Where can you go to mail a package, find great happy hour deals, get a tattoo, rent office space, and experience a live DJ performance inside an old courtroom? In Tacoma, you can do all those things and more in just one building.
Court House Square is a hub of Downtown Tacoma, bringing people together for working, shopping, dining, and community events. But before it was this, it was built as Tacoma’s first federal building in 1910. In the time since, it has served many important functions to the citizens of Tacoma, most notably as a federal courthouse and post office.
Listen to Court House Square Director Jessica Johnston share her business journey and vision for the
historic space on the latest episode of Making It in the South Sound.
In 1990, the federal courts moved from the building to Union Station. For nearly 35 years, the top three floors of the building were completely sealed and unused. Throughout this transitory period, the post office remained active and open. In fact, this post office location has been connecting the Tacoma community to the rest of the world through the mail for the past 113 years. This may be why, to this day, many residents refer to the building as “The Old Post Office.” But these days, there is so much more than a post office that one can find in the historic structure now known as Court House Square.
The building was purchased by its current owners in 2012 with the idea to bring it back to life and make it once again a hub for the community. Since 2019, Jessica Johnston has served as the director for Court House Square and is leading the effort to bring this historic building back to life. Johnston’s relationship with Court House Square began as a tenant renting space for her bookkeeping and marketing business. Her background includes a mixture of property development, architecture, interior design, and restaurant and event management. Like many in the area, she visited the building to mail a letter and was surprised to see all the space had to offer in addition to being a post office location. When her predecessor left, she put her hat in the ring for the job of director and has been managing the day-to-day operations of Court House Square ever since.
Today, the 78,000-square-foot space boasts a wide variety of around 60 tenants. These include two restaurants, a coffee shop, three event centers, a coworking space, and, of course, the post office. Additional businesses and services include tattoo studios, therapy offices, accounting practices, writers, and branding consultants. On top of all this, Court House Square is frequently booked for both private and public events like weddings, graduations, birthday parties, and community markets.
One such event, created and led by Jessica Johnston, is “Businesswomen of Tacoma Table Talk,” a community event featuring female business leaders in Tacoma. These events are free and open to the public to gather, celebrate, and discuss women in business in Tacoma. Since the first of these table talks kicked off featuring Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber President/CEO Andrea Reay last summer, they have been a frequent and popular event for Court House Square.
Looking toward the future, Johnston says she is most excited to host more in-person events and gatherings in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. She states that her favorite part of her job is seeing her tenants’ businesses thrive under the roof of Court House Square. All of this, she shares, is working towards the goal of making Court House Square once again a lively community space.
“It’s very interesting how it was built to be a hub for the community for different reasons, but now we’re revitalizing it, reusing it in a different way, and repurposing it so we all can still come in and enjoy it. I think it’s a lasting landmark that we’ll always have,” says Johnston.
This Member Feature story is part of a series by the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber to promote stronger connections and increased engagement between the Chamber, its members, and the local business community. Member stories are non-promotional opportunities to share members' business stories with the community. If you are a Chamber member interested in being featured for a story, please contact Digital Marketing Manager Audrey Widner at email@example.com
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