Situated at the intersection of 9th Street, Broadway and Saint Helens Avenue, the Bostwick Building is one of downtown Tacoma’s most visually striking buildings. The building has been welcoming visitors to downtown in various incarnations since it was erected nearly 130 years ago.
Currently, the ground floor is home to Bostwick Cafe, which opened its doors on April 12, 2018. Building owner Greg Petry decided to open his own coffee shop in the space after long-time resident Tully’s Coffee abruptly closed on March 9. Most of Tully’s former staff transitioned into the new venture.
The new space is similar to the old one in some respects, but Petry wanted to highlight the building’s history. Vintage light fixtures and a new coat of paint have brightened the space. Historic photos and other small touches hearken back to the building’s early days. Even the new logo is meant to evoke not just the building’s past, but its architecture as well.
“It’ll give people an alternative place to relax after work and enjoy a glass of wine or a beer,” Petry says. “Especially being in the theatre district, once the season starts, I see this being a good spot for people looking to have a drink before the show, or a nightcap.”
Bostwick Cafe hosted local favorites Pearl Django during Tacoma’s Jazz Walk, and hopes to eventually host other musical and community events as well.
“We definitely want to be part of the community and figure out ways to have events here, like live music, and be a part of other events that are happening down here,” he says.
Beyond its reputation as a coffee destination, the building currently houses Destiny City Tattoo and Linda’s antique shop on the Broadway side, and Steampunk Vapory Lounge and SMR Barbershop on Saint Helens. It also contains 20 apartments: 10 studios and 10 one bedrooms.
Dr. Henry Clay Bostwick (1828-1916) was not only the first doctor in Tacoma, but he also opened the first bank here in 1880. Not long after, he began to invest in real estate, and opened the hotel in 1889.
According to a plaque on the building’s Broadway side, on October, 18, 1893, Civil War veteran Rossell O’Brien suggested that members of the Loyal Legion of the USA stand and remove their hats during the national anthem. While it’s a difficult claim to substantiate, that aspect of the building’s history has been in the news in light of the controversy swirling around protests in the NFL.
In 1932, it was renovated and renamed the Brant Hotel. The building at one point housed a bank, Gunderson’s Jewelry store, Buchanan’s Shoes, a flower shop and many other businesses.
In February 1999, it was added to the Tacoma Register of Historical Places in recognition of the important role that it has played throughout the city’s history. Grounds for Coffee occupied the space from 1993 until 2000. And before coffee really became a fixture of life in the Pacific Northwest, Tacomans could meet up at Kress’ Malted Milk Shop, which occupied the building circa 1937.
Petry says the goal of any retail business should be to be an asset to the community, and that’s his goal for the cafe. “We just hired a new general manager, and part of her task is to network in the community and figure out how we can work together,” says Petry.
From its early days as a respite for weary travelers to its current incarnation as a gathering place for those who work downtown or patronize the theaters, the Bostwick will no doubt continue to be a unique centerpiece of Tacoma’s downtown.
The Bostwick Cafe is located at 764 Broadway in downtown Tacoma. For more information, visit the cafe’s website.