Prairie Line Trail Art and Website Update!

PLT website social media - historic - V2

The City of Tacoma is excited to announce the launch of, a new mobile website and walking tour!

The website offers an opportunity to learn about the historic significance of the Prairie Line Trail, a new linear park and multi-use path that follows the tracks of the terminus of the transcontinental railroad.

Experience the trail from a desktop or mobile device, and learn about historic buildings, public art, and other sites of interest. Intended for first-time visitors and long-time residents alike, this site-specific experience provides an opportunity for users to experience the Prairie Line Trail and surrounding neighborhood in a new way.

We are grateful to the committed group of stakeholders who have helped to launch this project.


Detail of Working Forward, Weaving Anew, by Jessilyn Brinkerhoff & Esteban Camacho Steffensen. 

In addition to the new website, five newly-commissioned public art pieces are cropping up along the Prairie Line Trail.  Three have been installed, and the remaining two will be installed by Spring 2018.

As part of Arts Month, mark your calendar for the dedication and artists panel, which will provide an opportunity to learn about the artists’ approach to working with historic resources and themes.

Prairie Line Trail Dedication and Artist Forum 

Thursday, October 19th

4:30pm: Walking Tour and Dedication, meet at S 21st and Jefferson

6:00pm: Artists Forum, Tacoma Art Museum, Murray Family Event Space

RSVP on Facebook

Coming soon:


Tacoma’s Prairie Line Trail Tells Untold Stories, KNKX

Tacoma’s Prairie Line Trail Tells Untold Stories

Click here to listen to the story.

Tacoma’s Prairie Line Trail has long been a Northwest landmark.  In the late 1800s, it was the terminus for the Northern Pacific Railroad. The intercontinental railroad put Tacoma on the map, but the stories that pre-dated it are often forgotten.

The Prairie Line Trail is a one-mile stretch that winds its way through downtown Tacoma.  For years, it was inaccessible.  Now that it’s being made into a bikeable, walkable park, it connects the city center to the water. The city’s arts administrator, Amy McBride says Tacoma is seizing on the chance to tell a deep history of the land through visual art, including murals and sculpture.

“Think about the other stories that are part of it, like the fact that it’s on indigenous land. What happened before the railroad came? What happened when people were working on the railroad? Just being able to fill in the blanks on some of the many people and many histories that happened to make our society,” said McBride.

Among those honored on the interpretive trail will be the Puyallup Tribe, who first inhabited the area, as well as Chinese laborers who helped build the railroad.

The works will be sited between downtown and the waterfront by the end of the year. The trail will eventually connect with the Flume Line Trail, stretching to South Tacoma.

Artists Selected for Four Projects Along Prairie Line Trail

Jan. 27, 2017

Gwen Schuler, Media and Communications,, (253) 591-5152
Maria Lee, Media and Communications,, (253) 591-2054

Artists Selected for Four Projects Along Prairie Line Trail

A panel of community members and stakeholders has selected two individuals, Matthew Dockrey and Ryan Elizabeth Feddersen, as well as two artist teams, Esteban Camacho Steffensen and Jessilyn Brinkerhoff and, and ROTATOR (Lance Kagey, Scott Varga and Mark Alvis) to receive $55,000 each to create artworks for the Prairie Line Trail in Downtown Tacoma. These artists will provide historic interpretation for an important location or theme along the trail in an artful way. In addition, the City of Tacoma is working with the Chinese Reconciliation Foundation to create an installation, “Shipment to China” by Hai Ying Wu, to honor the Chinese railroad workers.

Matthew Dockrey is a Seattle-based industrial artist with a particular interest in kinetic sculpture. The history of technology and industry provides the inspiration for much of his work, as well as exploring the beauty of mechanical design. His moving sculptures have been featured at Burning Man, on the Discovery Channel, at the Greenwich Observatory in London, and his public art can increasingly be found around the Pacific Northwest.

Ryan Elizabeth Feddersen, a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (Okanogan / Arrow Lakes), is a mixed media installation artist residing in Seattle. Her work is characterized by a sense of exploration and experimentation. Her work utilizes tongue in cheek humor accompanied by interactivity to invite the viewer to engage with the irrationalities and hypocrisies of contemporary American culture. She has created several large-scale interactive installations including pieces for the Tacoma Art Museum, Spokane Arts, Bumbershoot, and the Henry Gala.

