Massive saw restored to former glory on Tacoma waterfront. ‘It stands out quite a bit’

After lying in pieces in Point Defiance Park’s maintenance yard for nearly two decades, a massive head saw has been restored to its former glory and put on display.

Crews and cranes installed the 34-foot tall, 15-ton saw at Dickman Mill Park along Ruston Way in Tacoma on Thursday.

The head saw once helped power Washington’s economy during a time when Tacoma was known as the “Lumber Capital of the World,” according to Metro Parks.

“Tacoma was a big logging industry, and it was one of the longest-sitting head saws in the area,” Metro Parks project manager Kristi Evans told The News Tribune.

The saw was first installed in the 1920s at Dickman mill. At its peak operations in the 1920s and ’30s, the saw could cut boards as long as 65 feet and generate up to 150,000 feet of lumber per day.

The nine-acre Dickman mill, which closed in 1977, was the last operating sawmill on the Ruston Way waterfront and was later purchased by Metro Parks. The head saw was displayed at Marine Park following the mill’s closure but was removed in 2003 and relocated to Point Defiance Park’s maintenance yard, with the goal to put it on display in the future.

“We had it sit there in waiting, hoping, hoping, hoping we’d be able to do this project at some point,” Evans said.

That opportunity came in 2017, when Portland-based health care company Cambia gave a $2.9 million gift to restore the saw and display it at Dickman Mill.

The saw underwent a restoration and on Thursday made its drive from Spokane, where it was undergoing restoration, to Tacoma.

After so long, Evans said it was very exciting — but also nerve-wracking — to see the cranes put the saw into place.

“For us to have saved it, and that the people who actually had it historically land-marked saw something in it back then — I think it shows not all history has to go away,” Evans said.

The park isn’t open for visitors as more renovations are underway, including plaza and viewing spaces. The project also took into account sea level rise, lifting the docks three feet above where they used to sit. The park is anticipated to open to visitors at the end of June.

As for the newly-placed head saw, you can see it from Ruston Way.

“It stands out quite a bit,” Evans said.