Tacoma Urbanist

Aug. 13, 2013 at 12:22am

Looking Back : Tacoma Fire Department Repairs Tacoma's Historic Totem Pole in 1948 and 1955

As the Tacoma Landmark Preservation Commission works to find the best way to restore and maintain one of Tacoma's ionic landmarks and pieces of the Tacoma Art Collection, it is interesting to look back on the history of Tacoma's iconic totem pole with the help from the Tacoma Public Library.

Collection: Richards Studio Collection Series: D90574-1 (Unique: 24078) Date: 05-07-1955


The Tacoma Fire Department provided ladders and the Safeway stores supplied scaffolding when members of the Painters Union, local # 64 and members of the Tacoma Junior Chamber of Commerce took on the project of painting Tacoma's totem pole at South 9th & A Street in 1955.

By official proclamation, Mayor Harold M. Tollefson had declared May 8-14, 1955 "Clean up, fix up, paint up" week in Tacoma. This annual event encouraged citizens to clean out their basements, attics and yards and dispose of excess items. The re-painting of the totem pole was the project chosen to kick off the campaign. Local # 64 had already painted the totem pole once before in April of 1948. ______________________________________________________________________

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Since the May ad hoc meeting, cooler heads have had a chance to prevail. On June 4 the Tacoma Arts Commission met to consider whether or not to officially deaccession the totem pole from the city’s public art collection. Such a move would have been the first step in removing the pole from its current location and sending it to a museum or laying it down on the ground to be claimed by the elements.

Either way, the totem pole would cease to be a living part of the ongoing life of the city. The Arts Commission, however, recommended that the totem pole be kept as part of the city’s public art and that it should be protected and restored. The recommendation was accepted at the Commission’s June 10 meeting. A June 12 meeting of the Tacoma Landmarks Commission directed the city to come up with a plan to restore the totem pole and to keep it in place in Fireman’s Park. Crisis averted.

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by Erik on 8/13/2013 @ 12:36am
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