Tag Archives: Angela Jossy

Tacoma’s First Underground Tour

My friend Jenya and I before embarking on the Underground Tour

I’m not one for tours. For the most part I like exploring things on my own, but when I saw Angela Jossy’s announcement of a ‘Once In A Lifetime Underground Tour of Tacoma’, I had to go. The Facebook page spoke of the legendary Shanghai Tunnels, the vaulted sidewalks, Old City Hall, and Never Never Land figures. For those who are unaware of some of these Tacoma legends, here’s a bit of background.

The Chinese Tunnels are among Tacoma’s oldest legends. Depending on who you’re talking to they were for literally shanghaiing unruly customers at shady bars, sending the unsuspecting patrons to the basement, through the tunnel and onto a ship down on the waterfront or they were for smuggling Chinese workers after their expulsion from Tacoma in 1885 or they were used as  opium dens. But as many stories as there are, there is a distinct lack of evidence of these tunnels.

Old City Hall is one of Tacoma’s oldest and most beautiful buildings. Sadly, due to a series of unfortunate events, Old City Hall is now vacant and in some areas unsafe. It’s future remains uncertain.

Walk the streets of downtown Tacoma and look down. Occasionally you’ll see thick opaque glass. These are the vaulted sidewalks of Tacoma. In other words, there’s something under that sidewalk.

And then there was Never Never Land. As a child I remembered going to Never Never Land at Pt. Defiance Park. There was a meandering trail through the woods where various figurines acted out parts from famous fairy tales. It was kind of cool but kind of creepy. Never Never Land closed many years ago and left behind empty areas along the trail where once stood Little Red Riding Hood or the Three Little Pigs. Recently even the trail was removed leaving almost no evidence that Never Never Land ever existed.

Given all of this, I was excited as hell to go on this tour. Unfortunately in the days leading up to the tour, Angela had to cancel the Old City Hall portion of the tour due to lack of cooperation from the current tenants. She also reminded people that any tunnels were long ago filled in and we’d only be seeing the entrance to one and that this was not going to be like the Seattle Underground Tours. None of this deterred me.

It turned out that Jenya, an old friend from high school who I hadn’t seen in years was also interested in going on the tour. We met up in the early afternoon to catch up and then headed downtown.

We were supposed to pick up tickets any time after 3:00pm at the Gritty City Gift Fair at 9th and Broadway. We arrived at around 5:30pm. When we got there, the earliest group we could sign up for was 7:40pm. We met up with a couple of other friends and went to PSP (Puget Sound Pizza) for a couple drinks and some awesome pizza while we waited.

We came back at 7:30pm to find that the 7:20pm team was just now leaving. We wandered around the Gritty City Gift Fair. I ran into Kris Brannon otherwise known as Sonics Guy as well as ThanksGIVING founder Heidi Stoermer. I also saw Fingerprint Confection Owner, Clay Richart along with his wife who were selling their amazing caramels at the Fair. It was like a 5 Question Friday gathering.

A previous tour returned. We were told to grab the hard hats from them and be sure to sign the release form. I heard one returning person say that the tour was ‘underwhelming’. Not knowing this person, I had no idea what they expected it to be so this didn’t really bother me.

As the time crawled past 8pm, I became a bit concerned. Luckily the tour started a few minutes later. It turns out that two of the tour guides had gone home. One had hurt their ankle and the other, we were told, um, stepped in a puddle. The result was that Angela and another guide whose name I did not get were taking almost two tours worth of people at once to help get things caught up. We followed her down the hill to Pacific Avenue then took a left towards South 7th Street.

As we approached Meconi’s Pub, we were split into two groups. One went into Meconi’s. The other group (my group) was taken around the back of the building to find a man named Darryl who would show us where to go.

Around the back was an open door and Darryl. He led us to a spiral staircase covered in plastic sheeting that went down to the basement. In this basement, there were dozens of figurines. Every one of them creepier than I ever remember them being. The idea that at one point these were meant to entertain children is disturbing. That I was one of those children is even more bothersome.

