When granddaughter Annie, a budding artist, said she’d like to spend part of her spring break with us, we had the excuse we’d been waiting for to visit Tacoma’s Museum of Glass. It is located in the Tacoma Museum District, one of the Northwest’s most fascinating destinations.
Besides the glass museum, three other attractions stand in a row between an arm of Commencement Bay and the brick buildings of old Tacoma. The Washington State History Museum brackets the glass museum on one side; on the other stands the beautiful old Union Station which is now a courthouse. Beyond the former rail station is the Tacoma Art Museum.
In 1968, when many of Tacoma’s anchor retail stores abandoned the downtown to relocate to a big new mall, the area went into an economic tailspin. The city began revitalization in 1990 by renovating Union Station. Then it offered tax exemptions for new residential units in multifamily dwellings and added the three museums already mentioned. Now the once-shabby surroundings provide a feast for the senses and an educational smorgasbord to thousands of visitors, including busloads of school children.
Since we’d visited the History Museum a couple of years previously, we started with the Museum of Glass. We entered by way of the Dale Chihuly Bridge of Glass, a pedestrian overpass designed in collaboration with the world-renowned artist.
The exterior of the museum is a work of art in itself, with plazas featuring glass installations in reflecting ponds. A conical structure of glass looms over the museum. It houses the hot shop where visitors can watch teams of artists at work shaping blobs of molten glass into beautiful sculptured forms.
Annie admiring one of the outdoor installations;
a newly renovated apartment complex in back.
Tacoma’s Museum District is a secret no more to us. We’ll be back, and we’re happy to share this cultural resource with anyone who’ll listen.
Annie and friend outside Union Station