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These Stunning Historical Photos Show Tacoma from the 1940s to 1960s

During World War II, the Port of Tacoma and Puyallup Valley experienced an increase in demand for shipbuilding work and agricultural products. The Puyallup Fairgrounds temporarily became an internment camp for many Japanese residents due to a national mood of fear and discrimination. Additionally, World War II led to a huge influx of African Americans to the region, notably shipyard workers and returning veterans. Tacoma, for example, grew from 650 African Americans in 1940 to 3,205 by 1945. Many of the diverse groups of people who discovered Pierce County stayed here for generations.

During World War II, Tacoma also participated in a postwar urban planning pilot program. In 1944, voters approved the construction of new schools, sewers, streets, a civic auditorium, and recreational facilities. As a result of urban renewal, parking garages and terraced walls were built downtown. Downtown businesses competed with shopping malls and once-rural communities such as Fife and Gig Harbor because of suburbanization and the automobile.

A historic preservation movement developed when urban renewal threatened the Old City Hall and Northern Pacific Headquarters. Tacoma has rediscovered the elegance of the past by preserving and renovating old buildings. Union Station was resurrected as the U.S. Courthouse. City Hall was converted into offices. Old music halls were converted into theatres. The University of Washington branch in Tacoma opened in 1990 in an old newspaper building and later moved to its campus.

Check out these fabulous photos that show Tacoma from the 1940s to the 1960s.

#1 Tacoma Narrows Bridge, 1940

Tacoma Narrows Bridge, 1940

The bridge deck is buckling and distorted. The toll booth and automobiles are visible at the bridge's east (Tacoma) end.

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#2 Tacoma Belt Line Railway Locomotive, Tacoma, 1957

Tacoma Belt Line Railway Locomotive, Tacoma, 1957

Name on the side of the freight car behind the locomotive: Chicago and North-Western Railway; Route of the 400 Streamliners.

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#3 First Tacoma Narrows Bridge, 1940

First Tacoma Narrows Bridge, 1940

The first Tacoma Narrows Bridge is Galloping Gertie's aerial view from the Tacoma side. The Narrows runs diagonally across the photo centre, with Point Defiance's tip near the centre right edge.

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#4 St. Paul and Tacoma Mill Co., 1953

St. Paul and Tacoma Mill Co., 1953

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#5 Broadway at 9th, Tacoma, 1940

Broadway at 9th, Tacoma, 1940

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#6 Tacoma City Light float, Daffodil Parade, Tacoma, 1966

Tacoma City Light float, Daffodil Parade, Tacoma, 1966

Queen Susan Bona and six daffodil princesses are on the float. Eight men wearing yellow suit jackets and white gloves serve as honor guards for the float. A crowd of men, women, and children is on the sidewalk in the background.

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#7 Engine House No. 6, Tacoma Fire Department, 1940

Engine House No. 6, Tacoma Fire Department, 1940

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#8 Tacoma, Wash. skyline from Winthrop Hotel, 1940

Tacoma, Wash. skyline from Winthrop Hotel, 1940

The downtown business district of Tacoma is seen from the Winthrop Hotel.

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#9 Waitress Strike, Winthrop Hotel, Tacoma, 1947

Waitress Strike, Winthrop Hotel, Tacoma, 1947

Striking waitresses, Alma Thorsen on the left, and Mary Kool on the right posing on the sidewalk outside the Winthrop Hotel. The Tacoma City Hall tower is partially visible at the image upper left edge. Three automobiles are partially visible on the street.

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#10 Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse, 1940

Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse, 1940

The first Tacoma Narrows Bridge looked west from an east end after its collapse on Nov. 7, 1940. The bridge deck sags down, and a crack is visible in the foreground.

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#11 Administration Building, Seattle-Tacoma Airport, 1945

Administration Building, Seattle-Tacoma Airport, 1945

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#12 Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse, 1940

Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse, 1940

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#13 Huletz Electric Co. / 746 Broadway / Tacoma, 1945

Huletz Electric Co. / 746 Broadway / Tacoma, 1945

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#14 Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse, 1940

Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse, 1940

Debris dangles from the end of the remaining part of the span. A small boat in The Narrows is in the lower-left quadrant near a bridge tower's base.

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#15 Pavilion and Boathouse – Point Defiance Park – Tacoma, 1944

Pavilion and Boathouse - Point Defiance Park – Tacoma, 1944

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#16 military parade in Tacoma, the 1940s

military parade in Tacoma, the 1940s

Almost all carry rifles over their shoulders; some are saluting. Crowds, including women, boys and girls, three holding balloons, line the street. Two uniformed U.S. sailors stand on the far curb. Three horse-mounted policemen are at the photo left edge.

