May is celebrated as National Historic Preservation Month, and this year’s focus is on the nation’s federal buildings.
In Tacoma, the structure that’s cited is the Federal Courthouse, which is located in the former Union Depot on Pacific Avenue. Although other architects designed that train station, two early 20th century architects, Ambrose Russell and Emmanual J. Bresemann, should be acknowledged for their local contributions.
While Russell was well established in Tacoma as a leading architect, at one time he gave correspondence lessons in design. Bresemann was one of his students. Russell designed many of Tacoma’s landmark structures such as the Armory and the Perkins Building. He also designed the Governor’s Mansion in Olympia, as well as the lodge at Sunrise on Mt. Rainier’s north side. He also designed many Tacoma homes.
The Russells lived in Tacoma, and they had a summer home on the west side of American Lake. Shortly after the 1909 fire that destroyed the Tacoma Country and Golf Club’s first clubhouse, Russell designed its replacement that lasted until a second fire in 1962. In 1915, Mr. Russell designed one school: the Lake City School, where his children, James and Margaret, attended classes. Lake City Elementary, as it has been known until recently, closed last December. Its students now attend Harrison Preparatory School, on the campus of Clover Park Technical College.
Mr. Bresemann, who designed numerous Tacoma commercial buildings, as well as 24 schools, during his career, had his office in the Perkins Building. In 1930 Bresemann designed Steilacoom’s Town Hall. Fifteen years earlier, in 1915, however, he designed the permanent brick structure on Nisqually Street that replaced the school district’s 1892 wooden building, Steilacoom School.
In 1962, when the district opened its first elementary school, Cherrydale , the older school’s name became Pioneer Middle School, a name it retained until 2009, when a new Pioneer Middle School opened in DuPont. In 2014 the “old” Pioneer School site became the “new” District Office for Steilacoom Historical School District No. 1—the first school district in Pierce County.
Read more about the careers of Bresemann and Russell at www.HistoryLink.org.