Ruston Way

view of Mt. Rainier from Ruston Way

Just 5 minutes from Franke Tobey Jones is the scenic Puget Sound waterfront….and it’s beautiful!  There’s a ferry to Vashon Island several times a day, you can sometimes see Orcas and sea otters come right up to the boat.  The businesses along Pearl Street include the charming Antique Sandwich Company, antique stores and an exotic nursery.

Ruston Way, a two-mile long scenic waterfront retreat, is incredibly picturesque.  There are picnic tables/grills, grassy play   areas, a fishing pier, boat dock all with beach access. Panoramic views of Commencement Bay, Vashon Island, the Olympic Mountains and Northeast Tacoma greet visitors to Ruston Way. It’s a great place for walking, jogging or rollerblading. Fishing enthusiasts can find a place to drop their lines at the Les Davis Pier. Public art projects add interest to a walk down Ruston Way where you’ll also find several restaurants:

  • I. Shenanigan’s
  • Dock Street Sandwich Co.
  • Dukes Chowder House
  • Harbor Lights
  • Katie Downs Tavern and Restaurant
  • Lobster Shop
  • The Ram Restaurant & Brewery

The History of Ruston Way

The former Asarco Stack was 571 feet before earthquake damage and after necessary repairs, the stack stood 562 feet tall overlooking the Puget Sound. The stack implosion occurred on January 17, 1993.

Ruston Way is a very popular boulevard that runs along the waterfront of Commencement Bay. It sits on a spectacular slice of shoreline that exemplifies the beauty of the Puget Sound, enhanced by the majesty of Mount Rainier.

Ruston Way also refers to an enticing three-mile-long scenic waterfront pathway with panoramic views of Commencement Bay. Ruston Way stretches from the Tahoma Salt Marsh near the South end to the North end where Point Ruston is currently being built. Between these points lies an active pathway enjoyed by joggers, walkers, roller bladers and bicyclists alike.

With all that it has going for it, did you know that Ruston Way is also one of the most historically rich places in Washington State?

Ruston Way has been an integral part of the fabric of Tacoma for nearly as long as the city has been in existence. In the 1800s, the Ruston Way area was developed as a mining town during America’s industrial revolution. It was at initially called Front Street, in a fashion similar to many other towns built near water in the 1800s and even today. At the time, Front Street was an ocean-centric industry hub dotted with mills, warehouses and boatyards.

By the 1880s, the town had grown closer to the Tide Flats of Tacoma. In 1888, an enterprising businessman named Denis Ryan built a smelter on the North end of the Tacoma waterfront. He hired William Rust to run what became the Tacoma Smelting & Refining Company. In 1890, Mr. Rust bought the smelter from Ryan and ran it so well that the town of Ruston was named in his honor.

Eventually, Mr. Rust sold the smelter to the Guggenheim Brothers company named American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO). ASARCO continued its operation throughout the 1900s and as the plant grew, so did the town. The smelter continued operating until 1985 when the Environmental Protection Agency forced its closure.

Front Street was renamed to Ruston Way in 1926, and became the main thoroughfare connecting Ruston and Tacoma. Two years later, Tacoma Metro Parks acquired an acre of land along Ruston Way, with the intent to one day build a public fishing area and boat launch.

Even into the 1960s, the city’s commissioners had great foresight for Ruston Way’s future development. In 1968, the city purchased more waterfront property to support the idea for Ruston Way as a “quality waterfront attraction.” It was this forward thinking that allowed Ruston Way to be a key facet of the city’s waterfront amenities, even to this day.

Throughout the 20th century, city representatives have made various attempts to broaden the appeal and usefulness of Ruston Way. However, only in the last decade has Ruston Way finally begun to evolve into its own, distinct character.