yes, older than me) had lost their jobs as well, and figured that since billboards and job hiring ads around Tacoma are begging for nurses, they might as well bite the bullet and jump right into Microbiology and the Anatomy and Physiology sequence.
One of my best friends, Kenneth, lives in Portland and is going to be graduating as a certified “Murse” this coming June; one of the few Male Nurses that was attracted to the field before the economic bust of October, 2008. Since then, a growing population of males are enrolling at community colleges around the United States, such as my very own brother and 54-year-old father, who both have business degrees and were, at one time or anther, decently successful in the business world. My dad competes with 18-year-old kids, studying twice as hard to learn the same material, but is focused to get the next two years out of his life so he can obtain the Aztec City of Gold that a nursing degree promises. Heroism comes in varying packages, and while nursing might be my second choice, according to my brother “it takes a nurse hero to wipe ass” — and who doesn’t want to be a hero?
I wonder, if everyone is going into nursing, will there be a glut of nurses within the next five years? Tacoma Community College’s enrollment office told me most laid-off people are enrolling here as nurses–what happens when there are too many of them? Kenneth already knows the answer, because in Portland, with the highest unemployment in the Union, nurses aren’t finding jobs in the metropolitan burbs.
I have only been out of college a few short years, but already I feel the “Sluggish Brain Syndrome” and early-onset of old age dementia flushing throughout my system. What was once an easy all-nighter of frantic working due to a high level of procrastination is now a methodical listing of “to-dos” in an organized calendar book and an early bedtime of 10 p.m. in order to get up for that 7:30 a.m. outdoor biology lab of identifying the flora and fauna of Tacoma. It hurts going back to school, but I also feel my brain being sharpened as I force her to recall, remember, and retain new scientific notations that have never previously stuck around for more than five minutes (remember, I was a history major, for gods’ sake!).
I glow with jealous fervor whenever I hear of other successful friends who still have jobs and are financially bringing in anything over the national poverty level. Even my boyfriend, who is trapped in a scholastic sweat shop of grading standardized tests of middle school children, has a paycheck for the next three weeks. Yesterday he told me some young boy gave a big middle finger to standardized testing by writing one short paragraph, stating his friends were honest lenient hearts, and he hoped the grader of that essay would be a lenient heart as well, and he had nothing more to say. My advice to this particular child? Good job on trying to stay in middle school for as long as possible! I admire you! I wish I could take afternoon naps and have mom’s snacks after school, and go to soccer practice with my girlfriends! Lucky!
By the time I am done with a DPT degree (assuming I get accepted into the program next fall) I will be 30 years old, and will have missed a historically established prime age of wage earnings from my 20s to my 30s. I question the future of my retirement funds, which as of now, has been halved since last year, leaving me nothing but a small pittance of saved Christmas and birthday money from by-gone years–perhaps I should have spent it on a new car instead of investing my hoarded goods. How many other young 20s are out there in a similar predicament, and what will our retirement futures be? Even if I wanted to settle down with the white picket fence and really get into the breast-suckling scene of kiddies, I don’t have the financial resources to do so. After Obama won the election, many people went on a procreating binge–I wonder how they feel now, five months later? “Oh, shit! We’re pregnant!” has got to be hitting their psyches right about now. This isn’t the booming 90s. This is the slumping of the twenty-first century, with Obama feeling smug on reminding us that he wasn’t the one who got us into the mess. Will the population growth slow-down in developed countries and see the rise of alcohol consumption peak at pre-prohibition era standards?
My parents’ phrase, “I told you so!” clangs in my ears. Yes, I should have gotten a more practical degree, or at the minimum, a teaching certificate to accompany my history degree. My impracticality kept my head in the clouds until my bank account screamed expletives at me, pulling me back to the reality of stereotypical brunt jokes that ring true: “What do you call a history major? A burger flipper.” I never smile anymore when someone says that to me. In my brain, I am giving them the middle finger.
All I know is, I feel grateful to be in school and not home banging my head against the wall. Something has to force me out of bed every day at 7 a.m. and if a solid steady paycheck is the golden ticket to lure me onwards, so be it. It is tough going back to school, but if my experiences have taught me anything, it’s that life itself is tough, but worth it. I’m too curious about what’s around the next corner to stay in bed forever. Now is the perfect opportunity to get an internship or volunteer for Parks Recreation Day on April 18th, or attend a noxious weed seminar at Snake Lake, or plant a garden with other community members and write for The Melon. Or, become a nurse.
by Matt StevensTuesday, February 17th, 2009
Jean Edward Smith’s extremely long and detailed portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) is fantastic reading and, perhaps more importantly, a fair review of the man. I truly enjoyed all of the almost 700 pages of text, along with the 150 pages of notes and 50 pages of bibliography and index. Seriously, if bibliography is everything, than this book has it all.
