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Was the Blackwell Hotel Tacoma’s first rail station?

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on Oct. 9, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
October 9, 2012 5:48 pm

Since we wrote a story for last Sunday’s paper about Tacoma’s succession of railroad stations, we’ve heard from at least one rail history buff who wants to add new information to the story.

John Miller called Monday suggesting that the 1883 Villard station at 17th and Commerce wasn’t Tacoma’s first passenger station as our story said.

The first station, said Miller, was the Blackwell Hotel, which served as a makeshift station from 1874 until 1883.
Blackwell Hotel
According to some historians the Blackwell Hotel is the structure on the left

Rail historian Jim Fredrickson confirms that the Northern Pacific Railroad did indeed use the waterfront hotel as a landing place for passengers arriving in Tacoma on the trains from Kalama where the railroad connected with a ferry.
Another view of the Blackwell
Another view of the Blackwell

The Blackwell was located just off what’s now Schuster Parkway near the grain terminal.
According to historian Herbert Hunt, the hotel’s owners, Mr. and Mrs. William Blackwell, were aboard the first passenger train to arrive in Tacoma along with furniture for their hotel which was still under construction.

The train then halted at 17th Street, the limit of the tracks then, and the Blackwells boarded a row boat to finish their journey to their incomplete hotel.

Ultimately, the tracks were extended to the wharf where the Blackwell was located.

During the first years of the hotel’s existence, the railroad occupied the hotel’s first floor, and the hotel the second.

The hotel was renowned for its cuisine and its array of fresh flowers around the structure.

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