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Summary for 400 DEXTER AVE / Parcel ID 1988201380 / Inv # 0

Historic Name: E. J. Towle Clock Common Name: West Earth Company Clock
Style: Beaux Arts - Neoclassical Neighborhood: South Lake Union
Built By: Year Built: 1915
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).

This historic property has been formally designated a City of Seattle landmark per the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance (SMC 25.12). Refer to the webpage listed below for a list of City of Seattle landmarks and additional information regarding this specific property:

(Part of City of Seattle Thematic Nomination for Seattle Street Clocks) According to a City of Seattle thematic nomination dating from 1980, this clock is one of ten or eleven extant cast-iron street clocks in Seattle. Many of these clocks have common ornamental features and designs. There are also a few examples of these street clocks in the Seattle vicinity, in Bremerton, for instance. The clocks casings were first built by a jewelry business founded in 1897 by Marcus and Joseph Mayer. Somewhat later, the clocks were designed and built by the Mayer Company of Seattle and then by successor companies. In 1897, in Seattle, the Marcus and Joseph Mayer jewelry business manufactured and supplied street clocks using the clockworks, (with weight driven drive trains), produced by the Boston firm, E. Howard Company. Considered the first important manufacturers of cast-iron street clocks in the United States, E. Howard Company had been founded in 1842. Under the name Joseph Mayer Bros, the manufacturing division of the Mayer business later produced their own clockworks, as well as the ornamental cast-iron casings. In 1920, Joseph Mayer and Brothers split into a wholesaling company, run by Al and Marcus Mayer, known as Mayer Bros. and a manufacturing company, operated by Joseph Mayer. According to city directories, while Joseph Mayer’s manufacturing firm was listed at 81 Marion St, for several years, by 1936, Joseph Mayer appears to have moved his company, now called the Northern Smelting and Refining Company to “406 Dexter Avenue North.” Although Joseph Mayer himself committed suicide in the building in June of 1937, his firm, renamed the Northern Stamping and Manufacturing Company, endured. In 1945, it was taken over by the E. J. Towle Company. Both the Northern Stamping and Manufacturing Company and the E. J. Towle Company were listed as tenants of the building until at least 1980 and by 1985, West Earth Inc., presumably a new name for the companies, occupied the space. In the nomination, the clock is described as the “E. J. Towle Co. Clock,” and currently known as the “West Earth Company Clock.” It is dated “c. 1900-1930,” although the nomination suggests that most of the street clocks probably date from before the 1920 split of Joseph Mayer Bros. This particular clock, if it predates the 1930s, nevertheless, does not appear in a 1936 photograph of the building behind it. It is very likely that it was installed in the 1930s. On the other hand, other sources suggest that the clock actually dates from 1915. The general exterior appearance of the E. J. Towle/ West Earth has not changed significantly, although the glazing in the clock pedestal, which allowed a view of the clockworks, has been filled in and painted. As of 1980, according to the nomination, the original weight-driven mechanism had been replaced by an electrical system, a fairly common practice, used to insure accuracy, but part of the original clockworks also still remained within the pedestal. In general, street clocks were an important feature of Seattle streetscapes by the 1920s, with many “Mayer”clocks, installed by jewelry stores near the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Pike Street. By 1950, twenty four street clocks were supposed to be still standing, although their popularity was definitely on the wane. In 1953, the Seattle Board of Public Works proposed an ordinance banning street clocks altogether, but, thanks to street clock enthusiasts, a modified ordinance allowed clocks to remain, as long as they indicated accurate time. As a result of the ordinance, many clocks were nevertheless removed or their weight-driven drive trains were changed to electrical drive trains.
The cast-iron street clock, located near the northeast corner of Dexter Avenue North and Harrison Street, is divided into three basic parts: a truncated globular shape, which has four, flat, circular clock faces, one for each cardinal direction; and a short, supporting Corinthian column, which sits on a pedestal. The pedestal, which has a base, once had glazing, which allowed a view of the clock’s weight-driven mechanism. The top of the four faces of the pedestal also has extruded circular rings set at the center of a slightly recessed rectangular shape, all in metal. The shaft of the fluted Corinthian column also has a lower portion, emphasized by an extruded molding, with, below it, additional ornamental detail.

Detail for 400 DEXTER AVE / Parcel ID 1988201380 / Inv # 0

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Object District Status: LR, INV
Cladding(s): Metal Foundation(s):
Roof Type(s): Roof Material(s):
Building Type: Plan: Square
Structural System: Steel No. of Stories:
Unit Theme(s): Commerce, Manufacturing/Industry, Science & Engineering
Changes to Original Cladding: Slight
Changes to Plan: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
King County Tax Assessor Records, ca. 1932-1972.
Peckham, Mark L, Staff, Office of Urban Conservation. “Seattle Street Clock Thematic Nomination.” 15 October 1980.
“Joseph Mayer and Brothers,” “The Online Encyclopedia of American Silver Marks,” 1998-2001, database online available at:
“Joseph Mayer Kills Self.” 9 June 1937. Newspaper Clipping. Pamphlet Files, Manuscripts and Special Collections, University of Washington.
Tobin, Caroline and Hart Crowser, “Historical and Cultural Resources,”Seattle Commons, South Lake Union Plan, Final Environmental Impact Statement, Appendix 15, Seattle: City of Seattle Office of Management and Planning, 1995.

Photo collection for 400 DEXTER AVE / Parcel ID 1988201380 / Inv # 0

Photo taken Jun 17, 2005
App v2.0.1.0