Home Page
Link to Seattle Department of Neighborhoods home page

Seattle Historical Sites

New Search

Summary for 614 NW 45th ST NW / Parcel ID 1982200950 / Inv # SCL006

Historic Name: Canal Substation Common Name:
Style: Other, Spanish - Mission Neighborhood: Fremont
Built By: Year Built: 1928
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 Puget Sound Power & Light Company constructed this transmission substation in 1927-28 as part of their private electric utility operations within the City of Seattle. Subsequent additions were made to the building over the next two decades. Formed in 1900 as a subsidiary of Boston-based Stone & Webster, the Seattle Electric Company, a predecessor company, consolidated under unified operation the properties of virtually all of the private electric utilities and street railway businesses, which had previously operated within the city. In the next decade, the company took over most of the remaining independent utility and street railway operations. In 1902, the company acquired a fifty-year franchise to operate a private electric utility system within the Seattle City limits. In March of that same year, the citizens of Seattle had voted to establish their own lighting plant in order to ensure good street lighting service at reasonable rates. This began nearly fifty years of direct competition between the private and the municipally owned electric utilities, which did not end until the 1951 purchase by City Light of Puget Sound Power & Light Company’s Seattle-area properties. After the purchase, the elimination of duplication resulted in substantial savings, which translated into significant rate reductions for consumers. The purchase included three transmission substations and ten distribution substations, including this substation located on NW 45th Street between Fremont and Ballard. Completion of the initial phase of the substation in 1928 coincided with an increase in power available for sale by Puget Sound Power & Light Company. This was due to the completion of the Lower Baker River Development in Skagit County in 1925 and to the upgrades to existing hydroelectric plants at Electron and White River during the 1920s, a golden era in the history of the company. The 1929 Shuffleton Steam Plant in Renton added still more power, which was doubled in capacity the following year. This increased supply was in response to an almost insatiable demand for electric power fueled by unparalleled growth in the number of new residential, commercial and industrial customers and the development of new electric products. In the late 1930s, an inter-connection between the two systems was created with a tie line built between the Canal Substation and City Light’s North Substation. After City Light purchased the property in 1951, it was integrated into the existing system the following year and upgraded with the addition of a new 115,000 volt line terminal to tie it into the North End network of receiving substations. It is the only transmission substation of the original three constructed by Puget Sound Power & Light Company, which remains extant, and the only substation of the thirteen purchased by City Light in continued operation. With its mixture of Mission Revival and Neo-Classical Revival stylistic features, the architecturally distinctive Canal Substation is significant for its design and for its associations with the era of privately owned electric utilities in Seattle and with the evolution of City Light as the sole supplier of electric power in the area.
This architecturally distinctive reinforced concrete building is located along the southern edge of a large site, which occupies an entire block bounded by NW 45th and 46th Streets and 6th and 8th Avenues NW. Electrical equipment occupies much of the remainder of the site. Several phases of construction over two decades resulted in the present building, which features an L-shaped footprint and a four-story tower at the western end. Originally, the principal south elevation of the building consisted of only five of the six bays on the three-story main block. The bay at the far eastern end was added after the building was documented and photographed by the WPA around 1937. At that time, the main block measured approximately 77 feet by 34 feet with a wing on the north elevation, which measured approximately 32 feet by 17 feet. Subsequently, an addition 15 feet wide was added along the east elevation of the main block and wing, which included the large canted bay on the north elevation of the wing. The tower added along the west elevation measured 44 feet by 34 while the one-story addition on adjoining the tower’s north elevation measured 22 feet by 23 feet. The resulting structure measures approximately 92 feet by 34 feet with the larger wing at the eastern end of the north elevation measuring 47 feet by 17 feet. The main block raises to a height of 39 feet while the tower extends an additional 17 feet to a height of 56 feet. The design of the structure exhibits Neo-Classical Revival and Mission Revival stylistic features similar to many large industrial buildings of its era, such as Seattle City Light’s 1914-1921 Lake Union Steam Plant and 1923-24 North Substation. Unlike the North Substation, which has extensive window alterations, this building retains nearly all of the original industrial steel sash windows, which give a sense of transparency to the structure’s appearance. These windows are set in panels between the shallow concrete piers, which divide each elevation into varying numbers of bays. Parapet walls line the flat roofs on both the main block and the tower. Capped with a tile coping, these walls step up over the concrete piers and at the corners. The brick trim, which outlines the base of the wall on the main block, continues as an intermediate cornice on the tower. On the tower’s end bays, four tiles set in a diamond pattern decorate the parapet wall. The same detail embellishes the parapet wall above the entrance bay at the western end of the main block’s principal south elevation. Rows of windows of varying heights distinguish the south elevation. The tower features three-story window openings below the single story openings of the fourth story. With the exception of the entrance bay, the main block has short windows along the ground floor level and gradually taller windows along the second and third stories. The entrance bay has a tall window at the third story level above a two-story concrete surround embellished with brick trim. A single entrance door is situated at the ground level below a small window within this concrete surround. A large two-story opening dominates the west elevation below the blank third story and the fourth story lined with windows. Only the two southern bays of the east elevation contain windows. The two northern bays have an exterior stairwell, which accesses doors at the second and third story levels. The north elevation has significantly fewer windows than the south elevation. The tower has the same windows lining the fourth story. However, the lower wall is blank with the exception of the eastern bay, which contains two-story double wooden paneled doors. The main block has windows only on the projecting wing, including the bay window at the third story. Well maintain with attractive landscaping and a public art project, this sub station, one of the most distinctive public buildings in the city, retains excellent physical integrity.

Detail for 614 NW 45th ST NW / Parcel ID 1982200950 / Inv # SCL006

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Concrete, Stucco 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: four
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Commerce, Politics/Government/Law, Science & Engineering
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Windows: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
City of Seattle DCLU Microfilm Records.
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Wing, Robert., editor. A Century of Service, The Puget Power Story. Bellevue, WA: Puget Sound Power & Light Company, 1987.
Puget Sound Power and Light Company. Agreement of purchase and sale between Puget Sound Power & Light Company and the City of Seattle. c1951.
Seattle Department of Lighting. Annual report / City of Seattle, Department of Lighting. Seattle, WA: 1910-1974.

Photo collection for 614 NW 45th ST NW / Parcel ID 1982200950 / Inv # SCL006

Photo taken Oct 31, 2000

Photo taken Oct 31, 2000
App v2.0.1.0