Who’s ready to geek out on a little bit of Tacoma History?! After reading this blog, you’ll walk away with a baseline idea of what a Historical District in Tacoma is, where they are located, what it means for home owners and where you go to find more resources. You will be fully equipped to dive deeper and answer some of your own questions regarding Historic Homes in Tacoma and if your home could qualify to be registered. Let’s start with the basics….

Historic Landmark (city + state) Blue Mouse Theater – Tacoma, WA is the oldest continually operating Theater in Washington State. 2611 N Proctor Street

What is a Historic District?

Historic Districts are areas within Tacoma that have been determined to have unique character and related development patterns specific to a period of time. The intent behind these Historic Districts and Landmarks is to preserve and maintain older homes and neighborhoods throughout the City of Tacoma. Our inventory of older homes and buildings is one of the things that makes our city stand out! To have a committee that guides and provides resource to expand our understanding of unique architecture and history that surrounds us, is pretty awesome.

How many Historic Districts are there? 

The city of Tacoma has eight Historic Districts across three registers; National Register(NR), State Register(WR) and Tacoma Register(TR).

  1. “The Wedge” (TR, WR, NR)
  2. “North Slope” (TR, WR, NR)
  3. Old City Hall (TR, WR, NR)
  4. Union Depot/Warehouse (TR, WR, NR)
  5. Stadium (NR)
  6. Salmon Beach (WR)
  7. Buckley’s (WR, NR)
  8. College Park (WR, NR)

Notice that I outlined which of these district are National, State and Local. Local District are more highly governed, where as the regulations for National and State are less stringent. (We’ll talk about what this means for home owners in just a second). To give you an idea of what a Historic District looks like, below is a photo of The North Slope Historic District. The North Slope is the largest established Historic District in Tacoma AND one of the largest in the Country! Click HERE to find a wealth of knowledge on all eight districts, on the City of Tacoma’s website.

North Slope Historic District - City of Tacoma

North Slope Historic District – City of Tacoma

What are the benefits of buying a home in a Historically Designated Area? These only apply to the Tacoma registry, not National or State.

  1. Did you know that homes located within any given historical society hold their value and increase in value more than surrounding homes that are not located within a historic district? It is true! And although you may be at times frustrated with the limitations you can complete regarding the exterior of your home, or the fact that you had to replace your windows with more expensive wood windows vs vinyl, it will likely pay for itself in the long run. (that and if you maintain your wood windows, they’ll last you far longer than vinyl windows would!)
  2. If you do perform renovations on your home, the city offers to reduce your overall taxes for the following 10 years. HERE you can click and find out if you qualify and what renovation costs go towards and the various incentives offered
  3. Be apart of one Tacoma’s History! For example, Tacoma’s North Slope District is the largest Local district in the Nation! (wow) And as residence it is something to be really proud of.
  4. For more benefits on owning in a historic home, click HERE

Engine House No 9. – 2019. The history behind this building is exciting! And to most it’s simply a great place to enjoy a cold beer and great conversation. That’s great too. 😊

 

Engine House No. 9. Sketch from Tacoma Public Library dated 1907. – One of the first taverns in Pierce County to serve Microbrew. Located on 611 N Pine Street

I’m a Home Buyer/Seller and I’m interested in buying in a Historically Designated Area – What should I know? 

I’m glad you asked! These things that I am going to list are specific to LOCAL historical areas and may not apply to State or National. Although the following things I am going to mention, may be burdensome to homeowners at times, they serve a purpose and pay for themselves longterm.

  • Windows. This is the most common frustration. Home owners must replace their windows with wood windows vs (cheaper) vinyl windows or other varieties. The city is now allowing fiberglass windows and variations of wood windows to be installed. Be sure to verify directly with them, before moving forward with your purchase.
  • Exterior. No significant modification can be made to the exterior of the home, especially if they change the street view of the home. The intent here is to preserve the original look of the home from the street. For example: you will like NOT be able to enclose your porch, as it would change the look of the home.
    • ADU’s are approved in historic areas, but again – if the addition is visibly seen from the street, it will likely not get approval from the Committee
    • Painting your home? Be sure to run this by the committee. And (big surprise!) if you are hoping to paint your house lime green, it’s likely not going happen.😉
    • Changing out siding? Newer hardy plank siding is approved, but it must be a specific texture and style.

Ok. Bottom line here folks, get a good understanding of the limitations and guidelines the Historic Committee has set for. If you are looking to talk to a human at the City of Tacoma to answer some specific questions, give Lauren Hoogkamer of call. (253) 591-5254. She is the Historic Preservation Officer and is happy to answer your questions.

Stewart Middle School – Tacoma, WA. Built in 1925 and more recently added to the City Historic Registry. 5010 S Pacific Ave Tacoma

How do I find the History of my home? 

Awww. Yes! Once I discovered this tool, I was hooked for hours, researching my personal home and stalking friends and families to see if they were the lucky ducks who purchased a home with an exciting tail or two. HERE is a link to the Pierce County Building Index at the Tacoma Public Library.

What if I DO NOT own a home in one of the eight Historic District? Can it be designated as a Historical Landmark? 

Short answer – YES! it most certainly can. Here is the baseline criteria your home must meet:

  • Must be 50 years of age
  • In fair condition OR retain original materials to be able to convey its significance
  • The building has something that sets it apart from others like it. This might include a unique design or excellent condition
  • This building must have something that makes it important:
    • Does it represent the architectural style well?
    • Is it emblematic of a theme or local history?
    • Is it connected to a significant person?

To read more about the guidelines for Historic Landmark approval, click HERE

For more information on your historic home or the process of buying or selling, contact Realtor, Jenny Wetzel; 253-381-9788; Jenny@jennywetzelhomes.com