Esteban Camacho Steffensen is an international muralist with commissioned artwork in Costa Rica, Spain and the United States. Most of his artwork has been produced in public spaces, such as universities and city institutions, where he works with community leaders during the design process, and involves local youth and students in the painting and production. He seeks to empower people to join the sustainability movement. His teammate, Jessilyn Brinkerhoff, comes from a graphic design background. She enjoys mural painting with youth because it gives students the opportunity to contribute to their community in a lasting way through a creative experience, while learning the elements of art and life skills such as working as a team. Together, the artists work with environmental subject matter in their large scale murals, bridging biology, education, and fine art.

ROTATOR is a studio of artists and designers based in Tacoma that specializes in placemaking and community building through art. They believe that the creative mindset has the ability to transform trajectories and community outcomes. ROTATOR  is made up of three partners (Lance Kagey, Scott Varga and Mark Alvis) who have worked side by side for years but have recently come together to create a unique and powerful offering in the South Sound region.

Prairie Line Trail Historic and Cultural Assessment Report and Interpretive Plan Now Available


December 27, 2016


Gwen Schuler, Media and Communications,, (253) 591-5152
Maria Lee, Media and Communications,, (253) 591-2054

Prairie Line Trail Historic and Cultural Assessment Report and Interpretive Plan Now Available

–Request for Proposals Supporting Development of Prairie Line Trail Website Recently Issued–

After a significant research, public and stakeholder engagement effort spanning approximately nine months, the City of Tacoma has completed the Prairie Line Trail Historic and Cultural Assessment Report and Interpretive Plan, which will guide the way the history of the Prairie Line Trail is interpreted through public art and other approaches. The development of these documents – and the future design and implementation of a website interpreting the history of the corridor, as well as public art and related signage along the City of Tacoma’s segments of the corridor – has been funded by a $400,000 Washington State 2015-2017 Heritage Capital Projects Fund grant.

“It is truly inspiring to participate in this community effort to illuminate and honor our shared history in a creative and inclusive way as it begins to take shape,” said Associate Planner Elliott Barnett. “Thanks are due to the commitment and enthusiasm of the many stakeholders and community members who have helped guide this effort.”

The City of Tacoma has issued a Request for Proposals seeking a qualified firm or team to assist with the design of the website interpreting the history of the corridor. Responses are due Wednesday, January 25, 2017.

The selection process for four artist teams to develop public art along the City of Tacoma’s segments of the corridor is well underway and will be complete early in the new year.

Shortly after website design and public art teams have been selected, design and implementation work will begin.

For more information about the Prairie Line Trail project, visit, or contact Associate Planner Elliott Barnett at or (253) 591-5389.

Exciting Updates for the PLT!

The last few weeks have generated some exciting new updates for the Prairie Line Trail project! A Call to Artists has been released (see press release below), which marks the next step in the project: finding artists/teams of artists who will create installations for the PLT.

The deadline for submissions is November 10th, with finalists interviews happening in December. The selection process will be completed by the end of 2016!

Coinciding with the artists selection process, the draft for the Interpretation Strategy will be complete by December 1st. This document will be an essential aid to the artists selected for creating installations that interpret various aspects of history on the PLT.

Speaking of exciting developments, construction on the Pacific Avenue to Dock Street (Phase I) segment of the Prairie Line Trail has begun! Work on the site will continue up to Thanksgiving 2016 and then shut down over the holiday season. Work will resume following New Years and is expected to be complete by April of 2017.

Tacoma Color PC.jpgNews Release
From the City of Tacoma, Washington

Oct. 4, 2016

Gwen Schuler, Media and Communications,, (253) 591-5152
Maria Lee, Media and Communications,, (253) 591-2054

City Issues Call to Artists for Projects Along Prairie Line Trail
–Application Deadline is Midnight on Nov. 10–
The City of Tacoma invites artists and/or artist teams who reside in Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, or British Columbia, to submit qualifications for one of four $55,000 commissions to create artwork along a segment of the Prairie Line Trail in downtown Tacoma. Each artwork will provide historic interpretation for an important location or theme along the trail in an artful way. The application deadline is midnight on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016.
“We are excited to see how artists interpret the significance of this historic corridor in an engaging and dynamic way,” said Historic Preservation Officer Reuben McKnight. “It will be a great opportunity to engage audiences of all ages and backgrounds, while connecting people with the unique history of Tacoma.”
Selected artists will be encouraged to represent less told stories along the trail, and artists with diverse cultural perspectives are encouraged to apply.
The Prairie Line is historically significant as the west coast terminus of the Northern Transcontinental Railroad. The former BNSF Railway traveled the line through the Brewery District, University of Washington-Tacoma campus, past Tacoma Art Museum, and down to the Thea Foss Waterway – strengthening an important connection between downtown and the waterfront. Once completed, this rail to trail conversion of the Prairie Line Trail will create a linear park and active transportation gateway to the waterfront; build on downtown Tacoma’s natural, historic, and cultural assets; and become an integral component of the vision of an attractive, livable, and revitalized downtown. 
For a complete prospectus, visit or contact Public Art Specialist Rebecca Solverson at or call (253) 591-5564.

