Matthew M. Santelli, M.A.
Pierce County Aging and Disabilities
Resource Center

The City of Tacoma is fortunate to have an outstanding senior center right in the heart of downtown, the Beacon Senior Center. Located at the corner of South 13th Street and Fawcett Avenue (the street address is 415 South 13th Street), the Beacon Senior Center is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. The phone number is (253) 591-5083. Lunch is served at noon each day and breakfast is served at 9:30 a.m. The Beacon Senior Center provides activities for those who are age 50 and over but meals are only available to those age 60 and over for a suggested donation of $3 for lunch and $2 for breakfast.

I enjoyed the opportunity to sit down and talk about the Beacon Senior Center with director Virginia Pace. Virginia has worked at the Beacon for over 20 years. She is proud that the Beacon serves a diverse population with several different languages spoken among attendees from many different cultural backgrounds. Virginia is encouraged that so many seniors participate in a variety of activities at the Beacon including fitness groups, computer classes, Spanish language classes, local walking trips and day trips by van around the area, yoga, woodcarving, ceramics, quilting, and many more. Virginia is particularly enthused about the birthday celebrations that take place once a month at the Beacon, which, for a fee of $2.50 for guests over 60 and $5.00 for guests under 50, includes a small birthday gift, a glass of sparkling cider at lunch, balloons, and a chance to win a drawing for a $10 gift certificate. She is also very excited about the great attendance at the Beacon for “Cook’s Night Out”. Cooks Night Out is a once monthly event, which provides dinner from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. then board games and card games until 9 p.m. This ticket-only event costs only $5 and tickets must be purchased the Friday before the program. Call the Beacon at 253-591-5083 for more information.

Virginia would like to remind seniors that they can call anytime during business hours for more information and can stop by anytime during business hours to get registered. Seniors can pick up a newsletter describing all of the activities available for the month. The Beacon can be reached by Pierce Transit Shuttle or regular bus, there is plenty of free parking around the Beacon for those who drive, and there is also a van to pickup seniors if they live within a certain geographical area near the Beacon. Call or stop by for details.

Next month we will let our readers know more about the Lighthouse Senior Center in South Tacoma.

Karla Stover
Senior Scene

At the Northern Pacific Railroad’s Sept. 10, 1873 annual board of directors meeting, the members chose Tacoma as their new western terminus.  Soon after the company purchased 3,000 acres of land for a town site.

Laying out cities in the 1870s was child’s play.  All that was required was a map and a ruler. James Tilton, who had been surveyor general of the territory back in Isaac Stevens’ era, was still around. The land company handed him a ruler and asked him to start drawing.

Stories at the time claimed that Matthew Morton McCarver gave Tilton a plan that had been used for Sacramento and he used it as his model, or that Tacoma was patterned after Melbourne, Australia.

Tilton’s sketches didn’t survive, but in Oct. 3, 1873 an article in the “Weekly Pacific Tribune” said Tilton simply made a few modifications to the basic grid plan then in vogue, a broad rectangle subdivided into squares. He laid out three main avenues 100 feet wide that paralleled the waterfront, and two others slanting diagonally up the face of the hill.  The slant was a concession to the difficulties that both horse-drawn streetcars and pedestrians would encounter on a direct climb. These five avenues were too broad to degenerate into alleys but not grand enough to detract from the designated thoroughfares. The blocks on either side of them were 120 feet deep.

Tilton left undeveloped an area about 1,000 feet south of the bay in the middle of town for development as a central park or as the campus of a building complex should Tacoma become county seat or territorial capitol. Two smaller parks stood on the north and south flanks of the town.  While Tilton was still making sketches, events and decisions back east aborted his conception. As the sale of railroad bonds slowed after Jay Cooke’s financial empire collapsed, sale of land at the terminus offered the best hope of raising working capital.

The Northern Pacific formed a subsidiary that became the Tacoma Land Company and had the company develop a terminus and sell the town lots. The railroad’s directors then chose C. B. Wright to head the land company. Almost immediately President Wright began to discuss replacing Tilton with the country’s best-known landscape architect, the “brilliant, unorthodox, opinionated, highly controversial, Frederick Law Olmsted.”  Olmstead liked “gracefully-curved lines, generous spaces and the absence of sharp corners, the idea being to suggest and imply leisure, contemplativeness and happy tranquility.”

Whether Wright and the board were concerned with prompting happy tranquility at their terminus is doubtful. Probably what attracted them were Olmsted’s capacity for attracting attention, and his reputation for finding novel solutions to difficult problems of terrain. The members commissioned him to make a preliminary study for the town site.

Rather than visit Tacoma, Olmstead worked from contour maps and sketches.  His vision was a town that would blend with sea, forest, and mountain. Sketches show his concept of a latticework of diagonals to climb the hill back from the bay.

The plan was delivered to the Northern Pacific on schedule in early December and reached Tacoma the week before Christmas, where it was put on display in the Tacoma Land Office, a small wooden building built over a skunk cabbage marsh. Residents considered Olmsted’s vision with a considerable lack of enthusiasm.

Thomas Prosch, editor of the “Pacific Tribune”, wrote that he found the plan “unlike that of any other city in the world,” and “so novel in character that those who have seen it hardly know whether or not to admire it, while they are far from prepared to condemn it.”

The most peculiar features were the varying sizes and shapes of the blocks, and the absence of straight lines and right angles. Every block and every street and avenue were curved. The lots had a uniform frontage of 25 feet, but differed in length, averaging, however, 180 feet. The curvature of the blocks did away with corner lots, and their great length with much of the misery of street crossings, where collisions and accidents most frequently happen, and where problems with mud and dust were the worst.

