The New International Encyclopædia/Tacoma
TACO′MA. The county-seat of Pierce County, Wash., 140 miles north of Portland, Ore., at the head of Commencement Bay, Puget Sound (Map: Washington, C 2) . It is a terminus of the Northern Pacific Railway, and is on the Great Northern, the Canadian Pacific, and other railroads. Many steamship lines, of which several are trans-Pacific, sail from Tacoma. The harbor is spacious and secure, and is admirably provided with shipping facilities, the railroad and steamship terminals being among the best on the Pacific Coast.
Tacoma has a picturesque site, rising from the bay to an altitude of 320 feet, with high mountains in the vicinity. Mount Rainier (q.v.), locally known by the old Indian name, Tacoma, to the southeast, being 14,526 feet in height. There are some 700 acres in public parks, of which Point Defiance is by far the largest. The city hall, court-house, Chamber of Commerce, Northern Pacific Railway headquarters, Tacoma Hotel, and Tacoma Theatre are among the prominent buildings. The city has a public library (Carnegie) containing some 25,000 volumes, the Ferry Museum of Art, and the State Historical Society. The educational institutions include Whitworth College (Presbyterian) and the University of Puget Sound (Methodist Episcopal), both opened in 1890; Annie Wright Seminary (Protestant Episcopal), the Pacific Lutheran University, and an Indian school. The State Insane Asylum is a few miles to the south, and there are in the city a number of charitable institutions, the more important of which are the City and County Hospital, Saint Joseph's Hospital, and the Fanny Paddock Memorial Hospital.
Superior transportation facilities, and a vast and highly productive tributary region have made Tacoma one of the leading business centres on the Pacific Coast. Coal is mined extensively in the vicinity, and the city has also advantages of rich agricultural and timber lands. It carries on a large wholesale trade and is largely interested in manufacturing, but derives its chief importance from an extensive coastwise and foreign commerce, particularly with the Orient. The principal articles of commerce are wheat, flour, lumber, coal, coke, fish, and fruit. In the census year 1900 the various industrial establishments had $8,147,000 capital, and an output valued at $12,029,000. The manufacture of lumber, shingles, furniture, carriages and wagons, woodenware, flour, foundry and machine shop products, cars, car wheels, and engines, ship and boat-building, smelting, and brewing are the chief industries.
Under the revised charter of 1896 the government is vested in a mayor, elected for two years, and a unicameral council. Most of the administrative officials are appointed by the mayor, the comptroller, treasurer, and board of education, however, being chosen by popular vote. The city spends annually for maintenance and operation about $698,000, the largest items being: interest on debt, $228,000; schools, $164,000; electric light plant, $69,000: fire department, $47,000; police department, $35,000. The water-works and the electric light plant are owned and operated by the municipality. Tacoma was formed in 1883 by the consolidation of Old Tacoma (founded in 1868) and New Tacoma. New Tacoma, founded about 1869, was made the western terminus of the Northern Pacific Railway in 1873, was organized as a city in 1874, and became the county-seat in 1880. Population, in 1890, 36,006; in 1900, 37,714.