This weekend has given us that rarest of Northwest treats: winter sunshine. When that happens it’s also usually too cold to stand outside and draw, but this time it was worth the frozen fingertips to mark the occasion in my new daily book. That’s because the restoration of one of my favorite Tacoma landmarks is finally complete.
The Point Defiance Pagoda is one of the jewels in Tacoma’s crown. Built ninety-nine years ago, it began as a streetcar station and now stands as the centerpiece of our largest city park. It’s also a recurring character in my work—besides being iconic, it’s awfully fun to draw.
Detail of Continuum
It’s easy to forget how delicate our historic structures are, however. While I was working on this very portion of my Link Light Rail station design, I got word that the building was suddenly on the verge of ruin. Some kid had set fire to the pagoda—a few minutes of destructive boredom, and a hundred years went up in flames.
It was heartbreaking to hear the tales of Metro Parks officials, who had to watch firefighters toss the century-old ceramic roof tiles to the concrete ground to reach the burning beams inside.
In a way, though, maybe it’s a good thing it was the pagoda that burned, versus a lesser-known historic building. The public rallied, and restoration began almost immediately. Seven thousand roof tiles were hand-cleaned and reattached, and all fourteen of the original windows were salvaged. The restoration also allowed for the reintroduction or improvement of elements that had been remodeled away over the years—like the planting circle out front, or lighting that highlights the ornate roof beams inside (replacing the 1960s-era sconces that had been glommed on).
One of my illustrations for the Tacoma Playing Cards
And now it’s as if the fire never happened. More than that—at today’s grand reopening celebration I got a good glimpse of its original glory. Somehow I couldn’t quite repress the feeling that a streetcar might come around the corner at any moment.
My favorite part is that I no longer have to rely solely on a deck of cards for good memories of the pagoda. Now I can resume my visits to the real thing—sketchbook in hand, as always.