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Summary for 1201 Alaskan WAY / Parcel ID 7666202485 / Inv #

Historic Name: Pier 4 Common Name: Pier 55
Style: Commercial, Other - Utilitarian Neighborhood: Downtown Urban Center
Built By: Year Built: 1902
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.
In the opinion of the survey, this property is located in a potential historic districe (National and/or local).
Renamed Pier 55 during World War II, Pier 4 and its waterfront transit shed, as constructed in 1900, collapsed dramatically in September 1901. Although during the collapse, the pier brought down with it at least 1700 tons of freight, there were no fatalities. In 1902, the Northern Pacific Railroad completed the reconstruction of the pier, which now had improved bracing. Pier 4/55 was the first of three adjacent piers built between Madison and University Streets by the Northern Pacific Railroad. The pier was first constructed in 1900, according to the uniform northeast-southwest angle, prescribed by City Engineer Reginald Thomson and Assistant City Engineer George Cotterill in the 1897 tidelands replat. Previously the piers had generally been constructed perpendicular to the waterfront. Thomson and Cotterrill saw this as an impending logistical problem, since the waterfront itself changes directions at both Yesler Way and Union Street: if numerous piers of great length were built, they could potentially bump into each other. As in the case of Pier 3/54 and Pier 5/ 56, a Northern Pacific Railroad spur ran along the south side of the pier. The new angle of the wharves also meant that the train (and its track) were no longer forced to turn at a sharp right angle. The Arlington Dock Company, the pier’s first tenant, was a shipping agent for steamships that carried passengers from several West Coast cities to Alaska, Asia and Europe. Sited next to Pier 5/ 56, also an Arlington Dock and the home of Frank Waterhouse and Company, the pier was a center of shipping activity. Early on, it was often filled with crowds of passengers bound for Alaska. The pier ceased to be a shipping terminus around World War I. The Fisheries Supply Company then occupied the pier at least from 1938 to the 1980s. The pier shed was remodeled in 1945, with structural changes made by M. O. Sylliasen. Further structural strengthening, particularly of the existing deck, was done by the engineering firm of Harvey Dodd and Associates in the 1960s. Along with Pier 56, Pier 55’s pier structure was considerably beefed up in the late 1990s. It was also in the 1990s that the pier shed’s exterior was also altered. Despite these changes, along with Piers 54 to 59, Pier 55, as a working pier, retains the most important elements of its original appearance and a strong sense of its original architectural character and workmanship. All of these piers present the last and best examples of Seattle’s waterfront transit sheds. Pier 55, along with Pier 56, is particularly significant as an early transportation hub, associated with the early economic development of Seattle.
The former Pier 4, now Pier 55 is sited near the foot of Spring Street. The pier itself is a parallelogram in plan, 130 feet by 310 feet, supported by timber pilings, set approximately 3 feet on center in the north-south direction and approximately 10 feet on center in the east-west direction. Bridged with 12 x 16 timbers, the pilings are topped by 3 x 12 wood decking. The plan of the pier shed, a modified trapezoid, is approximately 95 feet in width by 270 feet in length. On its east elevation, facing Alaskan Way, the two-story pier shed presents a gable end, which includes a monitor roof at the second level. On the longer, north and south elevations, the monitor roof is expressed as a series of multi-pane clerestory window openings, which allow light into the interior space. The outer bays, set below the clerestory windows, have simple shed roofs with a shallow slope. The interior space presents what is mainly a clear span, heavy timber structure, supporting a light frame system: six heavy timber Howe trusses, which span the full width of the building, each support light frame construction, which supports the monitor roof. Based on a photo from 1912, the ground level of the east elevation originally had a wide central opening, equipped with sliding wooden doors. In general, windows appear to have been double-hung and multi-pane. At the ground level, there were two single window openings, set to each side of the main central entry. There were also two single windows set at the center of the gable end at the second level. The present eastern elevation has a wide cased opening, corresponding to the original central opening, with new storefront and entrances built behind and within the opening. Although window openings are more numerous and have new frames and glazing, the window openings appear to partially correspond to the openings in the 1912 photograph. In the same way, the two former rectangular openings at the second level now form part of a larger arched window opening. Although the side elevations have new window frames and glazing, as well as new door frames, the elevations appear to replicate a good portion of the original configuration of window and door openings. In the 1980s, the very end of the western portion of the pier shed was altered somewhat with a flattened three sided bay, as well as a hipped roof tower at the southwestern end, however, the overall profile and shape of the shed have not changed.

Detail for 1201 Alaskan WAY / Parcel ID 7666202485 / Inv #

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Structure District Status: INV
Cladding(s): Wood - Clapboard Foundation(s): Other
Roof Type(s): Gable, Monitor Roof Material(s): Asphalt/Composition
Building Type: Transportation - Water- Related Plan: Irregular
Structural System: Timber Frame No. of Stories: two
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Commerce, Community Planning/Development, Manufacturing/Industry, Politics/Government/Law, Social Movements & Organizations, Transportation
Changes to Plan: Slight
Changes to Windows: Moderate
Changes to Original Cladding: Slight
Major Bibliographic References
City of Seattle DCLU Microfilm Records.
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Mimi Sheridan, “SR 99: Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement Project Historic Resources Inventory,” Draft, ca. 2004.
Paul Dorpat, “Seattle Central Waterfront Tour, Part 5: From Railroads to Restaurants, Pier 54, 55, and 56,” essay 2475,
Dorpat, Paul. Seattle Waterfront: An Illustrated History. Seattle, June 2005.

Photo collection for 1201 Alaskan WAY / Parcel ID 7666202485 / Inv #

Photo taken Oct 09, 2006

Photo taken Dec 14, 2006
App v2.0.1.0