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#17 1938-30 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, 1945

1938-30 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, 1945

Signs on the building include Younglove Grocery Co. and United Purity Stores. A fire escape is on the building front. An automobile is parked in front.

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#18 Henry Mill Co., 3001 Starr Street, Tacoma, 1940

Henry Mill Co., 3001 Starr Street, Tacoma, 1940

A diagonal line of stacks of lumber next to railroad tracks is in the image lower center. Automobiles are parked near the image lower right corner. Lumber mill buildings, including a sawdust burner, are across image lower center. A crane and stacks of lumber on a dock next to the Puget Sound area are right in the image centre.

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#19 Northern Pacific Railway Depot at McCarver Street, Tacoma, 1960

Northern Pacific Railway Depot at McCarver Street, Tacoma, 1960

A small part of a building that fronts on North Thirtieth Street are at the upper right edge.

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#20 Indian Canoe – Old Fort Nisqually – Pt. Defiance Park – Tacoma, 1950

Indian Canoe - Old Fort Nisqually - Pt. Defiance Park - Tacoma, 1950

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#21 William R. Rust House, North Sixth Street and Yakima Avenue, Tacoma, 1940

William R. Rust House, North Sixth Street and Yakima Avenue, Tacoma, 1940

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#22 McCarver St. Depot, Old Town Tacoma, 1957

McCarver St. Depot, Old Town Tacoma, 1957

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#23 School Children Visiting Washington State History Museum, Tacoma, 1957

School Children Visiting Washington State History Museum, Tacoma, 1957

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#24 1003 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, StoreFront with Sign for Nippon Valley Exhibit, 1940

1003 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, StoreFront with Sign for Nippon Valley Exhibit, 1940

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#25 Northern Pacific Locomotive 2626 (class A-1), near Tacoma, 1950

Northern Pacific Locomotive 2626 (class A-1), near Tacoma, 1950

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#26 Fawcett Avenue Urban Renewal Area, Tacoma, 1955

Fawcett Avenue Urban Renewal Area, Tacoma, 1955

The view looks west, and Eleventh Street is ascending almost parallel to the image left edge. Rooftops, the side of a billboard, and a water tower on top of buildings are in the foreground. Dense single-, two- and three-story facilities are beyond. The old Pierce County Courthouse is on the horizon in image left-centre.

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#27 Japanese American Girls in Kimonos Attend Street Dance, Tacoma, 1940

Japanese American Girls in Kimonos Attend Street Dance, Tacoma, 1940

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#28 Kay Street Business Dist. Tacoma, 1950

Kay Street Business Dist. Tacoma, 1950

A stage may be on the stand, decorated with flowers, banners, and 2 U.S. flags. Possibly a sound speaker is at one end of the stand. A Richfield sign is visible near the image left edge.

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#29 Pacific Avenue looking north from 13th, Tacoma, December 1952

Pacific Avenue looking north from 13th, Tacoma, December 1952

Automobiles and one truck are parked on the street. Autos and a car are in traffic. Christmas wreaths are suspended over the road.

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#30 Universal Service Station, 2301 South J Street, Tacoma.

Universal Service Station, 2301 South J Street, Tacoma.

In the image left, a service station attendant is partially hidden by 3 gasoline pumps in front of the station building. Shell signs and a sign: Welcome American Legion, and bunting decorate the building. Bunting decorates the building with three service bays in image right background. A car is in one of the service bays, and two automobiles parked on the service station grounds are partially visible.

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#31 Opening Day Crowd, 1996

Opening Day Crowd, 1996

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#32 Washington State Historical Society building, 1960

Washington State Historical Society building, 1960

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#33 Washington State History Museum Grand Opening Celebration, 1996

Washington State History Museum Grand Opening Celebration, 1996

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#34 Scrap metal drive, World War II, 1943

Scrap metal drive, World War II, 1943

One wears coveralls; another has goggles pushed up onto his cap. One wears a sweatshirt with the sign: Blitz-Weinhart Fine Beer. Three others are standing atop the gondola, one wearing overalls.

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#35 Eatonville State Bank, 1942

Eatonville State Bank, 1942

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#36 Scrap Metal Recycling, 1943

Scrap Metal Recycling, 1943

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#37 Nalley’s Distribution Center, 1955

Nalley's Distribution Center, 1955

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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