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Summary for 1201 Alaskan WAY / Parcel ID 7666202485 / Inv #

Historic Name: Pier 5 Common Name: Pier 56
Style: Commercial, Other Neighborhood: Downtown Urban Center
Built By: Year Built: 1900
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.
In the opinion of the survey, this property is located in a potential historic districe (National and/or local).
Renamed Pier 56 during World War II, Pier 5 and its waterfront transit shed, were constructed in 1900. The pier was one of three adjacent wharves built between Madison and University Streets by the Northern Pacific Railroad in this period. It was sited and constructed according to the uniform northeast-southwest angle, prescribed by City Engineer Reginald Thomson and Assistant City Engineer George Cotterill in the 1897 tidelands replat. Previously the piers had generally been constructed perpendicular to the waterfront. Thomson saw this as an impending transportation problem. Since the waterfront itself changes directions at both Yesler Way and Union Street, if numerous piers of great length were built, they could potentially bump into each other. On Elliott Bay itself, with the old arrangement, ships were more likely to collide. As in the case Pier 4/ 55, a Northern Pacific Railroad spur ran along the south side of the pier. The new angle of the wharves also meant that a train, loading and unloading at the pier, (and the related track), was no longer forced to turn at a sharp right angle. Pier 5 is somewhat famous, because it is where the steamer Spokane, carrying President Theodore Roosevelt, landed in Seattle, with great fanfare, on May 23, 1903. Early on the pier was known, along with Pier 4, as one of the two Arlington Docks. The Arlington Dock Company operated as an agent for steamships carrying passengers from several West Coast cities to Alaska, Asia and Europe. The pier is best known, however, as the base of operations for Frank Waterhouse and Company, which began to thrive during the Klondike Gold Rush. According to Clarence Bagley, during the 1900s, Frank Waterhouse and Company was already one of the major Seattle steamship lines. Frank Waterhouse was considered one of the waterfront’s most successful and energetic entrepreneurs. The firm not only provided transportation to the Yukon and Alaska, including a Bering Sea service, but also delivered U.S. Army transports to Manila, during the Spanish American War of 1898-1899. Frank Waterhouse’s firm, which also provided service to Hawaii, the Mediterranean and Russia, endured through the end of World War I. In 1920, it went bankrupt. Although the NP Railroad owned the pier until the 1950s, the pier’s next main resident was the Hayden Dock Company. By the mid-1930s, the building housed the Shepard Line Intercoastal Service, the Northland Transportation Company, as well as the Arlington Dock Company. During the Seattle World’s Fair, the waterfront increasingly catered to tourists, adding curio shops, restaurants, fish houses and the like. Pier 56 ceased to be a waterfront transportation hub, but became the home of Trident Imports. This retail import store, which sold everything from rattan furniture from Southeast Asia to imported chocolate wafers from Belgium, was located off the original central opening along Alaskan Way. The store remained on Pier 56 for many years. Located on the western end of the pier, was Ted Griffin’s Seattle Marine Aquarium, famous for its display of Namu, the killer whale. The whale, kept in a holding pen, made out of oil drums and steel lines, died in 1966. In 2000, Mithun, the architecture, landscape and urban design firm, completed the renovation of Pier 56. The firm is housed in the pier shed’s impressive second floor space. Along with Piers 54 to 59, Pier 56 retains the most important elements of its original appearance and a strong sense of its original architectural character and workmanship. All represent the last and best examples of Seattle’s waterfront transit sheds. Pier 56, along with Pier 55, is particularly significant as an early transportation hub, associated with the early economic development of Seattle.
The former Pier 5, renamed Pier 56 during World War II, is sited on the Seattle waterfront, near the foot of Seneca Street. The pier itself is a parallelogram in plan, approximately 139 feet by 414 feet. It is supported by timber pilings, set approximately 3’ feet on center in the north-south direction and approximately 10 feet on center in the east-west direction. Bridged with 12 x 16 timbers, the pilings are topped by 4 x 12 wood decking. The pier shed is also a parallelogram approximately 100 feet in width by 304 feet in length. On its east and west elevations, the two-story pier shed presents a gable end, which includes a monitor roof at the second level. On the longer, north and south elevations, the monitor roof is expressed as a series of clerestory window openings, which allow light into the interior space. On the exterior, the outer bays below the clerestory windows are simple shed roofs with a shallow slope. Exterior wood frame walls are wood clad. On the interior, a north-south section reveals that the heavy timber structure divides the space into three bays. At the second level, a series of repeated simple trusses, built in heavy timber, span the central bay. Based on a photo from 1903, the ground level of the east elevation originally had a wide central opening, equipped with sliding wooden doors. Windows appeared to be single or set in pairs and had transom lights. To the south of the central opening was a single window opening, followed by paired windows, as well as a single window at the end of the elevation. To the north of the central opening, were two pairs of window openings. The second level included two single windows at the center of the façade and three well spaced, double-hung windows on the south side of the façade. The elevation now has three large openings toward the south side of the elevation, with a long row of windows with transoms toward the north side of the elevation. This row of windows appears to reflect the original windows. At the second level, the two windows have been replaced with a larger window, with four sections, similar in size to the original window openings. A 1934 photo, however, shows a modified design, especially for the ground level: by this time, double-hung windows flanked the large opening and the wood sliding doors. There have been many changes to the east elevation over time. Subsequent ground level storefront changes appear to mainly date from before the recent 2000 remodel, although the second floor window dates from the recent remodel.

Detail for 1201 Alaskan WAY / Parcel ID 7666202485 / Inv #

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Structure District Status: INV
Cladding(s): Wood, Wood - Clapboard Foundation(s): Other
Roof Type(s): Flat, Gable Roof Material(s): Asphalt/Composition
Building Type: Transportation - Water- Related Plan: Irregular
Structural System: Timber Frame No. of Stories: two
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Commerce, Community Planning/Development, Manufacturing/Industry, Military, Social Movements & Organizations, Transportation
Changes to Plan: Slight
Changes to Windows: Moderate
Changes to Original Cladding: Moderate
Storefront: Moderate
Major Bibliographic References
City of Seattle DCLU Microfilm Records.
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Dorpat, Paul. Seattle Waterfront: An Illustrated History. Seattle, June 2005.
Sheridan, Mimi. “SR 99: Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement Project Historic Resources Inventory.” Draft, ca. 2004.
Dorpat, Paul. “Seattle Central Waterfront Tour, Part 5: From Railroads to Restaurants, Pier 54, 55, and 56.” essay 2475, essay 2475,

Photo collection for 1201 Alaskan WAY / Parcel ID 7666202485 / Inv #

Photo taken Oct 19, 2006

Photo taken Dec 14, 2006
App v2.0.1.0