History of The Union Club

Photo: Tacoma Public Library, 39344.jpg

Construction Date: 1888-90

Historical Architects:

  • Whidden & Lewis
  • Sutton, Whitney & Dugan

Architectural/Historic Significance

The Union Club was founded in 1888 by twenty-seven of Tacoma’s founding fathers. The club was designed to entertain visiting dignitaries as well as to have a place for special social celebrations for Tacoma’s elite.  The Clubhouse was built two years later. The Union Club and Tacoma Social clubs were a significant part of the cultural landscape in the late 19th and early 20th century.  Primarily, the interest in these clubs was social – represented in entertainment, establishing connections, and developing a shared welfare and education.   Some of the  many dignitaries entertained here included William Taft and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

An example of Colonial Revival, the building is sited on a slope above a high bluff with sweeping views of Commencement Bay. It is three stories high, on a 10-foot basement, underneath which is a 9-foot stone sub-basement both of which are visible as the site slopes to the lower street, Stadium Way. The original wood framed and wood clad structure is a 48 foot deep with 65 feet fronting Broadway. Although briefly associated with the Tacoma architects Pickles and Sutton, by 1889 the project was in the hands of Portland architects Whidden and Lewis. The building received a large flat-roofed addition to south in 1906 by architects Russell and Babcock. After consecutive fires in 1924 the Union Club hired architects Sutton, Whitney and Dugan for interior alterations and remodeling. Subsequent remodeling occurred in 1939 following the merger of the University and Union Clubs and again to the dining room in 1947. The building was sold in 1985 to David Smith, one of the club’s last members. Smith converted the club to a restaurant.

The neighborhood constitutes the early government, finance and business center of the original Tacoma town site, and the buildings are representative of activity in this area between the early 1800s and 1920s.  The buildings were constructed to meet the social and cultural needs of Tacoma’s citizens as well as to establish the economic base necessary for a city’s growth.



The property was listed on the Tacoma Register of Historic Places by unanimous approval of City Council on July 21, 2009.  The nomination was submitted by Historic Tacoma with the support and research efforts of neighborhood residents.

The Union Club will be reborn into a center that attracts individuals whose work strengthen the community today. Transformed into an elegant mixed use space. The Union Club will combine work studios, coworking space for artists and entrepreneurs, galleries and an event hall serving artists and creative entrepreneurs.  This innovative project will provide creative workspace,  and a vibrant, supportive environment where local creative’s can create, collaborate and  thrive.  This is not just about finding a nice place to work.  It’s about surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals who through collaboration and fraternity are inspired to do and create more.

Categories: Union Club HistoryTags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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