A Thriving Neighborhood: Tacoma’s Nihonmachi

When those traveling to Tacoma by train arrived, Nihonmachi was the first neighborhood they would see. Pictured below is an extraordinary document from an exceptionally rare source[1]. This hand-drawn map produced by Kazuo Ito shows the extent of Tacoma’s Nihonmachi, or Japantown, around 1920. The individual listings show Japanese operated businesses, many of which also served as family homes for the 1700 residents of Japanese ancestry living in downtown Tacoma[2]. These were the townies—the merchants, innkeepers, restaurateurs, grocers, teachers, barbers, tailors, photographers, doctors, mechanics, apothecaries, florists, bankers, porters, and artists who made up Tacoma’s thriving Japantown.


In fact, Tacoma had one of the largest Nihonmachi in America per capita, with population reaching its peak in the 1920s[3]. Japantown was anchored by the grocery stalls and restaurants around the public markets between 11th and 13th on Market Street to the North and the many hotels clustered near Union Station on the South. In between, a busy neighborhood went about its daily routines, morning delivery wagons, kids to school, businesses opening with the turn of a key and the flip of a sign, lunchtime rush at the cafes, the early afternoon papers arriving, grocery shopping and street-side visiting, after school sports and language school, travelers wandering into the barber shops and hotel lobbies from the evening trains at Union Station, then the lights of the restaurants and clubs take over the streets and the shopkeepers close up shop and head upstairs for dinner with the family.Tommy's market 1921

Tommy’s stall at Tacoma Crystal Market at 11th and Market st. Courtesy of the WSHS Collection.

Joe Kosai, who grew up in his family’s hotel on Pacific Avenue and later taught math for Tacoma Public Schools, remembered going down to the theater district all by himself on Saturday mornings, getting help from the usher into his seat where his knees didn’t bend and his sneakers poked out into the aisle, and then watching cartoons, cowboy movies, and sci-fi serials until his eyes and neck hurt from looking up at the giant screen. He was six.japantown at 13th and broadway

Japantown at 13th and Broadway, c. 1940; Image courtesy of Densho’s Magden Collection.

 For the full story and more images, check out Michael Sullivan’s blogContent courtesy of Michael Sullivan, edited by Alaria Sacco.

[1] Ito, Kazuo. Issei, A History of Japanese Immigrants in North America, translated by Shinichiro Nakamura and Jean S Gerard. 1973. Published by Japanese Community services, Seattle, WA. LOCCC No. 73-82678

[2] 1920 U.S. Census Records

[3] Ibid. & Magden, Ronald E. Furusato, Tacoma-Pierce County Japanese. 1998. A project of Nikkeijinkai: Tacoma Japanese Community Service. LOCCC No. 98-149650. ISBN 0-9629616-4-7

Black History in the City of Destiny

Storytelling along the Prairie Line Trail weaves through many of Tacoma’s overlooked pioneers and adventurers. Michael Sullivan reveals some of the city’s African American history and how it’s intertwined with the railroad and the Prairie Line district in his blog post, Brown Spots. This featured photo, taken on September 6, 1935 at 3 a.m. in a night club near where 25th crosses the Prairie Line, is a thing of joy.

Image courtesy of the Washington State Historical Society.

Community Meeting Recap–Your Prairie Line Trail

Last week’s community meeting at the Washington State History Museum yielded a great turn out and generated some important discussions about where the Prairie Line Trail is and what community members think it should be. Elliott Barnett introduced the project, and Michael Sullivan briefly discussed the history of the Prairie Line. Some of our project stakeholders even came out to listen and discuss all things Prairie Line with their community.meeting

People are excited to see the history of Tacoma come to life via the Prairie Line Trail, and shared how important it is to address Tacoma’s cultural and ethnic diversity in regards to the Prairie Line, while keeping the project themes interconnected. As a project team, we have reviewed all the responses from both the community meeting and survey, and greatly appreciate all of the input that Tacoma’s community has to offer. If you still want to contribute some thoughts, it’s not too late. The survey is still open, but it won’t be for much longer!