Here are some photos of these almost forgotten relics:

Three Little Pigs

Big Bad Wolf

Assorted Characters

Ummm…

Past the figurines walking towards the direction of the street was a dark area where the flashlights were absolutely necessary. The stone floor was wet. There was thick glass above us in certain areas that I recognized as part of the sidewalk. These were the vaulted sidewalks of Tacoma. You can’t really see through the glass, but it was clear that if it was day, the sunlight would have provided at least a little illumination.

Vaulted Sidewalk

We walked back past the Never Never Land figures and up the stairs to switch places with the other group. Once inside Meconi’s we were led through a door, down another staircase to another vaulted sidewalk. This one had a substantial pool of water on the ground. I assumed this was the puddle that took out a previous tour guide. I walked through it with no problem.

Back in Meconi’s we walked through to the back of the bar where we went through another door and another staircase. Here there was a wall of brick and cement framed by a doorway. This we were told was once an entrance to a tunnel that went all the way to the docks.

In the 1880s, this area of Tacoma was full of illicit activities so a secret tunnel to the docks wasn’t even a little far fetched.

We left Meconi’s and head back up towards 9th and Broadway by way of the Spanish steps, near the old Elk’s Lodge that McMenamin’s has recently purchased and promised to turn into what might end up being one of the best night spots in Tacoma. It seemed fitting to end the tour through Tacoma’s past with a glimpse of what’s in Tacoma’s future.

The entire tour took about twenty minutes or so and if I had been expecting something out of Indiana Jones, I suppose I too would have been underwhelmed. As it was, I had a great time with my friends exploring forgotten bits of the City of Destiny. That to me was more than worth the $10 price of admission.

As a side note, Angela Jossy recently found out that they’re not destroying the vaulted sidewalks in January like she thought and there may yet be time for another round of Underground Tours for those who missed it this first time around. If she does, I’ll post that information on this article when I have it.

I’d like to publicly thank Angela Jossy and everyone else who helped her put on this tour.

– Jack Cameron

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5 Question Friday with ART BUS’ Angela Jossy!

If you’re part of the art or business community in downtown Tacoma, you probably know Angela Jossy. A self-described ‘Duchess of Downtown’, she seems to work on more projects than any three people should take on. One of the more interesting projects she’s been involved with is the ART BUS. I managed to get Angela to take time out of her busy schedule to help me with the triumphant return of 5 Question Friday. Here she is.

1. What is ART BUS?

ART BUS is a tour of art exhibits in the downtown vicinity of Tacoma WA. We do it every Third Thursday during Tacoma’s Art Walk. The cost is $10 to ride and $20 to be a VIP and get a gift bag with gift certificates and discounts to Tacoma businesses. ART BUS is sponsored in part by The Weekly Volcano. Every month we have a different celebrity guest tour guide and we typically invite people who know a lot about Tacoma like city council members, arts commissioners, civic leaders, community leaders and etc. We also feature a different artist each month with our ART BUS buttons, which serve as the ticket to ride.

2. How did you get started with the ART BUS?

ART BUS is an idea that we tossed around for a while because the galleries are really too far apart to actually walk to them during art walk. People used to joke around that it was really more of an art drive than an art walk. So in March of 2010 I decided to make it so and we’ve been rolling ever since!

3. Where in Tacoma is the most under-appreciated art location?

ALL of Tacoma’s art locations are under-appreciated. A large percentage of people who live in Tacoma, let alone people outside the area, don’t even realize what an exciting art scene we have here. Far from being sedate and high brow, our art is exciting, inspiring and sometimes even shocking! This is not your Grandma’s art scene and its sprouting through everywhere – not just art galleries but restaurants, coffee shops, retail stores, vacant storefronts and even dentists offices! If you give them a wall or an empty space of any kind, Tacoma’s artists will give you something to talk about over the water cooler.

