Home Page
Link to Seattle Department of Neighborhoods home page

Seattle Historical Sites

This application will be offline for Maintenance Saturday Feb 4th from 6am to noon

New Search

Summary for 172 20th AVE / Parcel ID 9826701245 / Inv # FAC010

Historic Name: Herzl Congregation Synagogue Common Name: Odessa Brown Neighborhood Health Center
Style: Beaux Arts - Neoclassical Neighborhood: Central Area
Built By: Year Built: 1925
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.
The Herzl Congregation built this stately brick building in 1924-25 as their second permanent synagogue. Founded in 1906 as an Orthodox Zionist synagogue, Herzl moved to this third location in 1925. The previous year, the congregation had hired a prominent Seattle and San Francisco architecture firm, Beezer Brothers, to design their new $100,000 synagogue. Born in Pennsylvania, Louis Beezer and Michael J. Beezer were twin brothers who practiced together in Seattle from 1907 until the mid-1920s when Louis moved to San Francisco to establish a branch office. During their years in Seattle, the brothers developed an extensive and varied regional practice, which was best known for its many banks and for various structures for the Roman Catholic Church. After Louis Beezer’s departure, the Seattle office had fewer significant commissions and closed with Micheal Beezer’s retirement from active practice in 1932. In 1929, the Herzl Congregation voted to modernize and became Seattle’s first Conservative congregation. The congregation remained in this location until 1971 when it moved to its present location on Mercer Island, where it is now called Herzl-Ner Conservative Congregation. Seattle’s first Jewish settlers were from Germany, and many had originally come west in the mid-1800s attracted by the California gold fields. Starting from humble beginnings, they often worked their way up to being shopkeepers specializing in dry goods. By the mid-1860s, there was a Jewish presence in Seattle, however the population grew slowly until the arrival of transcontinental railroad service in 1887. At that time, Jews numbered about one hundred out of a total Seattle population of 8000, however many of the early German Jewish settlers became successful businessmen and prominent political leaders. They also offered financial, educational, and social assistance to the next waves of immigration from Ashkenazic Eastern European and Sephardic Mediterranean countries. Arriving after 1880, the second wave of immigrants, the Ashkenazic Jews of Eastern Europe, found somewhat reduced economic opportunities. They tended to be more religious and formed a more distinct community with their larger numbers. After 1903, the third group of settlers, the Sephardic Jews from Turkey and the Isle of Rhodes, began arriving in Seattle with even fewer economic opportunities available for them. Though they spoke different languages, Yiddish and Ladino, the two groups both settled in the Yesler Way neighborhood where they established synagogues, schools, kosher butchers, bakeries, restaurants, and coffeehouses. From about 1900 to the 1930s, the ethnically diverse community was predominantly Jewish. Eventually, their economic success enabled them to move out of this older residential neighborhood to more outlying areas, including Seward Park and Mercer Island. As the Jewish residents moved out, many African Americans moved into the neighborhood after coming to Seattle to work in the defense industries of the Second World War. Many of the former Jewish synagogues have since become homes for African American churches. The City of Seattle acquired this building in 1970 for use as the Odessa Brown Neighborhood Health Center. The city acquired and converted the building for use as a model neighborhood health station with funding from the Seattle Model City program. Benjamin F. McAdoo, a prominent African American architect in Seattle, prepared the plans for the alterations. The Seattle Model City Program (SMCP) was funded primarily through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development under authority of the federal Demonstration Cities and Metropolitan Development Act of 1966. The City’s Executive Department administered the program, whose goals and objectives were to reduce social and economic disadvantages in designated neighborhoods, provide maximum training and employment opportunities, and establish health services for residents. The City's central area was identified in 1968 as the model neighborhood. In 1972, the Planned Variations Expansion allowed extension of the program to three other disadvantaged neighborhoods. Model City funding ended in 1974. The Odessa Brown Neighborhood Health Center was planned and developed in the late 1960s as a collaborative effort of Central Area residents, Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center, and the City of Seattle through the federal Model Cities program. As social unrest swept the nation in the late 1960s, Odessa Brown, an ailing African American woman without insurance, drew public attention to the health care crisis in the Central Area, where many of her neighbors had never had a medical or dental exam. Children’s Hospital responded by opening the clinic named for Odessa Brown, who died in 1969. Hospital representatives joined neighborhood residents on the clinic’s