historic preservation

Online Research Tools

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Welcome to Tacoma Culture's new online research tools page!

On this page you will find links to property research databases that can provide a starting point for finding a historic property, determining whether a property is listed on a historic register, and locating additional bibliographical resources.  For additional resources, please visit the Resource Library and Related Sites pages. 

Historic Inventory Database (BETA)

What it is:  compiled data from the City of Tacoma's Community Cultural Resources Surveys from 1977-2005.  Includes maps, aerial photos, historical descriptions, and photos.  It is regularly revised and updated, so information may change.  Note:  Most properties in this database are not listed landmarks.

What you can do with it: This database is designed to be a tool for property owners, investors, researchers and City employees to access the City’s historic properties inventory.  Allows you to find potentially historically important properties--useful for investors, consultants, and researchers.

Please note:  this application is currently in development.

Open the Historic Properties Inventory Database


Is My Property Listed on a Historic Register?

What it is:  map viewer showing properties that are already listed on the National Register of Historic Places and/or the Tacoma Register of Historic Places.

What you can do with it: find properties that are already on a historic register.  Useful for contractors, real estate professionals, and current or prospective property owners.

Open Is My Property Historic database

Outside Resources - Pierce County

Pierce County Buildings Index 

What it is:  Indexed bibliographical information on Tacoma and Pierce County Buildings, including permit references and newspaper articles.  Also contains photos.  Maintained by Tacoma Public Library.

What you can do with it:  Excellent resource for researchers; can help determine date of construction, designer, contractors, historical events associated with a property, and the property ownership.  Indexed by address, construction dates, and keyword.

Go to the Pierce County Buildings Index


What it is:  Mapping application developed by the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, showing properties and districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Washington Heritage Register. 

What you can do with it:  Locate properties listed on the above registers, and access information about them, including the original nomination documentation.


Outside Resources - National or Regional

University of Washington Digital Collections

What it is:  The University of Washington has extensive collections of digital materials, including photographs, architectural plans and documents.  (There is also the Pacific Northwest Collection, which is a catalog of historical records related to the region.  Much of this is not available online, but is a valuable resource).

What you can do with it:  There are many records of Tacoma related material, including photographs and architectural plans.

Go to the University of Washington Digital Collections

Library of Congress Digital Collections

What it is:  Outstanding archives chronicling American history, including narrative material, newspapers and photographs.

What you can do with it:  There are a number of Tacoma-specific references and materials that can be obtained through search functions.

Go to the Library of Congress Digital Collections

Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record (HABS/HAER)

What it is:  Administered since 1933, the HABS/HAER program has  recorded America's built environment in multiformat surveys comprising more than 556,900 measured drawings, large-format photographs, and written histories for more than 38,600 historic structures and sites.  Records available online include digitized images of measured drawings, black-and-white photographs, color transparencies, photo captions, data pages including written histories, and supplemental materials.  There are numerous Tacoma and Pierce County buildings in this collection.

What you can do with it:  Contains high resolution photographs and drawings of many of Tacoma's iconic structures.

Go to the HABS/HAER collection