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Summary for 1601 3rd AVE / Parcel ID 1977200980 / Inv #

Historic Name: Circular Ramp Garage Common Name: Bon Marche Parking Garage
Style: Modern - Miesian Neighborhood: Commercial Core
Built By: Year Built: 1959
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 property is directly associated with a crucial period (1950-1966) during which downtown commercial redevelopment began to occur after nearly thirty years of stagnation as several major modern municipal government and commercial buildings were constructed. However, compared with massive post-war suburban real estate development, relatively few new buildings were constructed in downtown Seattle until the late 1950s. Major modern construction included the Public Safety Building (1951, destroyed), Seattle Public Library (1956-59, destroyed) and the Municipal Building (1959-61, destroyed), as well as the expansions of the two major downtown department stores. Scattered major commercial construction included several notable extant buildings that reflect modern zoning changes and architectural trends including: the Norton Building (1958); the Logan Building (1959); the Washington Building (1960) and the IBM Building (1961-64). The Seattle World’s Fair - Century 21 Exposition was held in 1962 and triggered the remodeling of older buildings and the construction of the monorail, and tourist-oriented restaurants and motels. Throughout this era older buildings were demolished to make way for surface parking lots and garages and for interstate freeway construction. During the initial period of post-war downtown commercial redevelopment issues related to traffic and parking were paramount. This highly distinctive 10-story garage building, initially called the Circular Ramp Garage and commonly known as the Bon Marche Parking Garage was built in 1959 for the Sierra Corporation at a cost of $3 million. Several years of negotiations went into its development as the Sierra Corporation had to obtain the half-block construction site, immediately west of the bon Marche department Store, which was then owned by three separate parties and leased to more than 13 individual business owners. Upon obtaining the property, the existing wood-frame buildings were demolished and the innovative self-parking garage building was constructed by the Utah Construction Company. At the time, the Utah Construction Company, a subsidiary of the Sierra Corporation, was one of the largest construction firms in the nation. During this development era, suburban shopping centers with large and convenient surface parking areas were being constructed in suburban outlying areas of Seattle, specifically the Northgate Mall and the original Bellevue Square. In 1953, after constructing its new suburban Northgate store, the Bon Marche added three stories to its elegant 1929 department store building. The construction of the adjacent Circular Ramp Garage with its skybridge connection to the store added 1,267 parking stalls to downtown Seattle and doubled the available parking stalls in the retail core. The construction of a modern, self-parking garage of this size had a considerable impact and functioned to help downtown retail businesses compete with the suburban shopping centers. The post-war era was a period when the development of off-street, pay parking was becoming one of the nation’s fastest growing enterprises. During the 1920s and 1930s the development of commercial parking lots and parking garages had become a lucrative due to the popularity and affordability of private automobiles. This pattern increased exponentially during the post war era of highway construction, suburban housing development and greater automobile ownership. The self-park system or concept, said to be an innovation at this time, was born out of the rising costs of operation of traditional attendant type parking garages. George A. Gore, president of the Circular Ramp Garage Company claimed to have developed the circular, cork screw-like, garage ramp system with the assistance of architect George Applegarth. Large, self-parking garages using an easy to negotiate ramping system were economically attractive because they reduced the number of employees necessary for operation and reduced the overall operational costs. Thus, the parking rates of self-parking garages were far below those of garages using attendant parking. The Circular Ramp Garage was designed by George A. Applegarth (1875-1972), a well-known and highly-regarded San Francisco architect. Applegarth studied architectural drawing at the University of California, Berkeley under architect Bernard Maybeck, and then went on to train as architect at the Ècole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. After receiving his diploma in 1906, he returned to San Francisco and in 1907 formed a successful partnership with Kenneth MacDonald, also a graduate of the Ècole des Beaux-Arts. The two collaborated on the design of over thirty commercial buildings and many residences, especially in and around Presidio Terrace. A significant portion of their early work was part of the re-building effort after the earthquake and fire that destroyed much of San Francisco in 1906. Applegarth’s early success and impact on San Francisco was his contribution to the development of the city into a metropolis. His Beaux-Arts style and Parisian training were well received in a city that embraced the Parisian aesthetic and at one time was even nicknamed the “Paris of America.” After his partnership with MacDonald dissolved in 1912, Applegarth went on to work independently design particularly noteworthy homes, apartments, commercial and public buildings in San Francisco. His most prominent contributions to San Francisco’s architectural heritage were both commissioned by Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, wife of Adolph Spreckels, the son of the wealthy sugar refiner and newspaper owner, Claus Spreckels. The first was the limestone-clad Spreckels Mansion, San Francisco’s largest mansion. This was then followed in 1916 by the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, commissioned by Mrs. Spreckels and donated to the city as a European Arts Museum. The California Palace was modeled after the Palais de la Legion d’Honneur in Paris. The building is monumental in design and construction, including concrete bas-relief and statuary from plaster casts taken from originals in France. Among his other notable works, he designed the town of Clyde, California, a company town built for the employees of the Pacific Coast Shipbuilding Company. Like his mentor Bernard Maybeck, Applegarth appears to have had a particular interest and expertise related to the use of concrete in architectural design. As one of his last major projects in San Francisco, Applegarth began researching double-spiral ramp, multi-story, self-parking garage structures. After four years of research on the design, construction, operation, and financial return on parking systems, he designed the curvilinear Downtown Center Garage (Mason