Tacoma’s History with Michael Sullivan – Part 5 (1970s to 1990s)

Marguerite Giguere
/ June 25, 2017
Michael Sullivan knows the history of all things Tacoma. He blogs regularly at tacomahistory.live. On today's podcast he shares fascinating stories and nuggets from Tacoma's history. Today's episode covers (roughly) Tacoma's history from the 1970s to 1990s.

In this episode

  • Indigenous Rights The Puyallup Tribe and other native populations began fishing the Puyallup River in protest that the Medicine Creek treaty wasn't being honored. This came to a head and went to trial (at the courthouse on A Street that houses the post office, Lift Bridge Coffee, and En Rama). This led to the famous 1974 "Boldt Decision" which said the treaty still stood. Sullivan argues it helped the tribe substantially but also helped the port clear a cloud of uncertainty and help them grow as well.
  • Now... the 80s! A progressive leadership began to take over. Federal money to Tacoma was increasing. And we started building the Tacoma Dome! A fairly popular decision across Tacoma.
  • The Neon Wars The 1% for the public art at the dome was real money, since it was such a large project. Andy Warhol and other artists submitted for the commission. What (an outside consultant) landed on was... neon. And it triggered what became known as "the neon wars" in Tacoma. It eventually led to a compromise (the neon inside the dome instead of outside it). And it also temporarily cut our 1% for the art.
  • Drugs Crack and black tar heroin became issues in Tacoma.
  • Downtown is at its emptiest Weyerhaeuser is gone. Pacific Ave is "the best place in Tacoma to get knifed." Tacoma starts to think about saving some of its historic theaters and other buildings, even though many of them are empty. Bulldozers raze a few blocks and shock the system enough that the advocacy begins to set in. Eventually the community rallies and the Pantages and Union Station are saved.
  • Then ... the 90s The site for University of Washington Tacoma is identified as being downtown, with the goal to keep the historic warehouses and buildings. The Washington State History Museum mimics Union Station next door. In other words, Tacoma starts to look toward what it already has. Also there was grunge.
  • An Arts Focus In addition to the restored theaters, plans for museums began to be laid, including a new museum of glass. Other arts ideas percolate up to the top, including an idea for an arts high school distributed around downtown Tacoma.
  • "Our weird thing with primates" If you didn't know, the Java Jive had two monkeys and the B&I had Ivan. Sullivan also relays some other torrid tales of Tacoma.

Michael Sullivan knows the history of all things Tacoma. He blogs regularly at tacomahistory.live. On today’s podcast he shares fascinating stories and nuggets from Tacoma’s history. Today’s episode covers (roughly) Tacoma’s history from the 1970s to 1990s.

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