Early history: Native Americans probably camped on the Point’s shores, although no evidence of a permanent settlement has been found.
1841: Naval explorer Charles Wilkes refers to landmark as “Point Defiance” on a map – first recorded use of the name.
1866: Recognizing its strategic possibilities, President Andrew Johnson preserves the Point as a military reservation.
1874: Tacoma founded.
1888: Tacoma wins legislation to develop park on the land, but allowing feds to reclaim if necessary.
1889: Washington statehood.
1890: Streetcar line completed from downtown Tacoma to Point Defiance.
1892: Massive rustic log bridge is built to link formal park with wilderness area.
1895: Roberts plants original rose garden, using cuttings gathered by Tacoma school children.
1900: Job Carr’s pioneer cabin moved to park.
1902: Fire consumes 50 acres of park.
1903: Edwin Ferris opens wildly popular restaurant and pavilion on waterfront.
1905: After intense lobbying, President Theodore Roosevelt signs over ownership to City of Tacoma.
1906: Giant heated saltwater pool, the Nereides Baths, opens. Town of Ruston incorporates to stave off growing city of Tacoma.
1907: Metropolitan Park District of Tacoma formed by voters.
1911: Hare & Hare landscape architecture firm completes first master plan for the park.
1913: Park district installs commemorative shell from USS Maine.
1914: Pagoda, a replica of a 17th century Japanese Lodge, built as a streetcar station.
1916: Work starts on waterfront promenade.
1925: Dedication of statue of Francis Cushman, congressman who was instrumental in securing the park for Tacoma.
1930s: Depression era Civilian Conservation Corps sets up camp in the park. The CCC and other work relief programs completed several improvement projects.
1933: Funland Amusement Park and Point Defiance Riding Academy open. Both would provide recreation – and money for the park – during the depression and years afterward.
1936: Original aquarium built on waterfront.
1933-37: Young Men’s Business Club leads efforts to move orginal Fort Nisqually buildings from Dupont to Point Defiance reconstruct a fort replica.
1938: End of an era: streetcars quits running in Tacoma.
1940: New boathouse opens – said to be the “largest boathouse this side of Chicago.”
1941-45: World War II. Waterfront pavilion houses Army Air Corps crash boat crews.
1949: Mountaineer Tree dedicated along five mile drive.
1951: Funland reopens after renovation and expansion project.
1954: New $123,000 animal building opens at zoo.
1958: Gardner's Paradise flower show debuts.
1959: Owen Beach – formerly known as “picnic beach” or “new beach” – named in honor of Floyd Owen, a veteran park district employee and superintendent.
1962: Popular weekly salmon bakes begin at Owen Beach, an on-and-off tradition over the years.
1963: New aquarium opens in park, replacing waterfront facility.
1964: Camp 6 logging exhibit and Never Never Land open.
1966: Community fund-raising drive culminates in opening of a $10,000 elephant house for Cindy, a young Asian elephant.
1968: Rhododendron Garden established. Zoo opens new aviary.
1970: Mildred Street entrance opens.
1971: New clubhouse built for Tacoma Yacht Club, which had been located at Point Defiance waterfront since 1914.
1972: Dub Dub, the aquarium’s beloved seal, dies at age 33.
1973: About 300 run in inaugural Sound to Narrows race.
1975: Park adds 42 acres near Salmon Beach.
1977: Voters pass a $7 million bond measure for for zoo and aquarium improvements in a Pacific Rim theme.
1981: Herb Garden established by Tacoma Horticultural Study Club.
1984: Three-alarm arson fire destroys Galley Restaurant and boathouse.
1986: Voters approve $23.6 million park bond measure with money to restore Pagoda and Lodge and build the zoo’s Discovery Reef Aquarium.
1988: Zoolights, a seasonal outdoor program depicting zoo animals and other scenes in colorful Christmas lights, opens at Point Defiance.
1990: Boathouse Grill rebuilt. Octagon shape echos long-gone waterfront pavilion. Rose garden rededicated after major renovation effort by Tacoma Rose Society.
1993: 563-foot smokestack demolished on Asarco smelter site, signaling new beginning for Ruston waterfront property.
1997: Poetry and sculpture embedded into concrete along waterfront promenade.
1998: Opening of new Anthony’s Restaurant delayed after arson fire destroys building.
1999: Voters approve $35 million bond measure for new zoo exhibits.
2004: Asian Forest Sanctuary opens as centerpiece of zoo improvement projects.
For a more complete, footnoted history visit Tacoma Metro Parks at www.metroparkstacoma.org.