Stadium High School - Tacoma, Washington
Posted by: Hikenutty
N 47° 15.952 W 122° 26.895
10T E 541738 N 5234857
Quick Description: Stadium High School, originally built as a luxury hotel by the Northern Pacific Railroad, was converted to a high school in 1906 after it was gutted by a fire.
Location: Washington, United States
Date Posted: 5/6/2007 9:33:25 AM
Waymark Code: WM1GQ9
The following excerpt is from Washington: A Guide to the Evergreen State
from the Tacoma "Points of Interest" section.
The STADIUM HIGH SCHOOL, 111 N. E St., occupies a high bluff overlooking Commencement Bay. First built as a hotel by the Northern Pacific Railroad, the building was converted into a school in 1906, after the interior had been burned out. The structure, designed by Frederick Heath, is a fine example of early French Renaissance architecture, somewhat reminiscent of the Castle of Blois in France. The front step, a slab 20 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 16 inches deep, was cut from a granite boulder near Fern Hill.
Immediately adjoining the high school on the NW is the STADIUM. Once a wooded gulch, now a great classical amphitheater, it is a beauty spot on the Tacoma shoreline. The bowl, with grassy slopes above, accomodates 40,000 spectators. General Morton Matthews McCarver, who came to Tacoma from Oregon in 1868, built his first home, a log cabin, on the site now occupied by the Stadium, nearest the present State Historical Building.
Stadium High School was originally intended by its financiers, the Northern Pacific Railroad Company and Tacoma Land Company, to be one of the finest luxury hotels on the Pacific Coast. In 1890 they purchased a nine-acre tract of land on a high bluff overlooking Commencement Bay, and solicited architectural designs and bids for the building.
Construction of the hotel--known both as the Olympic and the Tourist--began in 1891, but came to a screeching halt in 1893 in the wake of a nationwide financial panic and depression. The unfinished shell was then used to store lumber, until a devastating fire gutted the building in October 1898. The Northern Pacific Railroad gave up the idea of finishing the hotel and began taking bricks from the burned-out structure in 1901 to build train depots in Montana and Idaho. Fortunately, a number of Tacoma citizens had other ideas for the building.
The city's school district was in great need of a building for its high school. A deal to purchase the property was quickly made with the owners and the building project was completed in 1906 at a total cost of approximately $500,000. The Tacoma School District had paid $34,500 for the property.
The High School (then Tacoma High School) was also in need of a stadium and chose to build it in the ravine below the building. Construction began on "the Bowl" in April of 1909. A steam shovel and sluicing pipes moved more than 180,000 cubic yards of dirt down the sides of the gulch until it half-filled the great cavity to form a level playfield of two and a half acres. Thousands of board feet of lumber were hand cut to make the forms for the seats, which were molded in concrete. The original seats (with an estimated seating capacity of 32,000) rose 31 tiers high, with the top seat 52 feet above the field level. Be sure to look at the drawings of the bowl in the photo gallery. Because it is fenced and school property, we were unable to enter the stadium for photos.
Louis Armstrong performed in the bowl, as did famous opera singers. Many of national fame spoke to capacity crowds on various occasions, including Gen. John Pershing, France's Marshal Foch, Babe Ruth, and presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Warren Harding.
The school recently underwent a long renovation and reopened for the 2006/2007 school year to celebrate its 100th Anniversary.