Welcome to the Northwest Room's Tacoma & Pierce County Home and Building Research Guide
Here you will find additional resources to assist you with your home, building, and property research.
Researching a building, home, or property can be difficult for a number of reasons. Over time street names and house numbers change, structures are physically moved, areas once outside of city limits are incorporated, etc. The resources below are organized in a way to help you know what information they contain and how they can help aid you in your research. If you have any questions please give us a call at (253) 280-2814.
The best place to begin is the Tacoma Public Library's Northwest Room's Tacoma-Pierce County Buildings Index
Previous Owner/Occupant Resources
In the Northwest Room, you will find physical copies of city directories of Tacoma, Tacoma Suburban (which includes: Fife, Fircrest, Lakewood, University Place, etc.), Olympia, Puyallup, and Seattle, among other South Sound Locations. Similar to phonebooks, city directories list the occupants, their place of work, and other information. They are organized alphabetically by the last name from 1885-1927 and both alphabetically by last name and address from 1928-2021. Referencing these directories is a great place to start learning about previous occupants and owners of a property. They are also available online through Tacoma Public Library's Heritage Quest access page (link below).
Heritage Quest Database (library card required for access)
Access to scanned images of the U.S. and Tacoma City Directories, and U.S. Federal Censuses (1790-1940)
The Keystone of Tacoma (In library use only, does not circulate)
A Guide To Selected Homes And Prominent Buildings In The Stadium-Annie Wright Historic District, 1887-1906 by Eidsmoe, W. Burton. If you would like a librarian to look up the listing for a home or building in this book please contact us.
Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Information Portal
This interactive website allows you to find information about each of the 330,000 properties in Pierce County by searching address.
Image and Blueprint Resources
James R. Merritt Architectural Records
Includes project studies, project images, and drawings for architectural projects created by James R. Merritt and the various architectural firms he was associated with between
City of Tacoma Building and Land Use Division Records
Includes reports, appraisals, plans, and other files generated by the division. Many reports include detailed descriptions and photographs of buildings and land parcels.
The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) and the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) collections are among the largest and most heavily used in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress. Since 2000, documentation from the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) has been added to the holdings. The collections document achievements in architecture, engineering, and landscape design in the United States and its territories through a comprehensive range of building types, engineering technologies, and landscapes.
University of Washington Special Collections
The University of Washington Special Collections holds material on many Tacoma buildings and has an online Architectural Drawings Database. If you are curious about any of these drawings you will need to contact them by phone at (206) 543-1929 or by email.
Maps and Neighborhood Resources
Information on greater Tacoma neighborhoods, subdivisions, additions, and housing projects from the Tacoma Daily Ledger (1883-1937), The Tacoma News Tribune ( 1938-1941), and other sources. Organized by Brian G. Kamens.
Tacoma City Landmarks
There are over 160 properties individually listed on Tacoma's Register of Historic Places, ranging in age from the 1870s through 1940. Landmark buildings and properties are scattered throughout the city, and represent a wide variety of perspectives, architectural design, and local history. Visit this page for links to the Tacoma Register of Historic Places, Historic Properties Inventory Database, and the National Register Database.
The City of Tacoma's interactive GIS map
This interactive map gives you the ability to search by address and parcel number, locate surface water and wastewater routes, and overlay aerial photography images from 1931, 1940, 1950, 1973, and more.
Tacoma Historic Properties & Districts interactive GIS map
Explore Tacoma's individually registered City Landmarks in addition to Historic Districts and Conservation Districts with this interactive map.
Pierce County interactive GIS map
Pierce County's Public GIS map gives you the ability to search by address and parcel number, locate surface water and wastewater routes, and overlay aerial photography images from 1945, 1970, 1973, 1985, 1995, 1998, and more.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
Library of Congress digitized Tacoma Sanborn maps
Library of Congress Sanborn Map Guide
These maps were created by The Sanborn Map Company for insurance companies to survey structures for potential risk of fire by documenting: building material, proximity to other buildings and fire stations, gas lines, etc. Because of their level of detail, they are a valuable research tool since they provide an overhead detail of a town's layout in a particular year.
Unlike traditionally printed maps the Sanborn maps were frequently updated by pasting diagrams of new buildings onto the map page. Because of these frequent updates to these maps, it is important to reference the last year they were edited when using them. The Northwest Room has both physical copies and microfilm copies of early Sanborn maps. They are also accessible on the Library of Congress' website.
Compiled by Spencer Bowman, updated on 1/19/2023