We have received many meaningful responses, including that the Prairie Line is an “unsung but important chapter of Tacoma history,” and that the trail means “mobility, vitality, [and] community” to the area.


A special event is currently in the works for Thursday, September 8th . . . stay tuned!

Prairie Line Trail Historic Interpretation Project Community Meeting on July 21

PLT Postcard_web get involved

July 11, 2016

Gwen Schuler, Media and Communications,, (253) 591-5152
Stacy Ellifritt, Media and Communications,, (253) 591-2005

Prairie Line Trail Historic Interpretation Project Community Meeting on July 21

The City of Tacoma is holding a community meeting regarding the Prairie Line Trail Historic Interpretation Project on Thursday, July 21, from 5:30 – 7 p.m. at the Washington State History Museum (1911 Pacific Ave.) during the Third Thursday Art Walk. The public is invited to come meet the project team, share what the Prairie Line Trail means to them, and participate in discussions about the project. Free refreshments will be available. Input on the project can also be provided by completing a brief survey.

This project will draw on historic resources and community input to develop an interpretive strategy recognizing the significance and diverse history of the corridor. In addition, the effort will include early implementation of that strategy through the design and installation of five to seven interpretive features. The intent is to make the corridor’s history accessible and engaging to a broad audience through innovative interpretive approaches including public art, electronic media and onsite signage or markers.

“The Prairie Line Trail is an incredible opportunity to embrace and share the historic and community significance of this unique public space,” said Associate Planner Elliott Barnett.

For more information, visit, or contact Associate Planner Elliott Barnett at or call (253) 591-5389.


Meet the PLT Project Team

Elliott BarneElliotttt, Associate Planner, has ten years of planning experience for the City and is subject matter expert on active transportation, public engagement, downtown planning initiatives, and parks and open space. Elliott is a City staff lead for the Prairie Line Trail project and has helped secure grant funding for the effort. Through the public discussions on the trail, Elliott came to recognize the significance of the Prairie Line as an opportunity to create a unique and
engaging public space. Elliott is a city kid who grew up in Oakland, California and holds a Planning Masters Degree from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Lauren HLaurenoogkamer is the Historic Preservation Coordinator for the City of Tacoma. She holds an MS in Historic Preservation and an MS in Urban Planning from Columbia University, as well as a BA/BA in Print Journalism and History and a Minor in Business from the University of Southern California. Previously, Lauren was an historic preservation consultant under her own business, Cultural Resources Research & Consulting. Lauren grew up in rural Lewis County, WA, but now lives in a 1970s split-entry home in East Tacoma with her husband and her almost two-year-old son.

Amy McBride is the Arts Administrator for the City of Tacoma with over 20 years’ experience as an art profeAmyssional. Working with the Tacoma Arts Commission, Ms. McBride oversees three funding programs for arts organizations and artists, implements public art projects, develops innovative and collaborative programming and formulates effective policy with the goal of creating a fertile ecosystem for a thriving community.

 She holds an M.A. from the University of Washington-Tacoma in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on urban art and BA from the University of Colorado Boulder in French and Art History with a year of focused study at the Michel de Montaigne University Bordeaux 3, France.  She stimulated both sides of her brain by studying sculpture at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and Fundraising Management from the University of Washington. Occasionally she still finds time to make art herself.

Amy has presented nationally on issues of public art, innovation, temporary art interventions, and civic democracy.

Alaria Sacco is an Historic Preservation Intern for the City of Tacoma. SheAlaria is an East Coast transplant from North Carolina now living in Tacoma. She also works at the Museum of Glass as a Frontline Representative. With a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from Appalachian State University (Class of 2013) and a minor in Anthropology, she is interested in collections care and material conservation within museums; she will be a Master’s candidate in the Museology Graduate program at the University of Washington this fall. Alaria assisted with Historic Preservation Month events earlier this year, and is looking forward to working on the Prairie Line Trail during the remainder of her internship with the City. When not at either of her two jobs, Alaria enjoys cooking with her fiance, having heart-to-hearts with her cat, and sniffing very old books.

Katie Chase is an architectural historian and partner at Artifacts Consulting. She has a BA in HistorKatiey and an MS in Historic Preservation. Katie became a preservationist because it perfectly combines her love for history and architecture. At Artifacts, Katie works on a range of projects, but is most passionate about projects that let her dive into the history of a particular place. Katie also serves on the Tacoma Landmarks Preservation Commission and is currently the commission’s chair. Originally from Idaho, Katie now lives in the Stadium District and loves the walkability and vibrancy of her neighborhood.