110-Year-Old Tacoma Totem Pole At Risk

While we’re poking around in the Landmarks Preservation Commission packet for this week’s meeting, here’s another potential item of interest: the 110-year-old Tacoma Totem Pole that stands in Fireman’s Park at 9th and A Street has been found to have issues with structural integrity.

A recent inspection of the pole found “very soft wet deteriorated wood” at the base, which significantly compromises the wind load capacity and seismic stability of the pole. On April 12, the Public Works Director ordered the totem pole to be stabilized, and the surrounding park area to be fenced off.

The pole, originally carved and installed in 1903, was designated a landmark in 1975. A briefing at this week’s Landmarks Preservation Commission meeting will provide the Commission with a status update and discuss the future plans for the pole.

UPDATE: The Daily Index has some more details on the history of the totem pole, which was apparently originally commissioned by a couple of Tacoma businessmen annoyed by the press Seattle was getting for its totem pole.

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I’m wondering: Does the pole have any tribal ties, i.e. designed by, constructed by, etc.?

April 23, 2013 at 10:35 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Nothing local, tribally… it was carved by Alaskan Indians.

April 23, 2013 at 12:36 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Jenny Jenkins

Even if it wasn’t a local tribe, I hope they’re able to save it.  I had no idea it was that old.  Maybe they can preserve it indoors somewhere like the History Museum or the Convention Center.

April 23, 2013 at 1:01 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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fred davie

I recommend a new totem pole be carved. But this one should be more reflective of contemporary Native American interests. It should include carvings of firecrackers, poker chips, and cigarettes.

April 23, 2013 at 5:46 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Art Brown Sr

I believe it came from the Tlingits of South East Alaska ( around Sitka or Juneau. ) their totems have been up for hundreds of years! I would suggest Tacoma contact them for restoration and preservation!

April 23, 2013 at 11:13 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Len Adams

I think this is the nature of poles, the Queen Charlotte islands are the resting place of many old poles that have fallen and been covered by overgrowth. The only place you see really old poles are in museums.

Just a guess, but if there were a new pole carved reflecting Native interests I think it might include family rather than poker chips.

April 26, 2013 at 10:22 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Erik B.

The city may want to expedite fixing the totem pole as it is right next to the Russell building where State Farm is planning to move into. All of the plastic fencing and cement blocks ruin the view and use of Fireman’s Park.

April 26, 2013 at 10:51 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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And the consensus is: somehow, someway, somewhere preserve the pole.

April 26, 2013 at 2:12 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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