Salishan Housing Project in Tacoma opens for war workers on May 1, 1943.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 6/19/2003
  • Essay 5474
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On May 1, 1943, the Salishan Housing Project in Tacoma accepts 10 families, the first to occupy the 2,000-unit development. The Tacoma Housing Authority is building the development with federal monies to provide housing for the tens of thousands of people who are moving to Tacoma to work in war industries. After the war, the project will be converted to serve low-income families.

When the U.S. entered World War II in December 1941, Tacoma became a critical area for military activities. Fort Lewis, McChord Field, the Mount Rainier Ordnance Depot, and Commencement Bay shipyards attracted tens of thousands of new residents. After the Great Depression (1929-1939), decent housing was in short supply. The vacancy rate for rental units dropped to zero and rents rose 14 percent. The Tacoma Housing Authority laid plans to accommodate the new residents.

Salishan was first planned for a hill above the Hylebos Waterway, but the project shifted to approximately 400 acres owned by Pierce County and some private landowners on Portland Avenue at E 38th Street. The entire project was originally planned as temporary, to be demolished when the war ended. But planners foresaw the continuing need for housing and 1,600 of the homes were build as permanent. Another 400 temporary homes were built of canvas over wooden frames.

The project was formally dedicated on February 20, 1944, after all the units were completed.


Amy Loelle Adams, "Historic American Building Survey: Salishan Housing District, Tacoma," Tacoma Housing Authority, (HABS No. WA-219).

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