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Summary for 9370 52nd AVE / Parcel ID 7129304335 / Inv # SCL016

Historic Name: Roxbury Substation Common Name:
Style: Art Deco - Streamline Moderne, Modern Neighborhood: Rainier Beach
Built By: Year Built: 1940
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 small rectifier substation was constructed in 1940 in order to convert conventional Alternating Current (AC) to the Direct Current (DC), which would power the City’s new "trackless trolley" transit system. In 1939, the City had begun the process of converting and modernizing the public transportation system with a loan secured from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. Since the City’s purchase of the rail lines of the Puget Sound Traction, Light & Power Company in 1919, the Municipal Street Railway System had experienced severe financial difficulties, culminating in bankruptcy by 1938. By this time, the system, which consisted of 26 electric streetcar routes, three cable car lines, and 18 gasoline-powered bus lines, was considered archaic and in need of extensive modernization. Under the auspices of the newly created Seattle Transportation Commission, the new Seattle Transit System replaced the streetcars with trolley buses. The first trolleys began carrying passengers in April 1940, and the last streetcar ended its last run a year later on April 13, 1941. By 1943, the new trolley system had been finalized and used City Light’s inexpensive hydroelectric power. This conversion required an upgrade in the equipment used to power the system, resulting in the construction of the Roxbury and University rectifier substations and the installation of additional equipment at existing City Light facilities, including the North Substation. The difficulty of transmitting Direct Current over long distances required multiple rectifier substations distributed throughout the City. At Roxbury, two 300-kilowatt rectifiers provided the 600-volt Direct Current. The electric trolley buses operated throughout the City for the next two decades until 1963, when diesel buses replaced them north of the Ship Canal and south of Spokane Street. Ten years later, the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle (METRO) took over the Seattle Transit System, ending over fifty years of municipal control of the City’s public transportation system. This modest utilitarian building is significant for its associations with the municipally owned public transportation system and its conversion and modernization during its years of operation.
Completed in 1940, this small rectifier substation is situated on a corner lot at the intersection of South Roxbury Street and 52nd Avenue South. Most of the fenced site is currently vacant. This reinforced concrete building has a rectangular plan, which measures approximately 23 feet by 14 feet. The Modern design of this flat roof building displays some Streamline Moderne stylistic influences, including a smooth concrete exterior incised with lines to create strong horizontal bands. Set on a concrete plinth, the structure has an indented cornice band above the wider horizontal bands. On the principal west elevation, a large opening at the northern end contains the original double wooden entrance doors below a covered transom. The identical north and south elevations each have a single horizontal opening in the upper band installed with a large mechanical hood. The rear east elevation has a single wooden entrance door at the northern end as well as two louvered openings at the southern end within the lower band. These openings are covered with metal screens. Graffiti has been painted over in places with white paint. Unlike many of the larger substations of this type, this building retains excellent physical integrity.

Detail for 9370 52nd AVE / Parcel ID 7129304335 / Inv # SCL016

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Concrete Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Government - Public Works Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Science & Engineering, Transportation
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Windows: Intact
Changes to Plan: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
City of Seattle DCLU Microfilm Records.
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Seattle Department of Lighting. Annual report / City of Seattle, Department of Lighting. Seattle, WA: 1910-1974.

Photo collection for 9370 52nd AVE / Parcel ID 7129304335 / Inv # SCL016

Photo taken Oct 27, 2000
App v2.0.1.0