Random House, May 2007
I’ll first be honest by saying that before reading this book, I was not much of an FDR expert. In fact, I knew much less about the man than you can find on his wikipedia entry. So I went into this reading hoping to learn much more, and hoping to learn about how he led America through the Great Depression. I have a rather sick feeling that this economic downturn is going to be deeper and more destructive than most people realize so I wanted to study about how the previous generations pulled through their tough times. So my goal was more than just to understand FDR, but to understand the time period and the reactions to it.
First off, regarding Smith’s writing style and prose, he is fantastic. There are few biographies I have read in the past that were easier to read than this one. I seemed to breeze through the book and whenever I picked it up to read for just 10 minutes, I seemed to get lost for an hour. Smith is not simply a prop-artist laboring to prove FDR’s greatness. He is very critical of FDR, especially when FDR made major mistakes, whether it be in his court packing attempt in 1937, which in the long run hurt FDR immensely, or his internment of Japanese citizens during WWII. Smith also praises Roosevelt numerous times for being a grandiloquent speaker. I have never heard Roosevelt speak so I can’t argue that point, but I read some of the speeches he provided, and I was not struck by their brilliance as Smith wanted his readers to be.
As I mentioned above, I wanted to read this book to learn about the period and the societal changes. Sadly, Smith does not cover that aspect in depth. His focus is on FDR and FDR reacting to society, or acting so that society reacts. FDR is his driver, not structural alterations in the fabric of America. That’s not a criticism of Smith; his title is FDR, so it’s fair that the book is not about the Great Depression.
One complaint I do have about Smith’s style is that he often makes off
the cuff references to Ulysses S. Grant. Smith wrote a biography about Grant some years ago and he occasioanlly references Grant’s history. The problem is that I haven’t read the Grant biography and Smith’s references often require a reader to know more about Grant that many people do. That is annoying.
The book is a fantastic read and is extremely informative regarding FDR. If you want to know the man better, you could do much worse than to read this. Sadly, this is the first FDR biography I’ve ever read, so I can’t compare it to the numerous that exist already in the canon, but this one is worth reading.
I did start this book to analyze the Great Depression and see if there were solutions presented in that time period that we can re-analyze and use today. Interestingly, there are few. We can learn from the poor monetary policy that FDR used in 1937 when he tried to balance the budget, thus stalling out the recovery. We also can learn that it is important to work with the other party and not to be so obstinate as to destroy your own chances. Because after FDR failed at packing the court, the Democratic Party lost significant numbers in the next election, but more importantly, he lost the faith of many of those within his party and he had a much tougher job pushing his social change through Congress.
Interestingly, as I got more into the book, I started to realize that FDR was more similar to another President other than Obama. FDR had so many similarities to President George W. Bush. Both were from extremely well to-do families, with notably overbearing mothers. Both reached the presidency from Governorships of very important political states (New York for FDR, Texas for GWB). The differences continue into their way of thinking. FDR often resolutely believed he was right and that his opponents would eventually come to his way of thinking or they were so wrong they weren’t worth the effort to deal with.
We are still trying to understand GWB’s thinking throughout the debacle that is the Iraq War. His refusal to acknowledge what wasn’t working for three years is absolutely astounding. What I found particularly interesting was the attempts by both administrations to set up their paths to bypass government bureaucracy that they felt was entrenched against them.
During WWII, FDR by-passed those within the State Department because he felt he could not trust the high level diplomants who were set against him politically and who were in fact very racist so they severely impeded his objectives in the Pacific. Smith discusses an incident leading up to the Pearl Harbor bombing where Roosevelt and the State Department were working on a draft of an agreement so that the US would continue to sell oil to Japan (ahh the days when the US could sell oil) so that Japan would cease their rollup of the South Pacific (in the pursuit of more oil). However, FDR had by-passed so much of the State Department during his dealings with Europe that he could not control it. Moreover, he did not know how it worked. In this small instance he left it to the State Department to finalize the agreement failed, as they failed to pass on the agreement that eventually led to the Pearl Harbor bombing.
We can compare this to the Bush Administration simply bypassing much of the CIA to use the Department of Defense intelligence gathering because they favored the DoD intelligence because it showed them what they wanted. Because the Bush Administration had so often cut the CIA out of the loop and refused their intelligence that didn’t show what they wanted, they had trouble working with the CIA and getting them to do their jobs in Afghanistan and Pakistan years later. FDR worked around the State Department, and perhaps that worked better for him has he worked directly with Winston Churchill and other leaders in Europe. But it also hurt him when he needed their assistance because he never worked with them to bring them to his point of view; they never fell in line with his mission.
One of the most interesting things that is so very different today than it was years ago is the resistance to push into people’s personal lives and the willingness of the press to simply cover up inconvenient facts. For example, there are numerous instances of people in 1944 who were astonished at the poor health of the president. Yet the press at the time simply passed along the doctor’s word that he was extremely healthy, disbelieving their own eyes. He would die just a few months later.
I heartily endorse this book for anyone who is looking for some FDR history. Five out of Five Stars!