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Originally published Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 7:01 PM

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Remembering the Tacoma Hotel and a bear named Jack

Raised in the hotel since he was a cub, Jack was admired for drinking beer from a mug without spilling a drop on the hardwood floor of the hotel's 80-foot-long bar and billiards room.

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IN 1891 WHEN Tacoma photographer Thomas Rutter recorded this sun-lighted portrait of it, the Tacoma Hotel was already 6 years old. Historian Murray Morgan, Tacoma's favorite son, described the hotel as the city's "focal point of pride." Morgan added, "Let a visitor question the likelihood of the city's ascendancy and he was likely to be lectured on the grandeur of the hostelry under construction . . . on the edge of the downtown bluff."

From its prospect on A Street the hotel looked over Commencement Bay and its tideflats to Mount Tacoma, sometimes "mistakenly named" Mount Rainier by visitors from out of town — like Seattle. The battle over what to call "The Mountain that was God" was a long and recurring one between the two cities.

With many additions, the Tacoma Hotel kept its place until 1935 when it was destroyed by fire. Built in a variation of the Tudor style, the Tacoma Hotel was constructed of red brick, white stucco and white stone trim. After the fire, bricks and stones salvaged from the ruins were prized and used in building new homes or extending old ones.

During its half-century, the Tacoma Hotel welcomed seven presidents and, most famously, one 800-pound bear named Jack. Raised in the hotel since he was a cub, Jack was admired for drinking beer from a mug without spilling a drop on the hardwood floor of the hotel's 80-foot-long bar and billiards room. One afternoon after having his beer, and deciding to tour Tacoma, the friendly beast slipped his collar. Jack was soon shot twice on Pacific Avenue by a policeman named Kenna. Carried back to the hotel, Jack was attended by friends and doctors but could not be saved. For many days after, Officer Kenna was the most unpopular man in Tacoma.

Check out Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard's blog at www.pauldorpat.com.

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