The Tacoma Sun


34 Years After Stephen Cysewski’s Infamous Tacoma Walking Tour: Is Tacoma Finally Ready to Repair Itself?


There have been countless numbers of incredible historical photos taken of Tacoma.  However, perhaps no set better captures downtown Tacoma in a moment of time as well as Stephen Cysewski’s 1979 walking tour does during Tacoma’s arguably lowest point in it’s history.  In this year, Tacoma faced an incredible sense of despair and downtown Tacoma was nearly wholesale abandoned.





It has been written that “[d]uring this period: “Downtown Tacoma experienced a long decline through the mid-20th century. Harold Moss, later the city’s mayor, characterized late 1970s Tacoma as looking “bombed out” like “downtown Beirut” (a reference to the Lebanese Civil War that occurred at that time.) “Streets were abandoned, storefronts were abandoned… City Hall was the headstone and Union Station the footstone” on the grave of downtown.”*



Fast forward to 2013.  

Much has been improved in Tacoma since 1979, yet some of the same challenges remain including the basic look of the city, namely the streets. 

These pictures from the Stadium District a week ago in October 2013:






Last photo courtesy of the Tacoma Weekly’s Pothole Pig.

For Tacomans who have lived in the city more than 10 years, we face a big psychological challenge: we become acclimated to the blight in the city including the poor condition of the streets.  After awhile, the condition becomes normal for us as we look upon and attempt to swerve around a maze of potholes.  We vainly urge visitors to Tacoma, our friends and family, to look past the atrocious condition of the city and try to convince them how great the City of Destiny is: “No really its a great city!” we plead.

Proposition 1 would make a meaningful next step in doing our part to repair and rehabilitate the city as earlier generations of Tacomans have. It would permanently fix 3600 potholes every year and repave 510 neighborhood blocks over 5 years. It’s cost would be spread to large corporations like Walmart and many other large entities who often pay very little tax.

However, in the end, this measure is more about us as citizens of Tacoma than the measure itself and where we are as city in 2013.

Are we Tacomans ready to take the next step in the reconstruction of the City and repair itself via Proposition 1 or we still stuck in the inherited mindset of it’s 1979 era blightful near abandoned past?




*Erik Hanberg, An Exercise in Hope, Faith, Vision, and Guts, Weekly Volcano (Tacoma), December 24, 2008.


published November 1st, 2013

3 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment