Tacoma, Washington

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Tacoma, with Mount Rainier in background

This page is about the city in Washington. You may be looking for Takoma or Tacoma class frigate.

Tacoma is the county seat of Pierce CountyTemplate:GR, situated on Puget Sound's Commencement Bay, Tacoma Narrows, and the estuary of the Puyallup River. The 2000 census reported Tacoma's population as 193,556; the city's population on Apr. 1, 2004, was estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau to be 196,800, an increase of 1.7% since 2000 (Trends, No. D3 [Sept. 2004]).

Tacoma is the home of such international companies as Labor Ready, Inc. and the Russell Investment Group, as well as institutions of higher learning, including Pacific Lutheran University, University of Puget Sound, Tacoma Community College, and the University of Washington's Tacoma campus. Tacoma is a major international deep-water container port.

The Museum of Glass opened in downtown Tacoma in 2002, showcasing glass art from the region and around the world. It includes a functional glassblowing studio. Tacoma's downtown Cultural District is also the site of the Washington State History Museum (1996) and the Tacoma Art Museum (2003).

The major local newspaper is the Tacoma News Tribune. A daily newspaper has been in circulation in Tacoma since 1883; at one time, three papers were being published. The paper serves over 128,000 customers, 144,000 on Sundays, making it the third largest newspaper in the state of Washington.

One of the largest urban parks in the U.S, Point Defiance Park, which includes the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, is located in Tacoma. Another park in Tacoma is Titlow Beach, which is a popular scuba diving area. Wright Park, located near downtown, is a large, English-style park designed in the late 1800s by E.O. Schwagerl and Ebenezer Rhys Roberts.

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Beginning in the 1930s, Tacoma was for a time known in the Puget Sound region for its malodorousness, due to the "Aroma of Tacoma" -- a distinctive, acrid odor produced by local paper manufacturing. In the late 1990s, however, Simpson Tacoma Kraft reduced total sulfur emissions by 90%, largely eliminating the problem. (A faint smell is reportedly still detectable during temperature inversions.)

A number of noteworthy individuals have come from Tacoma, among them singer Bing Crosby, authors Richard Brautigan and Frank Herbert, cartoonist Gary Larson, serial killer Ted Bundy, serial sniper John Allen Muhammad, actress Dyan Cannon, conspiracy gadfly Fred Crisman, Andrew and Thea Foss, first owners and operators of Foss Launch and Tug Company, Puyallup Indian rights activist Robert Satiacum, auto racer Pat Austin, prize fighter Sugar Ray Seales, NFL receiver Ahmad Rashad, Major League baseball player Ron Cey, glass artist Dale Chihuly, and musicians Jerry Cantrell and Neko Case. Chef-author Jeff Smith learned to cook and began his career in Tacoma at the Chaplain's Pantry, later known as the Gourmet Pantry (now closed), on Tacoma Avenue.



Tacoma was inhabited for thousands of years by Native American people, predominantly the Puyallup people. It was visited by European and American explorers, including George Vancouver and Charles Wilkes, who named many of the coastal landmarks.

The town was originally settled by pioneer and postmaster Job Carr, a Civil War veteran and land speculator who hoped to profit from the selection of Commencement Bay as the terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad. (A replica of Job Carr's cabin, which also served as Tacoma's first post office, was erected in "Old Town" in 2000 near the original site.)

Tacoma was officially incorporated on November 12, 1875. Its early hopes to live to be the "City of Destiny" were frustrated in the late 19th century, when the discovery of gold in the Klondike turned Seattle into a boom town, eclipsing Tacoma's early lead.

George Francis Train was a resident of Tacoma for a few years in the late 1800s, and was an early civic booster. In 1880, he staged a global circumnavigation starting and ending in Tacoma to promote the city's centrality. A plaque in downtown Tacoma marks the start and finish point.

Tacoma was named after Mount Rainier, whose original name was Tahoma, which derived from the Puyallup tacobet, or "mother of waters."


Electrical power is furnished by Tacoma Power, a division of Tacoma Public Utilities, which owns hydroelectric plants on the North Fork of the Skokomish River. Tacoma Power also operates the Click! Network, a cable television and internet service, one of the first public utilities to provide such a service. Tacoma Power is, along with Tacoma Water and Tacoma Rail, a part of Tacoma Public Utilities.


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Location of Tacoma, Washington

Tacoma is located at 47°14'29" North, 122°27'34" West (47.241371, -122.459389)Template:GR. Its elevation is 116 meters (380 feet).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 162.2 km² (62.6 mi²). 129.7 km² (50.1 mi²) of it is land and 32.5 km² (12.5 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 20.01% water.


