The Proctor District
The 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 it’s 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.
To read more about John G. Proctor, click here.
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 outstretched 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 traveled 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 the 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 streetcar 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 embedded 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. To see a larger version of the Star of Destiny, click here, or personally view the plaza.
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.