Thursday, August 5, 2010

History of Titlow

If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday. ~Pearl Buck

My first experience with Titlow Park was forgettable. I pulled into the parking lot to finish a phone call, looked around briefly and dismissed it as a run of the mill park. But this is one of those places that find its beauty in history, in the path it took to today.

The land was first used as a campsite by the Puyallup and Nisqually tribes in the 1800s. In 1903, an attorney named Aaron R. Titlow bought 30 acres of the Wilton Land Claim and set out
to build the 3-story Hotel Hesperidos. The hotel was styled after a Swiss Chalet and featured 30 rooms, a billiard room and barber shop. It was wildly successful but shut down shortly after Titlow died in 1923, reopening once more five years later as Titlow Beach Lodge. It still stands today on the edge of the park though its dark wooden frames house a summer camp for children. When Metro Parks of Tacoma bought the land in 1926, they removed the top two tiers of the lodge.

The old lagoon where hotel guests once swam is mostly dried up now. A stream of water flows from a large pipe and winds its way into a small pool of water that is only alluring to the brown geese and ducks who roam the area. The bottom of the lagoon is thick muck with a few boulders strewn around.

A gravely path - or a wellness path, as one jogger referred to it - circles the park. It runs around the water, past the playground and through a shaded patch of forest before ending up in front of a public swimming pool constructed in the 1950s.

Unremarkable, save for its history.

The park is partnered with Titlow Beach, which is a short jaunt down the road and across the railroad track. There's a covered dock with benches for those who want to gaze out on the Sound or gawk at the nearby Narrows Bridge. It is here that octopus wrestling championships were held in 1963.


It was a world event with 111 divers competing. They were tasked with diving down and grappling with giant octopuses to pull them out of a cave and out of the
water. Sounds easy enough but these are the largest octopuses in the world - weighing in at 90 pounds - and have suctions cups on their arms.

Nowadays, Titlow a slice of rocky beach that stretches as far as the eye can see. Several wooden logs poke up from the shallow water and the shell of what looks like it was once a building sits 50 feet out in the water.

The intrigue is in its past.

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