board, which appointed Dr. Blanche Lavizzo, an African American, as founding medical director. She coined the clinic’s motto, "Quality Care with Dignity." Since 1970, the Clinic has operated as a non-profit satellite of Children’s Hospital, providing quality health care with dignity to residents of Central and Southeast Seattle. In 1994, the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic moved into a new facility located nearby, which it shares with the Carolyn Downs Family Practice Clinic and offices of the Seattle-King County Health Department. Despite the alterations of the early 1970s, this building is significant for its design as an example of the later work of a prominent Seattle firm and for its associations with Seattle’s Jewish community, the development of the neighborhood, and the Seattle Model City Program.
Completed in 1925, this large two-story brick synagogue building occupies a prominent corner lot on 20th Avenue at East Spruce Street. An adjoining lot to the south contains a surface parking lot. Set on a high foundation, the flat roof structure has a flat roof penthouse and a rectangular plan, which measures approximately 70 feet by 108 feet. A low brick parapet wall encircles the building above a heavy cast stone cornice. Parapet walls also cover the ends of the rooftop penthouse. On the west elevation, Jewish religious symbols were removed from the parapet walls. A cast stone intermediate cornice wraps the building above the windows on the second story. The building’s original Beaux Arts/Neoclassical characteristics included a temple form with pavilion ends, a symmetrically composed façade with a triple horizontal division, three monumental Doric columns across a portico reached by a broad flight of steps, and round arched window openings. Unfortunately, the columns were removed from the recessed portico on the principal west elevation in the 1970s conversion to a health center. Currently, the brick end walls of the two-story entry pavilion frame a recessed area at the center, which contains three canted bay windows at the second story level. Narrow brick piers separate these bays situated below a sign band, which reads "Odessa Brown Neighborhood Health Center" in lowercase letters. Originally, there were three windows along the upper floor of the recessed area, and the sign band featured a sign in Hebrew identifying the congregation and the building’s date of construction. At the first story, three pairs of double entrance doors are set in the original elaborate surrounds. Patterned brickwork and cast stone tiles embellish the brick end walls as well as the small double hung 6/6 wood windows on the side elevations of the pavilion. A wheelchair accessible ramp winds down to the sidewalk along the northern half of the west elevation. Five two-story arched openings with cast stone keystones line the identical north and south elevations. Wooden spandrel panels separate the multi-paned windows at the first and second stories. A band of cast stone connects the openings at the base of the semicircular windows at the top. On the north elevation, the outer two openings on either end each have a Star of David in a medallion centered between them. The western ends of these elevations have a narrow arched opening above a multi-paned double hung window, which light an interior stairwell. On the south elevation, the lower window opening has been filled with brick. On both elevations, the basement level has an entrance door and windows. The east elevation of the rear pavilion has multi-paned double hung windows at either end of both stories, which flank a single large opening at the center. On the upper floor, the opening contains the three original multi-paned windows. However, the first story opening has been altered and infilled, as has the lower opening on the northern end. The side elevations of the rear pavilion have small double hung 6/6 wood windows. The basement level has windows along the east elevation and an entrance door on the north elevation. Despite the alterations to the principal west elevation, this architecturally significant building retains good physical integrity.

Detail for 172 20th AVE / Parcel ID 9826701245 / Inv # FAC010

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Brick, Stone - Cast Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat Roof Material(s): Asphalt/Composition
Building Type: Religion - Religious facility Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Unknown No. of Stories: two
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Ethnic Heritage, Health/Medicine, Religion
Changes to Plan: Slight
Other: Extensive
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Windows: Slight
Major Bibliographic References
City of Seattle DCLU Microfilm Records.
Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, ed. Shaping Seattle Architecture, A Historical Guide to the Architects. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994.
HistoryLink Website (
"Synagogue Planned For 21st Avenue," Daily Journal of Commerce, February 25, 1924, p. 1.
Avner, Jane A. and Buttnick, Meta. "Historic Jewish Seattle: A Tour Guide." Seattle, WA: Washington State Jewish Historical Society, 1995.

Photo collection for 172 20th AVE / Parcel ID 9826701245 / Inv # FAC010

Photo taken Nov 08, 2000

Photo taken Nov 08, 2000
App v2.0.1.0