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Summary for 4136 Meridian AVE / Parcel ID 0510004635 / Inv #

Historic Name: Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Company Melrose Exchange Common Name: Artists' Apartments & Studio Space
Style: Beaux Arts - American Renaissance Neighborhood: Wallingford
Built By: Year Built: 1921
 
Significance
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.
Pacific Telephone & Telegraph appears to have acquired this property in 1919 and soon began construction of the present building, apparently wrecking a shed built as a temporary residence at this corner site in 1904. The structure was known as the Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Company Melrose Exchange The structure appears to have been built in a number of stages. A permit was issued June 11, 1920, to build a one-story building (93’-4” x 77’– 5”) with full basement at this site for Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company of San Francisco, California, at an estimated cost of $80,000. This structure, described in the permit as a telephone office, was erected by the Rounds – Clist Company (408 Walker Building in Seattle) and appears to have been completed in 1921. Pacific Telephone and Telegraph is listed as both the owner and designer of the structure on the building permit; however, correspondence included in the public record, dated October 16, 1920, suggests the involvement of the locally prominent architectural firm of Schack, Young & Myers. Sound Construction & Engineering, whose offices were located at 1011 Lowman Building, built a 38’ x 36’ addition in 1923. A second story was added to the structure in 1929-30 (after a public hearing before the Board of Public Works in September 1929) by the same contracting firm (by this time relocated to the 1701 Northern Life Tower). In 1951-54, Sound Construction & Engineering made alterations to the second floor. Basement modifications were completed in 1954-55 (the construction firm responsible for completion of this work is not indicated in the public record). All of this work was completed for Pacific Telephone & Telegraph. In correspondence with the City in1978, Community Psychiatric Clinic indicated a desire to redevelop the building as a clinic. However, two years later, James Smith and a partner began to inquire about the possibility of converting the building to a mixed-use structure including apartments, art workshops, storage/warehouse space, and a meeting hall for the Puget Sound Association for the Deaf. In 1981 it was determined that the building was being illegally used for artist studios; however, about a year later the studios were established as a conditional use. The structure became a legal site for multi-family housing in 1985 and the facility was converted to a seven unit apartment building under a series of permits issued to owner James Smith between 1994 and 1996. This structure is significant as a nearly intact and very well maintained high style industrial telephone system facility built to serve the rapidly expanding Wallingford community in the middle years of Seattle’s second north end building boom. The carefully articulated relief pattern in the structure’s brick veneer, the classically inspired terra cotta entry portal, and the restrained rhythm of the building’s formally organized facades are all elements of a design that could have just as appropriately been applied to the face of a school building or other public institution. The fact that this building may have been associated with the architectural practice of Schack, Young and Myers increases its architectural interest. Local telephone numbers beginning with “63” continue to attest to the past existence of the “MElrose” telephone exchange Folke Nyberg and Victor Steinbrueck, identified this building as a structure of significance to the Wallingford community in "Wallingford: An Inventory of Buildings and Urban Design Resources."
 
Appearance
This is a two-story, reinforced concrete frame telephone exchange building with brick veneer on a concrete foundation over a full basement. The building is “U” shaped with the top of the “U” opening to the south. The structure has a flat concrete roof deck with tar & gravel roofing. The restraint evident in the design of the facades, despite the articulation apparent in the masonry veneer, is indicative of sensibilities associated with early classical revival architecture. However, the shape of the building’s footprint, the purposeful asymmetry of the building’s east and west elevations, the pairing of the window openings, the non-classical configuration of the windows themselves, and the eclectic nature of the detailing generally, all suggest a more modern Beaux Arts approach. The west, north and east elevations are organized around the regular pattern of paired window openings. This pattern almost certainly designed to corresponds with and take advantage of the building’s system of structural bays. Each opening contains a tall wood double-hung window surmounted by a much shorter wood transom unit. The upper and lower sash of the double-hung units are divided evenly into three lights by vertical muntins. The transom units are divided in the same manner. A narrow strip of brick veneer separates the windows at each pair of openings, and each pair becomes the central component of a carefully designed relief pattern of glazed, reddish orange bricks in the facade. Five pairs of openings are space evenly across the north elevation of the building at the first and second floor levels. Paired basement window openings – aligned vertically with the taller first and second floor openings described above -- have been bricked-up with dissimilar masonry at the this elevation. The building is entered through a classical portal assembled from terra cotta elements and situated in the west elevation, facing onto Meridian Avenue N. Two sets of paired window openings are located to the north of the entry and one to the south. A single window opening is centered over the entry portal. The basement openings have not been bricked-up at this façade and the basement windows are divided in a manner similar to the transom units. The east elevation is nearly identical to the west elevation, although the entry portal has been replaced there by single window opening. In the center of the south elevation is the deep notch that comprises the inside surfaces of the “U” shaped building. The “ends” of the “U,” to the west and east of the notch, each feature a centered group of three window openings at both the first an second floor levels. The glazed brick veneer of the west elevation wraps around the corner to cover the portion of the south elevation west o the notch. However, the walls of the notch itself and the south elevation east of the notch are finished with a common red brick. At the west wall of the notch, the two windows nearest the south end of the building at the first and second floors are organized in pairs. A single window (at the upper level) and a single door with an awning are stacked nearer the inside corner of the notch. The door opens to a deck that forms the floor of the northern two thirds of the notch. A stair drops from the deck along the west wall of the notch providing access to the parking lot just south of the building. The east wall of the notch is organized into three columns of single windows. At the northernmost column, another door with awning opens to the deck where the first floor window should have been. At the southernmost window column, a third window lights the basement level. A chimney rises at the eastern end of the notch’s north wall. To the west, two windows are paired at the upper level; a window and a door with awning are situated at the first floor level. The area below the deck appears to be a partially enclosed storage area. A large cornice assembly wraps around the structure near the top of the wall wherever the glazed reddish orange brick is used in the veneer. The masonry veneer extends above the level of the cornice assembly to form a brick parapet at all elevations. The red metal siding at the parapet level of the notch’s east wall, and covering the upper two-thirds of the south elevation east of the notch, is a recent addition. A metal clad penthouse appears to have been added to the structure. Heavy metal grills have been placed over the seven westernmost first floor transom units at the north elevation, though these features may have been added relatively early in the buildings life. A large heating or ventilation units occupies one of the upper floor windows at the north end of the west elevation. The awnings over the doors in the notch appear to be recent additions. The deck accessed by these doors may be a recent addition as well. No other significant modifications to the exterior of the building are apparent.

Detail for 4136 Meridian AVE / Parcel ID 0510004635 / Inv #

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Brick, Metal Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat with Parapet Roof Material(s): Asphalt/Composition
Building Type: Industry/Processing/Extraction - Communications Plan: U-Shape
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: two
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Communications, Community Planning/Development
Integrity
Changes to Plan: Slight
Changes to Original Cladding: Slight
Changes to Windows: Slight
Changes to Interior: Extensive
Major Bibliographic References
City of Seattle DCLU Microfilm Records.
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Polk's Seattle Directories, 1890-1996.

Photo collection for 4136 Meridian AVE / Parcel ID 0510004635 / Inv #


Photo taken Aug 16, 2004
App v2.0.1.0