Tacoma's main public school district is Tacoma Public Schools. The school district contains 36 elementary schools and 11 middle schools. The district also has 5 high schools, one alternative high school, and one School of the Arts. One of the district's high schools, Foss, operates an acclaimed International Baccalaureate program. Also, one of the elementary schools, Sheridan Elementary, operates three foreign language immersion programs (Spanish, French, and Japanese).


The censusTemplate:GR of 2000 indicated that 193,556 persons, 76,152 households, and 45,919 families resided in Tacoma. Four years later, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that Tacoma's population had increased by 1.7%, to 196,800 (Trends, No. D3 [Sept. 2004]).

In 2000, Tacoma's population density was 1,492.3/km² (3,864.9/mi²). There were 81,102 housing units at an average density of 625.3/km² (1,619.4/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 69.08% White, 11.24% African American, 1.96% Native American, 7.57% Asian, 0.93% Pacific Islander, 2.94% from other races, and 6.28% from two or more races. 6.85% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 76,152 households in Tacoma in 2000; 30.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.6% were married couples living together, 13.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.7% were non-families. Almost one third of households (31.7%) were made up of individuals living alone; 10.4% of these were 65 years of age or older. The average household size in 2000 was 2.45 and the average family size was 3.10.

In 2000, the population's demographics were evenly distributed: 25.8% under 18, 10.4% from 18 to 24, 31.6% from 25 to 44, 20.3% from 45 to 64, and 11.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34. For every 100 females there were 95.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $37,879, and the median income for a family was $45,567. Males had a median income of $35,820, versus $27,697 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,130. 15.9% of the population and 11.4% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 20.6% of those under the age of 18 and 10.9% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.

Tacoma is served by the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, located between Seattle and Tacoma in the city of SeaTac. It serves Seattle, Washington, Tacoma and the Greater Puget Sound Metropolitan Area. There are also Amtrak train and Greyhound bus stations in Tacoma. Interstate Highway 5 links Tacoma with Seattle to the north, and Portland, Oregon to the south. Tacoma is also served by the Washington State Ferry system, which has a dock at Point Defiance, providing ferry access to Tahlequah at the southern tip of Vashon Island.


Tacoma, in addition to the professional sports teams of Seattle, has one minor league baseball franchise, the Tacoma Rainiers, a Triple-A team playing in the Pacific Coast League as a farm team of the Seattle Mariners. The Rainiers play inside Cheney Stadium, named after local businessman and baseball enthusiast Ben Cheney.

The city has struggled to keep a minor league hockey franchise, having lost the Tacoma Rockets of the WHL to relocation and having the Tacoma Sabercats of the former West Coast Hockey League go defunct due to financial woes. The Tacoma Dome does still host traveling sports and pseudo-sports events such as pro wrestling, figure skating tours, and the Harlem Globetrotters. At one point, the Tacoma Dome was home to a professional indoor soccer team, the Tacoma Stars.

Tacoma in pop culture

Neko Case's song "Thrice All American", featured on her album Furnace Room Lullaby, is an ode to Tacoma, which she considers her hometown. The album also includes a song called "South Tacoma Way."

Richard Brautigan wrote of his Tacoma childhood in his autobiographical short stories "Corporal," "The Armoured Car," "The Auction," and "The Ghost Children of Tacoma."

Tacoma is also prominently mentioned in the 1977 Steve Miller Band song "Rock 'N Me" (I went from Phoenix, Arizona all the way to Tacoma, Philadelphia, Atlanta, L.A.).

A running gag in the 1985 Tom Hanks film Volunteers is the repeated references to Tacoma by John Candy's character, "Tom Tuttle from Tacoma, Washington."

Parts of the movie 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), whose plot is based on William Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, was filmed at Stadium High School and in the nearby Old Town neighborhood, although most other exterior scenes were filmed in Seattle. Also significant parts of The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992) were shot in a North Tacoma home.

Toyota has named a popular line of pickup trucks the "Toyota Tacoma" after the city.

Tacoma is mentioned in the Sir Mix-a-Lot song "My Hooptie" (Rollin' in Tacoma, I could get burned (Sound of automatic gunfire) Betta make a u-turn).

External links


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State of Washington
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State capital:



Central Washington | Columbia River Plateau | Eastern Washington | Inland Empire | Kitsap Peninsula | Olympic Peninsula | Okanogan Country | Palouse | Puget Sound | San Juan Islands | Western Washington | Yakima Valley

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