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Summary for 2700 24th AVE / Parcel ID 4116100015 / Inv # DPR066

Historic Name: Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) Common Name:
Style: Modern Neighborhood: Montlake
Built By: Year Built: 1952
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the National Register of Historic Places.
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.
This sprawling building complex was constructed over a twenty-year period between 1952 and 1971 to house the collections of the Seattle Historical Society. The Seattle Historical Society was formed in 1911 on the 60th anniversary of the Alki landing of the Denny Party and officially founded three years later. Eventually, it became known as the Seattle-King County Historical Society. Avid collectors themselves, Morgan J. and Emily Carkeek were founders and early supporters of the historical society. Their daughter, Guendolen Carkeek Plestcheeff also took a keen interest in the historical society. Upon the death of Emily Carkeek in 1926, her daughter worked tirelessly to fulfill her mother’s dream of establishing a permanent home for the society’s collections. In the late 1920s, plans to locate the museum in the newly acquired Carkeek Park fell through due to insufficient funds. Twenty years later, as Seattle’s centennial approached, Mrs. Plestcheeff began an intensive fundraising campaign to raise money for the new museum building. After looking at sites in Volunteer and Roanoke Parks, the Seattle Historical Society and the Parks Department agreed to a location along the southern edge of East Montlake Park adjacent to an old canal right-of-way. Before the construction of the present Lake Washington Ship Canal in the 20th century, there had been an earlier portage canal constructed in the 1880s approximately along the route of today’s State Route 520 (SR520). When the water level of Lake Washington dropped nine feet in 1916 due to the construction of the Ship Canal located further to the north, the old canal dried up. The museum’s original history and industry building opened on February 15, 1952. Paul Thiry designed the building, which was partially located within the canal right-of-way and fronted onto Lake Washington Boulevard. Over the next twenty years, substantial alterations and additions were made to the original structure, resulting in the present configuration. A maritime wing was added to the east elevation in 1958, a natural history wing was added to the north elevation in 1961, and the large McEachern Auditorium was added to the northeast corner in 1971. The construction of SR520 in the mid-1960s forced the relocation of the building’s entrance from the south elevation to the north and substantial alterations to the exterior appearance to buffer the freeway’s noise. Born in Alaska in 1904, Paul Thiry received his education in architecture at the University of Washington, graduating in 1928. After a brief stint working with the architect Butler Sturtevant, Thiry began his own practice in 1929 and usually worked alone or with only one or two people at the most. Much of Thiry’s early work consisted of apartment buildings and small private residences using conventional Norman and Colonial Revival forms. By 1934, the Depression had caused a major reduction in his workload. Thiry saw this as an opportunity to travel, taking a yearlong trip around the world. Upon his return, he introduced the Pacific Northwest to the architecture of the European Modernists. Among the many accomplishments of his long career, Thiry would later help to develop the regional variant, Northwest Contemporary Modernism, a style that combined elements from the International Style, traditional architecture of Japan, and local vernacular traditions and materials. With this building, Thiry brought his Modernist approach to an institutional program. Unfortunately, the radical reconfiguration forced by the construction of SR520 severely compromised Thiry’s initial design. Despite these alterations, this building is significant for its design and for its association with the development of the Seattle-King County Historical Society and the Museum of History and Industry, now the largest private heritage organization in the State of Washington.
Originally completed in 1952, this one and two-story reinforced concrete building occupies a site within McCurdy Park immediately north of State Route 520 (SR520). Small parking lots adjoin the west and north elevations, while a larger parking area abuts the east elevation. A drive on the northern side of the building connects the various parking areas. Twenty years of additions and alterations tripled the size of the original flat roof structure and significantly changed its appearance. This two-story building faced south and featured a nearly square plan with a wing extending from the southern end of the west elevation, which created an L-shaped footprint. Lined with full height glass windows on the south and west elevations, this wing housed a ramp, which provided access between the upper and lower floors of the main building. The main entrance was located west of center on the south elevation at the end of a covered walkway. This walkway bridged a gap between the building and the circular entrance drive off of Lake Washington Boulevard. At the southern end of the walkway, the flat roof cantilevered over pillars embellished with Native American imagery in low relief. The museum’s double door entrances were set within a window wall at the northern end. The stucco exterior walls of the building contained few additional window and door openings. These included a series of large windows at the lower story level of the eastern end of the south elevation. Subsequent addition have covered most of the east and north elevations and created a sprawling building with an irregular plan. In 1958, a two-story rectangular plan maritime wing was added to the northern end of the east elevation. This wing featured a similar design as well as similar materials and massing, complementing the earlier building. Three years later, a large natural history wing was constructed on the north elevation of the original building. As a result of the construction of SR520, substantial alterations occurred between the addition of this wing in 1961 and the completion of the McEachern Auditorium at the northeast corner of the building in 1971. Foremost among these were the relocation of the entrance from the south elevation to the north elevation and the enclosure of window openings so as to buffer freeway noise. This included covering the full height windows lining the ramp within the west wing of the original building. The circular entrance drive was removed, however the covered walkway remains extant but generally unused. Currently, the main entrance is situated at the upper floor level of the block at the western end of the north elevation. A raised concrete deck provides access to entrance doors within a recessed opening at the eastern end of this block. A flat roof canopy covers the recessed opening, which contains a large window above a pair of double door entrances. A sign for the museum is situated in the concrete panel above the canopy. The western end of this block has a similar recessed opening filled with a window wall below solid panels in the upper portion. The auditorium block at the eastern end of the north elevation presents a mostly blank wall. The far western end of the block has a large picture window above a recessed entrance at the ground floor level. The far eastern end has a large terra cotta remnant with an Indian-head "gargoyle" most likely taken from the historic White-Henry-Stuart Building before its demolition in the 1970s. The west elevation of the building presents a completely blank wall, which displays evidence of the window openings that have been filled. On the south elevation of the original building, only two of the windows at the lower story level remain intact. The others have been filled with panels. The east elevation of the original building has a balcony at the upper floor level above additional filled window openings and a recessed entrance at the ground floor level. Double glass doors open onto the balcony covered by a shallow flat roof and enclosed with a railing. The south elevation of the block at the southeast corner of the building has a full height window wall at the western end and a row of large windows lining the rest of the ground floor level. The east elevation of this block has large overhead doors at the southern end of the second story and the northern end of the first story. The recessed area between this block and the auditorium block at the northern end of the east elevation also contains a large overhead door at the ground floor level below a large louvered vent within the second story. The east elevation of the auditorium block has four large picture windows lining the upper floor level above the lower floor recessed behind concrete piers. A double door entrance at the southern end and a single door entrance north of center are the only other openings on this elevation. Although the design intent of the original building is still apparent, most of the physical integrity has been lost due to the later additions and alterations, which resulted in a building with a mostly utilitarian appearance.

Detail for 2700 24th AVE / Parcel ID 4116100015 / Inv # DPR066

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Stucco Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Recreation and Culture - Museum Plan: Irregular
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: two
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Arts, Community Planning/Development, Education, Entertainment/Recreation
Changes to Windows: Extensive
Changes to Plan: Extensive
Changes to Original Cladding: Extensive
Major Bibliographic References
City of Seattle DCLU Microfilm Records.
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, ed. Shaping Seattle Architecture, A Historical Guide to the Architects. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994.
Sherwood, Don. Seattle Parks Histories, c. 1970-1981, unpublished.

Photo collection for 2700 24th AVE / Parcel ID 4116100015 / Inv # DPR066

Photo taken Nov 06, 2000
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