The Tacoma Sun


Tacoma Moment of Zen: The Luzon

By Morgan Alexander

The building currently known as the Luzon Building located downtown at 15th & Pacific has been known by many names over the years: the Scandinavian-American Bank, Pacific National Bank, Metropolitan Savings Bank, Golden Chopsticks. Perhaps the name most associated with the building was the Fun Circus.

Built in 1890, the Luzon was designed by the renowned Chicago architect firm of Burnham & Root. With load-bearing exterior walls two feet thick and interior iron columns and beams forming an iron skeleton, the building was considered cutting edge in the 1880’s. This was one of the last buildings the firm built on the West Coast and was built at the same time as the famous Monadnock Building in Chicago. Both of these buildings set the stage for a new generation of buildings, the skyscraper. With the Luzon came references to Tacoma being the “little Chicago” of the West. Although the city’s politics, red light districts, and organized crime probably helped with that too.

A 1979 photograph of the west side of the 1300 block of Pacific shows the history that was lost to make room for a now common site in downtown – a surface parking lot. The buildings are, left to right, the David Levin building, 1312 Pacific (built 1908) the Samuel Wolf building, 1310 Pacific (built 1889) the Baker building, 1306-08 Pacific (built 1889) and the Luzon Building, 1302-04 Pacific. In 1979, the Luzon Building was home to the Fun Circus and, prior to that, Chopsticks restaurant. It was built in 1890 and is on the City, State and National registry. It was designed by Burnham & Root, architects. The building has been vacant since 1986.

Most recently, the Gintz Group purchased the building with plans to bring it back to its previous magnificence. As of late August 2008, the building sits surrounded by fencing and a tree growing out of its side.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how far we’ve come. Or how far gone Tacoma was. Thankfully, Stephen Cysewski captured Tacoma at the lowest of lows on 35mm film for posterity. Check out more photos by Cysewski from the Tacoma Public Library’s database.

published August 26th, 2008

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Erik B. // Aug 26, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Great pictures showing what was there before all of the building were torn down creating a dead zone by the Luzon along with Tollefson Plaza.

    So large is the deadness in downtown, there are but two separate halves of downtown.

  • 2 Chris // Aug 26, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    I haven’t heard of Tacoma being referred to as “a little Chicago” before. Bits of that seem to still make sense.

    I’m not quite sure why things have developed the way they have around the light rail stations. With Gintz taking over, hopefully we can get that tree out of the side and bring this building back to life. The parking lot adjacent needs to be in-filled though.

  • 3 Morgan Alexander // Sep 2, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    It appears the love went both ways. Check out the Tacoma Building which once stood in Chicago:

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