4. What other projects are you working on?

I’m working on a fundraiser for the Go Red Campaign called the Love Squared Acoustic Dinner Party in February. I have a new blog I unveiled in December called the Duchess of Downtown Tacoma Blog. And I’m working on a 26-week cross-promotional project for small independent businesses because I feel the biggest impediment to people shopping local is know what to buy and where. So I’m going to use the most powerful mechanism at my disposal to change that – word of mouth advertising. I’m going to introduce people to the business owners, what they do, why they do it and how you can support them. Please find and friend me on Facebook if you’d like to hear more about that. I feel strongly that the one tangible thing that is within my power to do to help us politically, environmentally and economically is to support our local businesses. Remember, 75% of the money you spend at a local business stays and circulates in our community.

5. What’s next for the ART BUS?

We just found out recently that ART BUS received a grant from the Tacoma Arts Commission. The way that grant works is you spend the money and they reimburse you so we are looking for a sponsor to match it. Then we can do more regional marketing, get a banner for the side of the bus, get a portable PA system and things like that to make it even better than it is already. Anyone interested in becoming a sponsor of ART BUS should contact me at angela.jossy@gmail.com.

I’d like to thank Angela Jossy for taking part in 5 Question Friday. You can follow ART BUS on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tacoma-ART-BUS/151270941559625 or check out their website at  http://www.TacomaARTBUS.com

5 Question Friday is a weekly feature at TacomaStories.com where I give a 5 Question Interview with someone in Tacoma. If you’d like to participate in 5 Question Friday or would like to suggest someone, email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com.

-Jack Cameron

Art, Ballet, Flamenco and Dirty Rock

Flamenco Master Jesus Montoya

There is always something going on in Tacoma. It’s one of my favorite things about the place. No matter what you’re into, there’s a good chance you can find it somewhere in Tacoma.

Here are just a few options coming up in the next few days:

Thursday December 15th  6:00pm – 9:00pm

THE ART BUS

Angela Jossy, the self-described Duchess of Downtown has made the Art Bus a monthly event that is always memorable. Tickets are $10. The Art Bus boards at 5:45pm and takes a tour of local art exhibits. She puts this on every third Thursday of the month. At last count, there were 11 seats still available.

For more information, go to http://tacomaartbus.com

Friday, December 16th  8:30pm – 11:30pm    

Flamenco singer Jesus Montoya with guitarist Pedro Cortes and dancer Savannah Fuentes

At The New Frontier Lounge 301 E. 25th Street

This is something special. Jesus Montoya has never played Tacoma before. If you’re interested in Flamenco music or have never experienced it, this is for you. And the New Frontier has a close and friendly atmosphere. There’s not a bad seat in the place.Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at this link: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/213666

For more information on The New Frontier: http://www.thenewfrontierlounge.com/  

Saturday, December 17th 9:00pm – Late

Midnight Salvage Company, Ten Miles of Bad Road, & Devil on a Leash

At O’Malley’s 2403 6th Ave.

You want a loud bar with good drinks and great music? This is the time and place. Three great Tacoma bands all on the same night and there’s NO COVER CHARGE. There’s not much more you can ask for on a Saturday night.  Ten Miles of Bad Road just completed their tour where they brought their dirty Southern rock to small bars up and down the West Coast. If music was violence Ten Miles of Bad Road would be a bar fight. Midnight Salvage Company brings the sort of rock that should still be on the radio. It’s good solid rebel rock with just a bit of asshole. Then there’s Devil on a Leash with a sound that reminds me of the last bar on a long night that no one will remember too clearly.

December 17th & December 18th at 3pm

Tacoma Ballet’s The Nutcracker

There are plenty of Nutcracker performances all over. However, Tacoma City Ballet’s is set apart as the sole production in the area to follow the story, scenic design, costuming and choreography as it was originally created by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov.

Tickets range in prices from $19 – $60 and can be purchased at

 http://www.broadwaycenter.org/

And that’s just a few of the things going on in the next four days. Tacoma is about as diverse as any city in the world. And it’s all right here. People ask me why I love Tacoma, it’s because of things like these.

– Jack Cameron