March 9, 2011
UW Tacoma historic building finds new life
On March 15 UW Tacoma is opening the last of the old, defunct warehouse blocks to be renovated into modern university buildings on its campus. Built in 1892 during Tacomas boom days, the Russell T. Joy Building has been home to businesses that have made candy, wood stoves, paper and gloves, and sold hardware, coffee, tea, tires and Studebakers. Dale Chihuly used it as a staging area for the glass artwork featured in the nearby Bridge of Glass.
Now its reborn as a place to learn.
The completed three-story building, which includes the original industrial-strength beams throughout the building, provides much-needed classroom and office space. Much of the old wood taken from the building was re-milled into beautiful new railings and built-in benches. A heavy-duty freight elevator was salvaged and hung as an interesting artwork above a stairwell, and two 19th century metal fire doors were salvaged and remain on display in the building.
On the Pacific Avenue side of the Joy Building, retail space for up to five stores complete the block of shops and restaurants leased from the university.
One sad development of the otherwise successful renovation of the building was the loss of an old friend, the Student Prince. This advertisement featuring Alt Heidelbergs mascot, the Student Prince, was painted on the north exterior wall of the building about 60 years ago. During the process of cleaning and restoring the exterior bricks, the fragile “ghost ad” was lost, revealing another ghost sign beneath.
Responsibility for the loss is shared across the university, the architects and the contractors involved—who all believed the guidelines used for previous ghost sign renovations would be adequate. A comprehensive effort is now under way to protect the remaining ghost signs on campus and across the city. To help ensure this doesn’t occur in the future, the Tacoma Landmarks Preservation Commission will put into place guidelines, specs and processes concerning ghost signs for redeveloping historic buildings.
The Student Prince will not be forgotten. A group of historians, civic leaders and UW Tacoma staff are working to create an educational memorial, centering on the Student Prince and the rich history of ghost ads from early in the 20th century.
The UW Tacoma campus and community supporters will celebrate the Joy Buildings grand opening at 3 p.m. on March 15. Called Foundations of Progress, the event also marks the ground breaking for the next UW Tacoma construction project, the new-construction Tioga Library Building. Initial design plans for transforming the historic transcontinental train tracks into a bike and pedestrian trail will be revealed as well. The universitys portion of the trail will connect to a larger trail along the tracks to the Thea Foss Waterway.