Point Defiance: Life of a Park  
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Hare & Hare report to park commissioners - 1911
A brief history of Point Defiance Park
  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.

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