The Proctor District
The Proctor District is one of the oldest shopping areas in the city and was one of the six original business districts organized through the City of Tacoma’s Neighborhood Business District Revitalization Program. Since 1991, volunteers have worked diligently to beautify the district with historic street lighting, trees, planters, and public art.
Within 9 square blocks, the Proctor District is home to many unique, family owned small businesses. The venerable old Blue Mouse Theater, built in 1923, is the oldest continuously operating movie theater in Washington State and is open seven days a week. There are many great eateries including Europa Bistro, Babblin’ Babs, Old House Cafe, East West Cafe, Pomodoro, La Fondita, Knapps, Marzano’s Italian Restaurant, Southern Kitchen, Dirty Oscar’s Anex, Soul, G Donnavans and more. Proctor is also home to several banks, bowling alley, library, veterinary clinic and the Pacific Northwest Shop that specializes in products made exclusively in the Pacific Northwest. The Metropolitan Market and Safeway are both at the corner of North 25th and Proctor. With just one stop in Proctor, you can take care of all your errands – the post office, library, banks and dry cleaners are all within walking distance of each other.
Throughout the year, the Proctor District celebrates their sense of community by hosting numerous special events that appeal to young and old alike, including the popular Proctor Farmers’ Market, Arts Festival, The Junior Daffodil Parade and Proctor Treats.
Tacoma’s North End’s Proctor District is named after Ontario born architect, John G. Proctor. Proctor designed many local historical treasures, including the Pierce County Courthouse (1892), the Nelson Bennet Mansion (1889) and the Wheeler Building (1889).
Proctor had built his family home on ‘Ester’ Street in South Tacoma in 1890. As the city developed its street system, the engineers linked ‘Ester’ Street with ‘Jefferson’ Street. The city council voted to name the new street ‘Proctor’ instead of ‘Ester’ because Proctor’s house stood on the southern end of the street.
On the southeast corner of North 26th and Adams Street stands a 100-year-old oak tree at Wheelock Public Library, a living reminder of Tacoma’s past; an ideal location for Mason Plaza. It is a comfortable place to gather, to read a book, share a story, or learn about Tacoma’s past. The space is framed by six grand sandstone columns, historic artifacts from Mason’s own 1890’s mansion. A life-size bronze statue of Mason, top hat firmly in place, hand out stretched welcoming visitors is central to the plaza.
The Allen C. Mason Plaza is a public gathering place, is the principal anchor of the Proctor Business District’s east end along N. 26th Street, which is a heavily travelled principal arterial street and transit route. It is surrounded by a strong neighborhood, is highly visible, and is handicapped and van accessible. It is said that if you shake Mason’s hand, you will have good luck!
Mason’s Vision and Lasting Contributions
No one foresaw Tacoma’s destiny more clearly than Allen C. Mason. Some say that Mason coined the phrase, The City of Destiny, over 100 years ago. Allen Chase Mason was described by The News Tribune as “a Tacoma pioneer when others saw this place as a woody wilderness.” The Illinois school teacher and chicken farmer came to Tacoma in 1883 with $2.65 in his pocket. By the 1890s, his housing developments had turned him into a multi-millionaire. Along the way, he promoted Tacoma more than any other person, advertising Tacoma’s strengths in east coast papers through a dazzling illustration he called Tacoma’s Star of Destiny, and promoting Tacoma as a wonderful place to live. Mason was the principal developer of Tacoma’s North End. He donated the city’s first public library, developed several major buildings, including the first Elks lodge, and built the first street car line from downtown, through the Proctor District on N. 26th, and on to Point Defiance Park-the same Route 11 used by Pierce Transit today. In the panic of 1893, Mason personally bought back houses from anyone who asked, losing all his money in the process. He truly had a rare combination of vision and integrity.
Star of Destiny
A 5′ diameter, bronze rendition of Mason’s Star of Destiny is imbedded in the plaza’s surface. It contains over 100 slogans proclaiming Tacoma’s attributes. The star is very interesting and is easily readable. It is a main focal point of the Plaza, Tacoma’s North End, and the Proctor Business District. The plaza is a reminder that many familiar landmarks bear the names of real people from the past, with rich stories of their own. Mason Plaza serves as a tribute to Tacoma’s history, and a permanent expression of the community’s commitment to art, culture, and local heritage. And, it serves as one of the very few public interpretive places of Tacoma’s important history.