The Swiss Chalet-style building today known as Titlow Lodge now has official historic status as a Tacoma landmark.
The City Council formally added the 1 ½-story, wood-frame building to the Tacoma Register of Historic Places in a unanimous vote on Tuesday evening, April 3. The listing was recommended by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.
“I’m very pleased not only that the City of Tacoma has recognized its historic significance, but also that Metro Parks initiated the process,” said Andrea Smith, president of the Metro Parks Board of Commissioners. “For many, myself included, the lodge is a wellspring of memories. About five years ago, my daughter and son-in-law were married there. As a child, I spent many a hot summer day in upstairs art classes. The preservation of this landmark is an example of the ways Metro Parks shows its sense of community pride.”
The lodge is noteworthy, the landmarks commission said, in part because of its links to both Tacoma architect Frederick Heath and attorney Aaron Titlow. Originally designed by Heath and built in 1911, the building was called Hotel Hesperides and was the centerpiece of a waterfront resort that Titlow developed.
Although substantially altered later on, the lodge is also significant historically because it is an “established and familiar visual feature” of its neighborhood and the city, commission members concluded.
Metro Parks Tacoma acquired the lodge in 1928 after Titlow’s death. It has always been a focal point of 75-acre Titlow Park and is a popular venue for weddings and conferences.
Originally, 3 ½ stories tall, the building’s silhouette was altered significantly in 1938 as part of a Works Progress Administration project. Workers removed the top 2 ½ floors and replaced them with a smaller, modified second floor.
Metro Parks’ original 1937 contract with the WPA called for demolition of the lodge. But after members of the public protested, the contract was revised. Besides reducing the building’s height, workers reconfigured the main floor to accommodate public rentals.
Metro Parks Deputy Executive Director Peter Mayer, a great-grandson of Titlow, was at the City Council meeting and spoke about the building’s historic significance, both to his family and the Tacoma community, recalling those who rallied to preserve the building decades ago.
Subsequent remodels took place in 1963, 1983, 1992 and 2010. The 2010 improvements included restoring the original doors and windows of the first floor and reconstructing the west-side porch based on historic photographs.
This historic designation may improve prospects for future grants to improve the lodge and its surrounding park.