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Tacoma is the county seat of Pierce County6, situated on Puget Sound's Commencement Bay, Tacoma Narrows, and the estuary of the Puyallup River. The 2000 census reported Tacoma's population as 193,556; the city's population on Apr. 1, 2004, was estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau to be 196,800, an increase of 1.7% since 2000 (Trends, No. D3 [Sept. 2004]).
Tacoma is the home of such international companies as Labor Ready, Inc. and the Russell Investment Group, as well as institutions of higher learning, including Pacific Lutheran University, University of Puget Sound, Tacoma Community College, and the University of Washington's Tacoma campus. Tacoma is a major international deep-water container port.
The Museum of Glass opened in downtown Tacoma in 2002, showcasing glass art from the region and around the world. It includes a functional glassblowing studio. Tacoma's downtown Cultural District is also the site of the Washington State History Museum (1996) and the Tacoma Art Museum (2003).
One of the largest urban parks in the U.S, Point Defiance Park, which includes the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, is located in Tacoma. Another park in Tacoma is Titlow Beach, which is a popular scuba diving area.
Beginning in the 1930s, Tacoma was for a time known in the Puget Sound region for its malodorousness, due to the "Tacoma aroma" -- a distinctive, acrid odor produced by local paper manufacturing. In the late 1990s, however, Simpson Tacoma Kraft reduced total sulfur emissions by 90%, largely eliminating the problem. (A faint smell is reportedly still detectable during temperature inversions.)
A number of noteworthy individuals have come from Tacoma, among them singer Bing Crosby, authors Richard Brautigan and Frank Herbert, cartoonist Gary Larson, serial killer Ted Bundy, serial sniper John Allen Muhammad, actress Dyan Cannon, conspiracy gadfly Fred Crisman, Andrew and Thea Foss, first owners and operators of Foss Launch and Tug Company, auto racer Pat Austin, prize fighter Sugar Ray Seales, glass artist Dale Chihuly, and musician Neko Case. Chef-author Jeff Smith learned to cook and began his career in Tacoma at the Chaplain's Pantry, later known as the Gourmet Pantry (now closed), on Tacoma Avenue. Justin Kirk Nevins, the "world's only known maker" of the cryptex, the complicated cylindrical mechanical device describe in Dan Brown's best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code, was born in Tacoma and is a Tacoma resident (News Tribune [Tacoma, WA], Jan. 30, 2005).
Tacoma was inhabited for thousands of years by Native American people, predominantly the Puyallup people. It was visited by European and American explorers, including George Vancouver and Charles Wilkes, who named many of the coastal landmarks. The town was originally settled by pioneer and postmaster Job Carr, a Civil War veteran and land speculator who hoped to profit from the selection of Commencement Bay as the terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad. (A replica of Job Carr's cabin, which also served as Tacoma's first post office, was erected in "Old Town" in 2000 near the original site.) Tacoma was officially incorporated on November 12, 1875. Its early hopes to live to be the "City of Destiny" were frustrated in the late 19th century, when the discovery of gold in the Klondike turned Seattle into a boom town, eclipsing Tacoma's early lead.
Tacoma was named after Mount Rainier, whose original name was Mount Tahoma, which derived from the Puyallup tacobet, or "mother of waters."
Electrical power is furnished by Tacoma Power, a division of Tacoma Public Utilities, which owns hydroelectric plants on the North Fork of the Skokomish River. Tacoma Power also operates the Click! Network, a cable television and internet service, one of the first public utilities to provide such a service. Tacoma Power is, along with Tacoma Water and Tacoma Rail, a part of Tacoma Public Utilities.
Tacoma is located at 47°14'29" North, 122°27'34" West (47.241371, -122.459389)1.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 162.2 km˛ (62.6 mi˛). 129.7 km˛ (50.1 mi˛) of it is land and 32.5 km˛ (12.5 mi˛) of it is water. The total area is 20.01% water.
Tacoma's main public school district is Tacoma Public Schools
The census2 of 2000 indicated that 193,556 persons, 76,152 households, and 45,919 families resided in Tacoma. Four years later, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that Tacoma's population had increased by 1.7%, to 196,800 (Trends, No. D3 [Sept. 2004]).
In 2000, Tacoma's population density was 1,492.3/km˛ (3,864.9/mi˛). There were 81,102 housing units at an average density of 625.3/km˛ (1,619.4/mi˛). The racial makeup of the city was 69.08% White, 11.24% African American, 1.96% Native American, 7.57% Asian, 0.93% Pacific Islander, 2.94% from other races, and 6.28% from two or more races. 6.85% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 76,152 households in Tacoma in 2000; 30.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.6% were married couples living together, 13.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.7% were non-families. Almost one third of households (31.7%) were made up of individuals living alone; 10.4% of these were 65 years of age or older. The average household size in 2000 was 2.45 and the average family size was 3.10.
In 2000, the population's demographics were evenly distributed: 25.8% under 18, 10.4% from 18 to 24, 31.6% from 25 to 44, 20.3% from 45 to 64, and 11.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34. For every 100 females there were 95.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $37,879, and the median income for a family was $45,567. Males had a median income of $35,820, versus $27,697 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,130. 15.9% of the population and 11.4% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 20.6% of those under the age of 18 and 10.9% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.
Tacoma is served by the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, located between Seattle and Tacoma in the city of SeaTac. It serves Seattle, Washington, Tacoma and the Greater Puget Sound Metropolitan Area. There is also an Amtrak station in Tacoma
Tacoma, in addition to the professional sports teams of Seattle, has one minor league baseball franchise, the Tacoma Rainiers, a Triple-A team playing in the Pacific Coast League as a farm team of the Seattle Mariners.
The city has struggled to keep a minor league hockey franchise, having lost the Tacoma Rockets of the WHL to relocation and having the Tacoma Sabercats of the former West Coast Hockey League go defunct due to financial woes. The Tacoma Dome does still host traveling sports and pseudo-sports events such as pro wrestling, figure skating tours, and the Harlem Globetrotters. At one point, the Tacoma Dome was home to a professional indoor soccer team, the Tacoma Stars.
Tacoma in pop culture
Neko Case's song "Thrice All American", featured on her album Furnace Room Lullaby, is an ode to Tacoma, which she considers her hometown. The album also includes a song called "South Tacoma Way."
Richard Brautigan wrote of his Tacoma childhood in his autobiographical short stories "Corporal," "The Armoured Car," "The Auction," and "The Ghost Children of Tacoma."
Tacoma is also prominently mentioned in the 1977 Steve Miller Band song "Rock 'N Me" (I went from Phoenix, Arizona all the way to Tacoma, Philadelphia, Atlanta, L.A.).
A running gag in the 1985 Tom Hanks film Volunteers is the repeated references to Tacoma by John Candy's character, "Tom Tuttle from Tacoma, Washington."
The movie Ten Things I Hate About You (1999), whose plot is based on William Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, was filmed at Stadium High School and in the nearby Old Town neighborhood.
Toyota has named a popular line of pickup trucks the "Toyota Tacoma" after the city.
- Official site of City of Tacoma (http://www.cityoftacoma.org/)
- Port of Tacoma (http://www.portoftacoma.com/)
- Tacoma Watersheds (http://www.ci.tacoma.wa.us/waterServices/surfacewater/watershed.htm)
- Maps and aerial photos