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Colonel John Pinkerton erected this brick building as the Massasoit Hotel in 1889 as an addition to a wood-frame building he had constructed two years earlier on the corner of Broadway and 17th Street. The building initially contained businesses on the street level accessed via Broadway, whereas the hotel annex occupied the upper floors accessed via Commerce Street. Although the wood hotel was destroyed in 1934, the brick building continued on for decades as a hotel and boarding house. The “Pinkerton” survives as one of only two original hotel buildings, along with the Carlton Hotel (now Carleton Center), built quickly in the late nineteenth century to capitalize on the many travelers arriving at Tacoma’s Northern Pacific depot. It also has the distinction of being the oldest structure on any of the three University of Washington campuses.
Despite its rather ornate Italianate facade characterized by repeating arched hood moldings, cast-iron details, terra-cotta panels, and a prominent cornice and central parapet, the Pinkerton did not last long as the Massasoit Hotel, but came to serve long-term residents as a boarding house. In the early twentieth century, the area around the hotel became the heart of the Japanese neighborhood in Tacoma. The hotel was managed for many years by a Japanese family until the family members were forced to leave Tacoma in 1942 along with other Americans of Japanese descent during World War II.
In 1982, the accounting firm Moss Adams hired the architectural firm Berry and Berry to remodel the Pinkerton into office space. In 2001, the university acquired the building, renamed it, and remodeled it as part of Phase 2a of campus development to house the new Institute of Technology. Today, the Pinkerton provides space for the Urban Studies Program.
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