Site of Tacoma's First Jail
Tacoma's first jail stood on this site in the 1870s. It was a small wooden 2-cell structure built of 2x4 planks that were laid flat and spiked together. On busy nights, the jail could not hold all the sailors, longshoremen, and mill workers who had gotten out of hand at the local saloons, so a barn on Carr Street was used as a second holding area.
Until the second half of the 20th century, the view of Commencement Bay looked much different than it does today. The shore was lined with huge noisy sawmills and boatbuilding operations. Sawdust burners filled the sky with smoke. 3- and 4-masted sailing ships (lumber schooners) came to the port to carry lumber from the mills to San Francisco, Hawaii, New Zealand, and Asia. The original Old Town Dock was built in 1873 by M. Matthew McCarver and his associates. It served as the home port for Tacoma's fishing fleet for nearly 6 decades of the 20th century.
Chinese Reconciliation Park
Looking to the right on the waterfront, beyond the bridge to Ruston Way, you can see a Chinese Ting (a pagoda-like structure). This is the centerpiece of Chinese Reconciliation Park. In 1885, all Chinese people who lived and worked in Tacoma were escorted out of town by an organized mob of men. Some of their homes were located near this stretch of land. Reconciliation Park is being developed as a symbol of the City's desire to acknowledge the beauty of diversity in Tacoma today.