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Summary for 801 NE 50th ST NE / Parcel ID 0889000005 / Inv # DPR090

Historic Name: University Playfield Shelter House Common Name:
Style: Modern Neighborhood: University
Built By: Year Built: 1951
This concrete block shelter house was constructed in 1951 to replace the original wood-frame comfort station completed in 1911. The previous year, the city had acquired the property for the playfield located four blocks to the west of the University Heights Elementary School. The Seattle School District had completed the two-story wood-frame building eight years earlier in 1902 to serve the burgeoning University Heights neighborhood. Within five years, the growing enrollment made it necessary to construct a large addition to the school, which was completed in 1908. At the time, the grounds of the school comprised only the northern two-thirds of the present site. The School District eventually acquired the large playground area at the southern end in two purchases in 1912 and 1919. The lack of adequate play area at the school may have influenced the Parks Department’s siting of the new playground. The decision to establish a playground in this location also followed a policy originally developed by Olmsted Brothers landscape firm. In 1903, the city had hired the Olmsted Brothers to prepare plans for a comprehensive park and boulevard system, including suggestions for improvements to existing parks. This was supplemented by an additional report in 1908 to include the large areas annexed by the city the previous year. In their recommendations, the Olmsted Brothers advocated for the creation of playgrounds located near schools so teachers could direct the children’s activities. The idea of public recreation facilities in parks had only become popular late in the 19th and early in the 20th centuries, and the Olmsted Brothers were at the forefront of the movement. Implementation of the plan began almost immediately, however not always as envisioned by the Olmsted Brothers. After acquiring the property, the Parks Department developed the site in 1911 as a playground for neighborhood children. The playground was the first in the city to be enclosed with a wire fence and gates with locks and featured a wood frame comfort station as well as the full range of play equipment, including swings, slides and climbers. Beginning in the later 1920s, the Parks Department began to construct brick shelter houses at many of the city’s playgrounds and playfields. These buildings housed large rooms for organized recreation activities in addition to public restroom facilities. Office space for recreation instructors was also provided. The Parks Department continued to construct new shelter houses into the later 1930s due to the availability of labor and funding from state and federal relief programs, such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA). However, shortages of labor and materials brought on by the Second World War halted construction of any new park buildings for most of the 1940s. In 1951, the city hired former Park Board architect Alfors V. Peterson and his partner John W. Adams to design three new shelter houses at Beacon Hill, East Queen Anne and University Playfields. Peterson and Adams later designed the 1964 Fire Station No. 8 on Queen Anne Hill. The shelter houses at Beacon Hill and East Queen Anne are nearly identical to each other, however the structure at University Playfield is stylistically similar. The modern design of these 1950s shelter houses is in contrast to the earlier buildings, which generally exhibited Craftsman or period revival stylistic features. This building is significant for its design and for its association with the development of University Playfield.
Completed in 1951, this concrete block shelter house occupies a site between the children’s play area and the tennis courts on the western side of University Playfield. The long narrow concrete blocks on the painted white exterior resemble large bricks. The one-story building has a T-plan and a side gable roof with deep overhangs on the east and west elevations and slight overhangs on the north and south side elevations. Vertical boards cover the wide gable ends of the low-pitch roof. The Modern building faces east towards the playfield and contains the women’s restroom at the northern end and the men’s restroom at the southern end. The entrances to the restrooms are situated on the inner walls of the recessed northeast and southeast corners. The original wood doors with the original hardware remain extant below louvered transoms. On the north and south elevations, bands of windows with continuous concrete sills line the uppers walls below the roofline and wrap onto the rear walls of the recessed corners. Metal grates cover the metal sash pivot windows of reinforced Plexiglas. The principal east elevation presents a blank wall, while the west elevations has a single center entrance door below a louvered opening. Although this building has been referred to as a shelter house, it seems much smaller than most of those facilities within the park system. This modest building retains excellent physical integrity.

Detail for 801 NE 50th ST NE / Parcel ID 0889000005 / Inv # DPR090

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Concrete - Block, Vertical - Boards Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Gable Roof Material(s): Metal - Corrugated
Building Type: Other Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Concrete - Block No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Community Planning/Development, Entertainment/Recreation
Changes to Windows: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Plan: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
Sherwood, Don. Seattle Parks Histories, c. 1970-1981, unpublished.
Erigero, Patricia. Seattle Public Schools Historic Building Survey Summary Report. Seattle, WA: Historic Seattle PDA, 1990.
"$50,000 Orchid Gift Accepted By Park Dept." Seattle Times, May 24, 1951, p. 21.

Photo collection for 801 NE 50th ST NE / Parcel ID 0889000005 / Inv # DPR090

Photo taken Jul 25, 2000
App v2.0.1.0