UW Tacoma's Russell T. Joy Building: A Historical Review
Russell T. Joy came to Tacoma in 1888 and worked as a clerk for the Tacoma Land Company. Like many who pursued the American dream, he had a vision and worked hard to make a name for himself. In four years, became secretary and manager of the Excelsior Park Land Company. He established himself as a builder and real estate developer. In 1892, he commissioned construction of three structures within the Warehouse District, including his namesake, the Russell T. Joy Building. Construction cost $30,000.
After the fire, the first new tenant was Tacoma Manufacturer’s Permanent Exposition, which moved into several storefronts in 1905. The building has housed a wholesale grocery, a tea and coffee wholesaler and a glove maker. Early in the 20th century, when automobiles became all the rage, a number of automobile-related businesses were located in the Joy Building, including a Firestone Tire store and Studebaker and Oldsmobile distributorships.
Another blaze broke out in 1928, when a pile of discarded fish nets and burlap caught fire in the rented space of Frank Sussman and Co., a dealer of hardware and salvaged goods. But this time the fire did not spread, and the damage was minimal.
In 1933, when outdoor advertising was popular, the art deco-style Alt Heidelberg sign was painted onto the north face of the building. Complete with the brewery’s logo depicting the student prince, the sign is still visible on the north side of the building and is believed to be one of the last Alt Heidelberg signs in existence.(See photo)
Capital Projects Office