In honor of Memorial Day here in the United States, here is a look at Tacoma’s War Memorial Park.
This park is not part of Tacoma’s Metro Parks organization, and I can’t find out exactly who owns and runs it. Most of the information here comes from a presentation by a member of the Tacoma Historical Society, which organized today’s Memorial Day event at the park.
War Memorial Park, originally called Living War Memorial Park, dates from 1952, when the land was donated by Harold Woodworth. The narrow strip of land served as the staging area for the construction of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (the bridge on the right in the photo at the top of this post), completed in 1950. That bridge was constructed to replace the famous “Galloping Gertie” bridge that collapsed on November 7, 1940, which you can read about here. When the 1950 bridge proved inadequate for traffic between Tacoma and the Kitsap Peninsula, a second bridge, the one on the left in the photo above, was built; it opened in 2007. Now the 1950 bridge carries traffic heading west on Highway 16, and the 2007 bridge carries traffic heading east. Drivers pay a toll to cross the newer bridge.
The covered shelter that marks the entrance to the park houses the bell from the cruiser USS Tacoma, launched in 1903. The ship visited Tacoma in 1904, saw service in the Caribbean during WW I, and ran aground off the coast of Mexico in 1924.
War Memorial Park includes a World War I memorial, dedicated to the memory of the 162 residents of Pierce County who died in the war, that was dedicated on Memorial Day in 2011. There is also a World War II memorial with 760 names that was built through the joint efforts of the Tacoma Historical Society and American Legion Post 2. The park is also a stop on the Blue Star Memorial Highways, a project that originated in 1944 and is now overseen by National Garden Clubs, Inc.
The Tacoma Historical Society hopes to add memorials for the Korean and Vietnam wars in the future.
Today’s service at War Memorial Park, arranged by the Tacoma Historical Society and American Legion Post 2, honors all soldiers who have served in the U.S. armed forces.