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Washington State History Museum

A color photo of the Washington State History Museum
Washington State History Museum arch | Photo courtesy of Washington State Historical Society

The Washington State History Museum's interactive exhibits, dynamic storytelling, high-tech displays, and dramatic artifacts bring the state’s history to life. The museum also played a key role in revitalizing downtown Tacoma.

Historical context+

Initially, the super highway was unkind to downtown Tacoma and countless more urban centers across the country. Suburbs, complete with shopping malls, popped up. Downtown businesses departed. Blight set in. From the 1960’s to the early 80’s, downtown Tacoma felt deserted.

The jewel of the city, Union Station, sat vacant from 1984 until 1989. Then it was restored and repurposed as a federal courthouse. Nearby, in the Warehouse District, the University of Washington started rehabilitating historic buildings. And I-705 finally connected downtown Tacoma to I-5.

A new cultural dimension+

Amidst this flurry of downtown revitalization came Tacoma’s first major museum. The Washington State Historical Society began constructing the History Museum on a site adjacent to Union Station. The museum, designed by architects Charles Moore and Arthur Andersson, imitated the arched facades of the Union Depot. Completed in 1996, the museum fit in well with the historic district.

The History Museum became the first of six museums that, today, comprise Tacoma’s Museum District. Featuring world class collections of studio glass, collectible cars, Northwest art, maritime history, and much more, Tacoma’s Museum District offers a variety of avenues to explore in one walkable cluster. It’s one reason for Tacoma’s re-emergence as a thriving cultural and economic hub.

To learn more, visit the Washington State History Museum's website

Connect and share+

Got a personal connection, story, or inspirational comment you'd like to share about what you've experienced on the Prairie Line Trail? Here's your chance to make your story part of history.

Planning & Development Services
Tacoma Municipal Building
747 Market Street | Tacoma, WA 98402
(253) 591-5000

People with hearing or speech impairments may contact us through Washington Relay Services (800) 833-6388 (TTY or ASCII) (800) 833-6386 (VCO) or (877) 833-6341 (STS).