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Summary for 1010 5th AVE / Parcel ID 0942000270 / Inv #

Historic Name: United States Courthouse Common Name:
Style: Art Deco - PWA Moderne Neighborhood: Commercial Core
Built By: Year Built: 1939-1940
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 period (1931-1950) during which downtown commercial development was halted by national economic depression and then slowed by the redirection of resources toward engagement in World War II and post-war suburbanization. Few major downtown construction projects occurred during this era as retail activity began to be decentralized to neighborhoods commercial districts and modern post-war era suburban communities and property and business owners became concerned about parking and traffic impacts within the commercial core. [Refer to National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for in-depth information regarding this property.] The United States Courthouse was completed in 1940 and was the first building in the American West to be designed and constructed solely to serve as a federal courthouse. It was the second federal courthouse to be constructed during this era; the first being in New York City. It embodies a distinct stripped-classical modern architectural style that was primarily used on federal building projects, the major construction projects undertaken during the depression era. Between 1931 and 1950, only three major buildings were constructed in downtown Seattle; this courthouse and one other federal construction project (Federal Office Building at First Avenue and Madison Street, 1932) and one commercial enterprise (F.W. Woolworth Co. Store, 1940). The Courthouse site was originally the location of Seattle’s first hospital, the Sisters of Charity of the House of Providence, established in 1878 in the former Moss Residence. In 1882, the Sisters purchased the property and built a new hospital building that grew to encompass the entire block, which they occupied until 1911 when they relocated to a new facility at 17th Avenue and Cherry Street. In 1936, the federal government purchased the site and proceeded with the design and construction of the courthouse. The Supervising Architect within the Federal Works branch of the Department of the Treasury was Louis A. Simon. The Consulting Architect, who probably undertook the major design effort, was Gilbert Stanley Underwood. Underwood also served as the Consulting Architect for the San Francisco Mint (1936-37) and numerous large-scale defense housing projects during and after WWII. Prior to the construction of the new courthouse, numerous Federal court agencies were housed at scattered locations throughout the city and downtown, particularly within crowded quarters at the former Post Office Building at Fourth Avenue and Madison Street. The new courthouse, in addition to housing the Justice Department courtrooms and support services, provided office and courtroom space for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Secret Service, and Alcohol Tax Unit that were agencies within the Treasury depart that worked in close cooperation with the justice Department. This is a well-preserved example of a unique downtown property type constructed during the depression era, as well as a highly noteworthy local example of stripped-classical modern architectural style. [This property may potentially meet local landmark criteria if ownership jurisdiction were to change.]
Located on a westward sloping full city block bounded by Fifth and Sixth Avenue and Madison and Spring Streets, this 12-story building is setback toward Sixth Avenue with a prominent terrazzo forecourt and entry stairway and surrounded to the west, north and south by lawn, shrubs and mature trees. It exhibits a distinctive three-part, stepped-back façade composition and is a notable local example of Moderne design in the WPA/Striped Classicism design mode. The Fifth Avenue façade is symmetrical and exhibits a Neo-Classical building form with a three-story base that forms a podium or pedestal, a seven-story shaft defined by fenestration that creates the illusion of a classical colonnade surmounted by a wide band of wall area punctuated by a row of single window openings that create a dentil course indicative of a classical entablature. The shaft is capped by a further stepped-back, two-story penthouse. Minimal terra cotta and metal ornament is concentrated at the base and executed in geometric accents, including square, circular, wave and scallop motifs. The reinforced concrete structure has a concrete foundation and basement level and is clad with terra cotta panels that vary in color, size and arrangement. The building measures 104’ x 220’ and steps back from the Fifth Avenue façade at the top of the 3rd and 10th floor levels. The base is clad at the first floor level with 1’ x 2’ red-granite color terra cotta panels and at the second and third floor levels with 1’ x 4’ light-gray granite color panels. All of the terra cotta panels at the base are laid in an English bond with alternating courses of headers and stretchers, which gives it the appearance of a stone foundation. The red-granite terra cotta is also used at the entry stair cheeks at both the Fifth and Sixth Avenue entryways The red-granite portion of the base is accentuated by three central recessed entry vestibules each with sets of aluminum doors that are trimmed with fluted cast bronze. Centered above the vestibules are cast bronze letters that identify “UNITED STATES COURTHOUSE.” The vestibules are flanked by large nearly square window openings with nine-light pattern steel frame windows that are typical throughout building. The second and third floor levels are clad with light-gray terra cotta panels and punctuated by ten recessed two-story window bays with steel frame windows and cast iron spandrels. The window frames and spandrels are painted a salmon color and contrast with the adjacent terra cotta, creating vertical strips along the façade. Spandrel panels at the 2nd floor level are decorated with raised square geometric patterns and the upper panels include a modified Art Deco-inspired Greek key fret and vertical fluting. Windows trim matches the terra cotta cladding and is decorated with raised square geometric patterns. A denticulated moulding serves as a cornice and distinguishes the top of the base. The face of the seven-story building shaft is set back 15 ft from the face of the base. All of the upper floor shaft is clad with light-gray granite color terra cotta panels measuring 1’ x 4’ and laid in stretcher course. The façade is distinguished by nine tall recessed window bays that extend six stories in height. The standard steel window units are separated by simple cast iron spandrels that reflect the window glazing pattern. The unornamented window surrounds match the adjacent wall surface. Surmounting this colonnade-like element at 10th floor level are fifteen square windows that extend the width of façade. The shaft is capped by a deep unadorned expanse of light-gray granite color terra cotta cladding. Stepped back from the face of the shaft is a similarly-clad two-story penthouse with nine similarly detailed 2-story windows. The east elevation exhibits nearly identical fenestration and façade composition with the exception of the red-granite base portion that due to the grade change terminates at the side elevations. Both the north and south side elevations are nearly identical in vertical composition and architectural detail. The interior is currently closed to the public due to construction activity. The interior is reported to be distinguished by two formal entrance lobbies, elevator lobbies and courtroom spaces. The Fifth and Sixth Avenue entrance vestibule and lobby walls are reported to be clad with polychromatic terra cotta panels in pink, turquoise, and beige. They exhibit terrazzo floors in dark red, light red and beige colors that are set in squares that correspond to coffered ceiling panels above and dentil mouldings at ceiling and wall coves. The lobby interiors are also reported to include custom designed pyramid-shaped incandescent light fixtures and Art Deco-inspired ornamented aluminum radiator covers. The main elevator lobbies are distinguished by coffered ceilings with cove lighting, terrazzo floors with star emblems and baked black enamel elevator doors with vertical fluted aluminum ornament. Elevator lobbies at the upper floors include similar finishes but with more simplified designs. Five major courtrooms are reported to be distinguished by coved ceilings, fluted Doric columns, ornate pilasters and judge’s benches using polished American black walnut, aluminum window grill covers with star emblems at the cross members and custom designed aluminum wall clocks.

Detail for 1010 5th AVE / Parcel ID 0942000270 / Inv #

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Terra cotta Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat with Parapet Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Government - Courthouse Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: twelve
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Politics/Government/Law
Changes to Windows: Intact
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Interior: Unknown
Major Bibliographic References
Kvapil, John."United States Court House, Seattle, Washington" National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, n.d.

Photo collection for 1010 5th AVE / Parcel ID 0942000270 / Inv #

Photo taken May 18, 2006

Photo taken May 18, 2006
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