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The History of Ruston Way

point ruston
Waterfront view/photo source: Pointruston.com

Just over three months ago, we opened our Tacoma location and could not be happier with our decision to expand here. Point Ruston may be a fledgling development but we see a thriving future ahead. While we keep our eyes fixed on the here and now, we want to take a moment and recognize the roots of Ruston Way.

Ruston Way is a notorious boulevard that hugs the waterfront of Commencement Bay. The piece of shoreline on which it inhabits magnifies the rich beauties of the Puget Sound, heightened by the grandeur of Mount Rainier.

From the Tahoma Salt Marsh by the South end to Point Ruston on the North end, Ruston Way stretches its limbs. This three-mile-long breathtaking waterfront pathway has attracted all – those who take pleasure in jogging, walking, rollerblading, and bicycling. Today, many take advantage of Ruston Way’s contributory design. Yet Ruston Way has come a long way from its humble beginnings. What is now a panoramic social hub was once an industrious mining town.

The Evolution of Ruston Way

American Smelting and Refining Co. smokestack/photo courtesy: Richards Studio Collection
American Smelting and Refining Co. smokestack/photo courtesy: Richards Studio Collection

Ruston Way plays a significant role in Tacoma’s genetic makeup. In the early 1800s, while the American Industrial Revolution was underway, the Ruston Way area was developed as a mining town. The name Ruston Way had not yet been assigned to the land. Instead, it was given the title Front Street. Front Street was but a small reflection of today’s rich enterprises with an assortment of mills, warehouses and boatyards dispersed throughout the land.

In the year 1888, an entrepreneurial businessman by the name of Denis Ryan constructed a smelter on the North end of the Tacoma waterfront. He employed William Rust to take charge of what turned out to be the Tacoma Smelting & Refining Company. Two years later, Rust bought the business from Ryan and continued to to see to the smelter’s success. It was run so well that the town of Ruston was named in his recognition.

Rust eventually sold his company to the Guggenheim Brothers company named American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO). The smelter continued to run until 1989 when the Environmental Protection Agency demanded closure.

It was in 1926 that Ruston Way became the primary artery bridging Ruston and Tacoma. Soon thereafter, Tacoma Metro Parks obtained an acre of land along Ruston Way, with the notion for a public fishing area and boat launch to be built. Into the 60’s, the city purchased even more waterfront property dreaming that Ruston Way would one day become a “quality waterfront attraction.” The community’s aspirations did transpire as locals and travelers today reap the rich benefits of the city’s waterfront amenities. In fact, most of these luxuries have only been in existence within the past decade. Take Point Ruston, for example.

The Upbringing of Point Ruston

Ten years ago, Point Ruston LLC purchased 97-acres of the former Asarco Tacoma smelter property. Their first order of business was to construct a 36-lot residential neighborhood, opening the doors to potential community inhabitants. In 2007, the Master Development Plan was accepted by the Town Council and in the same year, the Point Ruston ferry was purchased. The boat is moored on the Tacoma Waterfront in front of Point Ruston just a ways down from the canal from the SS Cape Intrepid and the SS Cape Island. It sometimes goes out on the Sound and makes journeys up to Seattle as a moving showroom.

A few years later, in 2009, the first residents made their homes on Stack Hill, the first neighborhood developed. With families moving in and the community forming, it was necessary to make some updates to public transportation. From 2010 to 2012, Ruston Way underwent extensive road and utility improvements. Hotels and apartment complexes sprouted and the Waterwalk Esplanade opened to the public.

While the waterfront offered many delights to Tacoma dwellers, other forms of recreation would be needed to enrich Point Ruston as a home and destination. So in 2012, the Waterwalk Shops was developed as a lifestyle and retail space. Just last November, Point Ruston introduced its first 9-screen movie theater and has received many movie-goers. With restaurants, cafes, a gym, and a dental wellness center, the place is buzzing. But what’s next? Among other tenants Point Ruston welcomes, the Waterwalk aims to have a grocer built soon.

Stay tuned here on what is to come: http://www.pointruston.com/. And if you’re “downtown”, stop in for an appetizer or a drink – the view is breathtaking and afterward, you can take a stroll down the Waterwalk Esplanade just outside our doors.

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