Ben Gilbert Park is a pocket-park in Downtown Tacoma, at the junction of St. Helens and Market Streets, on the north side of the Municipal Building, across from the entrance to Opera Alley.

Ledger Square, 1926,
Tacoma Washington

Seek Tacoma's Unique History Here
Ledger Square, Tacoma, Washington

Ben Gilbert Park and Mural

What has been accomplished -

One year ago, this was a blighted site, harboring illicit activities. The Tacoma Police Department had plans to simply fence the site and the City of Tacoma intended to locate two garbage compactors there.  Neighborhood activists were determined that this site better serve the highly diverse demographics of this emerging area.  When the Broadway LID project was implemented last year, calling for the development of an open space directly adjacent to this site on St. Helens Avenue, a strategic effort was set in motion to maximize this rare opportunity to transform blight into a unique urban park.  Thus, Ben Gilbert Park and Ledger Square are now companion parts of a dramatic transformation in the heart of the Theater District.

On August 14, 2010, Ben Gilbert Park and Mural were dedicated, all fund raising having been completed. On June 24, 2009, a statue was installed in Ledger Square and a special tree planting ceremony was held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Tacoma’s sister city relationship with Kitakyushu, Japan. A delegation from Kitakyushu took part in the ceremony.

Aside from serving as an open space for office workers and residents representing the full spectrum of income demographics, the park is just a block’s walk for patrons of four theaters. The seat walls and benches, the flower boxes and landscaping, the unique pine trees, the historical lighting and brick pavers all contribute to an attractive setting.  The crown jewel of facility is to be a photo reproduction on tile of an historic event that happened on this site nearly a century ago.

The Mural – (6’ x 28’)

On October 10, 1926, several thousand of Tacoma citizens swarmed across Ledger Square and everything surrounding the area to witness World Series results re-enacted on a large display board mounted on the Tacoma News Tribune & Ledger Building. This event was the seventh and deciding game between the Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig-led New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals. Ruth homered for the Yanks, but ended up being the goat, causing the last out by getting thrown out trying to steal second base, as St. Louis won the game 3-2 and the World Series – much to the delight of the pro-Cardinals Tacoma crowd

Eight weeks later, Ruth made a celebrity appearance at the Pantages Theater, which was located one block away at 9th and Broadway.

Ben Gilbert Park, Mural Wall, Tacoma, WA

On many occasions throngs of locals gathered at the intersection of Market, St. Helens and S. 7th Streets, to make a community event out of the news dispatches.  This was the primary source of the latest news of major events, as teletype reports would come into the newspaper and then be displayed on a panel. Often there would be an announcer addressing the crowd to augment the visual display. Election results, major boxing events and the World Series were popular occasions for gatherings.

The technology of the time made information-gathering a shared experience – notices were posted in the town square – a sharp contrast to today, when a host of individual electronic connections link us to the news of world events, leading to an impersonal, virtual community.


Side panels – (36” square)

Two side panels were installed next to the mural. One tells the story of the event captured in the 1926 photo and also describe the historical connections to the important buildings in the immediate sightlines of the park, including the YMCA, Medical Arts Building (now the Municipal Building), the Tribune & Ledger Building, Webster Apartments and rows of houses along Market Street.

The second panel represents Ben Gilbert’s important contributions to the city of Tacoma as a leader in the historic preservation movement that inspired downtown’s renaissance. Before coming to Tacoma, Ben was an accomplished newsman in Washington, D.C., serving as city editor at the Washington Post, then becoming an Emmy-award winning broadcast-news pioneer and advocate for the rights of the hearing-impaired .

The Ben Gilbert Park project was promoted by the Theater District Association, a coalition of neighborhood residents, arts organizations, business and property owners in collaboration with the City of Tacoma Public Works Department, the Tacoma Water Department and Wm. Dickson Company. The park project demonstrates water conservation landscaping practices and crime prevention through environmental design.  The Tacoma City Council formally named the park to honor Ben Gilbert on November 24, 2009. 

The mural project was created through an extensive neighborhood fund-raising campaign to promote the value of social and architectural heritage in this renaissance district. Ben Gilbert Park is named for a man who was dedicated to his community and ways to make it better. 

The main photo mural spans 6 by 28 feet and depicts several thousand people gathered in Ledger Square on October 10, 1926 to witness World Series results re-enacted on a large scoreboard mounted on the Tacoma News Tribune & Ledger Building. 

Park project acknowledgements:

Promoted by the Theater District Association

Blaine Johnson – President

Steve Nichols – Wm. Dickson Construction

Jim Parvey – Tacoma Public Works

Mike Teskey – Tacoma Public Works

John Gaddis – Tacoma Public Works

Linda McCrea - Tacoma Water

Fred King – Design

Phillip Hill – Concepts

City Council – 2009

Mayor Bill Baarsma

Deputy Mayor Marilyn Strickland

Julie Anderson

Jake Fey

Connie Ladenburg

Mike Lonergan

Spiro Manthou

Rick Talbert

Lauren Walker

Eric Anderson – City Manager

Mural project

Blaine Johnson
Seong Shin
Rick Jones
Mathew Shaw
Chris Yates
Teffie Heitkemper
Lea Armstrong
Megan Douglas
Amy Mann
Steve Nichols
Mary Brody
Brian Kamens
Jack Curtright
Tacoma Historical Society

Tacoma Public Library

Major Donors:

Fred & Anne Roberson

Val Charron

Steve Nichols

Lea Armstrong

Chris Yates

Teffie Heitkemper

Amy Mann

Aaron Mann

Emily Herr

Dale Marsh – Tile Artisans 

Warren Foster - Graphic Services

 

For further information contact Blaine Johnson at 253 284-3727

Or Blaine@gra

phserv.com

Tacoma Historical Society Exhibition center
info@tacomahistory.org

a 501(c)(3) organization

Site MapDonate Today, go to the Artifact Donation page.Privacy PolicySite MapClick Here to connect to the Annual Fund Donation page.

© 2017 Tacoma Historical Society ~ Web Design

The photomural (seen above) will be installed on this concrete retaining wall,