There three major avenues:  Pacific, intended for the business of the town, and for country trade and traffic, Tacoma for access to the parks, and Cliff (Stadium Way) for residences. Pacific led up the banks, from the railroad dock, and continued out into the country; Tacoma Avenue was only about a mile long, and it intersected up in town with Pacific Avenue and ran down to the beach between old and new Tacoma; Cliff Avenue extended along the brow of the bluff, two miles or more in length.

Prosch felt that time alone would prove the plan’s viability.  However, speculators, who wanted to buy corner lots, saw no merit in a downtown deliberately left deficient in four-way intersections. Olmsted’s dream of a business district without bottlenecks was a nightmare to them. Nor were the engineering crews assigned to run lines amid the downtown stumpage to create Pacific, Cliff, and Tacoma Avenues persuaded by Olmsted’s dictum that “speed of traffic is of less importance than comfort and convenience of movement.”

In prosperous times the Olmsted plan might have survived, but the Northern Pacific board lacked the confidence to wait out the discontent.  After Jay Cooke’s bank failed, the panic began deepening into depression, and the railroad was desperate for capital.
Olmsted was notified that his ideas would not be used and his services were no longer required.

Sheila Wray and Timiann Smith
Sheila Wray instructs Timiann Smith in jewelry making at a B.R.I.D.G.E. meeting in the Fred Oldfield Heritage Center. Photo by Joan Cronk

Joan Cronk
Senior Scene

A couple years ago Darcie Pacholl came up with an idea to build interactions between the youth and the American Indian/Alaskan Native Elders.

An acronym for Building Respectful Interactions to Develop Goals for American Indian Elders and Youth, B.R.I.D.G.E. is now up and running smoothly, thanks to the love and attention of Pacholl.

“We meet once a month for cultural gathering and to share food and practice our culture and language at these gatherings,” said Pacholl.

Geared to increase the spiritual, physical, mental and emotional well being of elders and youth, the cultural exchanges are something everyone looks forward to.

As the younger generation works alongside an elder making a necklace, conversation moves naturally to incorporate important topics such as the internet, sex, bullying, dating or anything else that the youngsters have on their mind.  In this safe and protected environment, young people are able to ask questions and learn about their culture from elders, while learning useful skills they can use in today’s world.

The group meets monthly at the Spirit House at the Puyallup Nation on Portland Avenue or, when that venue is not available, they meet at the Fred Oldfield Western Heritage Center at the Puyallup Fairgrounds.
Oldfield has been extremely generous to the group, opening up the Heritage Center whenever they need a place to meet.  The Heritage Center is filled with over 215 artifacts and baskets.

B.R.I.D.G.E. is Pacholl’s baby.  She personally funded the group until they obtained their 501(C)(3) and outside financing and donations became available.

“There are tons of programs for elders, and lots of things for young people, but not together,” said Pacholl.  “Who do we look at to keep the traditions alive?”

Twelve-year-old Timiann Smith is grateful for the program.  When asked for her definition of an elder she replied, “Somebody who is a role model and helps and cares about us.”  Smith works hand in hand with elders on crafts and thrives on the new friendships she’s formed at B.R.I.D.G.E.

Sheila Wray, who weaves with cedar, said she became involved with B.R.I.D.G.E. when she worked with Pacholl at the Northwest Basketry Guild.  She now works with youth and elders. “Cedar is central to life,” said Wray.  “Our goal is to help people learn about the culture.”  She said B.R.I.D.G.E. inspires her to be a better person.

Pacholl said the younger generation learns patience while working alongside the elders.  “If you tell me, I’ll forget it but if you show me, I’ll remember,” she stressed.

Pacholl’s mother, Maggie Fennell is a strong supporter of the program.  Raising several grandchildren, Fennell is an active participant in B.R.I.D.G.E.

“I tell Darcie the ways I grew up in Alaska.  I learned useful skills and went to school.  I didn’t want to be on this earth and not leave something,” said Fennell, the youngest of ten children.  Pacholl said her mom is her greatest teacher.

Jared Fennell, a senior at Gig Harbor high school, is the youth director for B.R.I.D.G.E.  He said his job is to “include youth and make them feel confident.  It is fun and everyone has a good time.”

B.R.I.D.G.E. offers programs on healthy eating, traditional exercise, diabetes prevention and drug and alcohol awareness, just to name a few.  They also help students navigate the confusing waters of preparing for college and applying for scholarships and grants.
They participate in beach clean up projects and take part in activities designed to take them back to their ancestral roots of caring for Mother Earth.

B.R.I.D.G.E. meetings are open and free to all American Indians/Alaskan Natives and those who have their best interests in mind.
For more information about B.R.I.D.G.E. contact Pacholl at (253) 884-6748 or visit their website at  Volunteers and donations are always welcome.
B.R.I.D.G.E. works hard to build relationships between youth and elders.  Valuing their elder population, B.R.I.D.G.E. offers assistance to elders to help them offset boredom and develop feelings of usefulness, while making that important connection with the youth of their culture.

Residents of the Washington Soldiers Home and Colony in Orting and members of the Air Force Sergeants Association-JBLM celebrated Flag Day (June 14) by raising a garrison flag donated by the Mary Ball Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The ceremony was abruptly cut short by a problem with one of the clips attached to the halyard.  Woodrow Wilson formally declared June 14 to be Flag Day in 1916, and Congress established National Flag Day in 1949.  Resident Greg Heiden, Retired US Army is seen here as part of the ceremony.