There is a lovely old building in my home town of Tacoma. It’s called Old City Hall, to distinguish it from the building that presently houses our city offices. It has a tall bell tower. I’ve climbed the ladder up to that bell and looked it it. There is an inscription on the bell, one from the man who put it up there to the memory of the daughter he lost.
There is a ‘greenhouse’ restaurant area on top of one section. Down in another, one can find the remnants of a jail cell, a holding area. It’s a trove of Tacoma history, with hardwood floors and visible beams of old growth timber.
We are in danger of losing it.
The present owners had a grand vision of converting it to condos. So, they pressured the tenants of the building to move out and began tearing out some of the interior. But then the economy went bad, and suddenly instead of potential condos, they had a vacant building that was expensive to maintain. I toured it three times with a view to rent office space there. The prices they were asking for space were unrealistic, given that I would be moving into a vacant building. They offered to let me fix up space in there ‘however I liked.’ At my own expense, of course. Would they guarantee not to raise my rent after I’d transformed part of it into a comfyoffice? Well, uh, no.
Hm. Not reassuring. So as much as I wanted to have a writer’s dream office there, I backed away.
Well, the owners are now facing foreclosure.
But worse, a pipe froze in the building, broke, and then flooded the upper stories with water. That was in late November. To date, no clean up has been done. That’s thousands of gallons of water, soaking into old timbers and sheetrock and insulation. Soaking electrical wiring. Providing moisture for potentially toxic mold.
And the city is powerless to force a clean up.
My heart is breaking over this. I know that by European standards, this isn’t even an old building. But it still is Tacoma history. We will never again see timbers like that. Nor would anyone in their right mind build a bell tower such as that again. Once it’s gone, Tacoma, it’s gone forever.
Remember the Luzon? The so-called Chinese Restaurant building on Pac Ave, with the tree growing out of the window sill. The one that used to be where that so attractive empty lot is now?
We let the Luzon slowly die while we watched from the outside, powerless to save it.
Are we going to lose Old City Hall the same way?