at O’Farrell) in 1953. Many of the findings of his research were incorporated into the design, including the flow of up and down traffic that moved in the same direction but on divided ramps with opposing slopes, and wide, easy-access parking stalls, accessible without moving any cars. A pioneering structure for San Francisco, the Downtown Center Garage was revolutionary in design, use, and construction, utilizing innovative technology such as pre-stressed concrete pylons to resist earthquake forces. The ease of entrance and exit with no waiting gave the opportunity for large and rapid parking place turnover and the success of the San Francisco garage sparked interest throughout the country, including Seattle. The design of the Circular Ramp Garage was largely modeled after the Applegrath’s design for the Downtown Center Garage in San Francisco. Every aspect in the design of the building was considered in order to provide the utmost in convenience to the users. The speed and ease of self-parking was heavily emphasized in the promotion of the garage. Cars would enter the garage, receive a ticket, and proceed up a one-way circular ramp to wide diagonal stalls. High-speed elevators then brought users down to the lobby on the ground floor. A skybridge was installed from the garage across Third Avenue, directly connecting the garage to the Bon Marche. Upon completion, the Seattle garage was the second, after San Francisco, of its kind in operation in the country. Applegarth is believed to have also designed circular ramp garages constructed in Oakland, Los Angeles and Chicago. Over the years the storefront spaces have been altered and adapted to support a variety of uses. Originally the ground floor elevator lobby included a lunch counter and some retail spaces. The large retail space at the southernmost end was vacant for a period until it was occupied in 1962 by a branch bank. While the storefronts and ground floor layouts have been partially altered over the years, the innovative concrete structure, the parking floor levels and the majority of the garage exterior remain unchanged. The Circular Ramp Garage building is a well- preserved example of a highly unique mid-century property type –a multi-story self-parking garage. It is a highly notable example of innovative concrete design and one of only seven extant downtown buildings dating from this era. It was designed by a highly-regarded San Francisco architect George A. Applegarth. [Note: As of 2/05/07 the building appears to be undergoing an extensive remodeling project - the extent to which this work may alter the building is not known. If the exterior appearance is significantly altered it may no longer meet local or NR criteria.]
Note: As of 2/05/07 the building appears to be undergoing a remodeling project - the extent to which it may be altered is not known. Prominently located along the entire blockfront on the west side of Third Avenue between Pine and Stewart Streets, this ten-story parking garage includes commercial space at the base. The site is trapezoidal in shape due to its adjacency to Stewart Street, which runs at an angle to the principal layout and street grid pattern of the commercial core to the south. However, while the footprint of the building runs parallel to the adjacent streets and alley to the east, south and west – the northeastern corner radiuses to align with the Stewart Street frontage. It measures approximately 111’ x 273’ [with the exception of the curvilinear NE corner] and exhibits a particularly unique building form and exterior appearance and is a noteworthy example of Miesian-influenced Modern architectural trends. The entire parking garage is serviced by a bank of three elevators housed within an elevator and stairway core at center of the building. An additional exit stairway is located at the SW corner. The spiral (circular) entry and exit ramps at the north end of the building have an overall 50’ radius and are visible at the curvilinear NE corner of the building. The total floor area of the building is approximately 243, 670 sq. ft. with the large former bank space (with a mezzanine level) taking up approximately 88’ x 111’ at south end of the base. The elevator lobby space occupies a 41’ wide bay near the center of the base with direct access from Third Avenue. This unique steel reinforced concrete structure includes a concrete foundation and full basement level. The reinforced concrete parking level floor plates are built on a structural grid primarily composed of 41’x 41’ bays. The concrete structural system is fully articulated and visible with the exception of the retail and lobby portion of the base [at the center and south end]. All of the finished concrete is painted cream white. The typical finish floor to finish floor height is 9’-6” and the thin edge of each of ten parking floor levels creates a dramatic series of stacked narrow horizontal floor plates. At the parking levels each of the floor plates is subtly supported by 4’ round fluted columns set back 14’-6” from the face of the floor plates. At the curvilinear NE corner and north elevation, where the spiral ramps are located, the floor plates are supported by more slender round columns held back 6’ for the face of the floor plates. Originally low pipe railing and some continuous concrete panels were all that enclosed the parking and ramp levels, now black chain link mesh screens enclose openings at the upper four floor levels. Due to their black color the original pipe rails, modern mesh screens and concrete panels have minimal visibility and the entire building form is dominated by the horizontal expression of the concrete structure. A mechanical penthouse is situated at the uppermost parking level. The original modern glass, metal and aluminum storefront design along Third Avenue appears to be intact and relatively unaltered. Changes appear to have been made to the retail/bank space at the southern end of the base but further investigation is required to determine the scope of the original design. The elevator lobby level includes original terrazzo floors. A steel and glass skybridge interconnects the garage to the adjacent major department store building (former Bon Marche) at the 8th floor level.

Detail for 1601 3rd AVE / Parcel ID 1977200980 / Inv #

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Concrete Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): None Roof Material(s): None
Building Type: Transportation - Road- Related Plan: Other
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: ten
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Transportation
Changes to Windows:
Changes to Original Cladding:
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Interior: Slight
Storefront: Slight
Major Bibliographic References
City of Seattle DCLU Microfilm Records.
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.

Photo collection for 1601 3rd AVE / Parcel ID 1977200980 / Inv #

Photo taken May 23, 2006

Photo taken May 23, 2006

Photo taken Sep 04, 2006
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