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Summary for 375 Mercer ST / Parcel ID 1988200700 / Inv # CTR001

Historic Name: Civic Arena/Arena Common Name: Mercer Arena/Mercer Arts Arena
Style: Modern Neighborhood: Queen Anne
Built By: Year Built: 1928
The exterior of this 1920s building was substantially altered in 1961-62 in preparation for its use as an entertainment venue for the Seattle World’s Fair Century 21 Exposition. The building is part of a brick-faced complex lining the south side of Mercer Street, which is connected by a colonnade 30 feet high. Extending from the Arena on the east end, and past the Opera House and Exhibition Hall to the Playhouse on the west, the covered walkway ties the structures together visually with a continuity of design. The design of the exterior alterations to the Arena was a collaboration between Kirk, Wallace, McKinley & Associates, architectural consultants, and Worthington, Skilling, Helle & Jackson, structural engineers. The two firms also collaborated on the design of the new buildings in the complex, the Playhouse and the adjacent Exhibition Hall. Additionally, Kirk, Wallace, McKinley & Associates designed the large parking garage located across Mercer Street with N.G. Jacobson & Associates as consulting structural engineers. After receiving his architectural degree from the University of Washington in 1937, Paul Hayden Kirk worked as a draftsman and designer for several prominent local architects before starting his own practice in 1939. In the 1940s, Kirk practiced in partnership with Bertram Dudley Stuart and Robert L. Durham during the Second World War and then with James J. Chiarelli for five years. During the seven years from 1950 to 1957 that Kirk worked as a sole practitioner, he helped to develop and define the regional variant, Northwest Contemporary Modernism, a style that combined elements from the International Style, traditional architecture of Japan, and local vernacular traditions and materials. Kirk continued to employ this new design idiom after creating the firm, Paul Kirk & Associates in 1957. By 1960, the firm had become known as Kirk, Wallace, McKinley & Associates with the elevation of Donald S. Wallace and David A. McKinley, Jr. to full partnership. The three buildings at today’s Seattle Center represent some of the firm’s larger scale projects in the early 1960s, which included the 1962-64 Magnolia Branch of the Seattle Public Library. Paul Kirk continued in active practice until his official retirement in 1979 at the age of 65. This building was originally built to house an ice arena as part of the Civic Auditorium complex constructed between 1925 and 1928. In addition to the connected Civic Arena and Auditorium, the complex included an adjacent 35,000-seat Civic Ballfield with wooden bleachers and a freestanding building, which combined a Field House on the ground floor and a Veteran’s Hall on the upper floor. The site selected was diagonally adjacent to Mercer Playground, developed in 1910 and named for Seattle pioneer Thomas Mercer, who homesteaded in the vicinity. Covering an entire city block, Mercer Playground served both the surrounding residential neighborhood and the 1902 Warren Avenue School located across the street to the west. The prominent firm of Schack Young & Meyers was commissioned to design the project, which would be funded with a bequest from the estate of Pioneer Square saloonkeeper James Osburne. The architecture firm of James H. Schack, Arrigo M. Young, and David J. Myers, was one of the most successful design firms in Seattle during the 1920s. This partnership produced a number of commercial, residential, religious and institutional buildings as well as several projects of a larger scale. The 1925-28 Civic Auditorium complex of three buildings and a sports stadium was a notable example of the firm’s late work. After Myers’ departure for private practice in 1929, Schack and Young continued in partnership until Schack’s untimely death in 1933, producing a variety of commercial buildings, hotel and apartment buildings, and residences. Over the next several decades, the Civic Arena was home to several amateur and professional hockey teams, including the Seattle Totems. By the mid-1950s, the city began to conceive a new plan for the Civic Auditorium complex, which would create new cultural and sports facilities. In November 1956, the City held a special municipal election to approve a $7,500,000 bond issue to fund the acquisition of a site for a Civic Center development, the construction of a concert and convention hall and multi-purpose auditorium, and the modernization and remodeling of the Civic Auditorium. The City planned these improvements with the idea that the new Civic Center could also be used for the proposed Seattle World’s Fair along with nearby property acquired by the State. This plan eventually evolved into a plan to construct two new buildings, the Exhibition Hall and the Playhouse, and to remodel the Civic Auditorium into a new Opera House, which would also have exhibition facilities on a lower level. Only the exterior of the Civic Arena would be refurbished so that it would compliment the other improvements. While the city embraced the plan, the public clamored for a new Opera House as promised in the bond issue. In a lawsuit filed against the city, a Superior Court judge ruled that funds assigned for the construction of a new Opera House could not be used for the conversion of the Civic Auditorium. The matter was not settled until a second special election was held in September 1959, which approved the modified civic center plan. The Seattle World’s Fair Century 21 Exposition emphasized achievements in science and technology, however the organizers also wanted to include a World of Entertainment in their five Worlds of Century 21. The World of Entertainment would feature international performing arts, sports and spectacular events, and the latest creations in recreation and amusement. During the fair, the Arena hosted a variety of special events, including shows by the Count Basie Orchestra, the Benny Goodman Orchestra, Lawrence Welk, Nat King Cole, and Ella Fitzgerald. The Ringling Brothers Circus and the Shrine Circus also performed there as well as the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Western Show. Upon completion of the fair in October 1962, the City leased the Arena for a variety of uses, including hockey games and rock concerts. The building was renamed the Mercer Arena in 1995 when the Coliseum was transformed into Key Arena. In 2002, the building will become the temporary home of the Seattle Opera and the Pacific Northwest Ballet during renovations to the Opera House. The building is significant for its design and for its association with the Seattle World’s Fair Century 21 Exposition and with the development of Seattle Center.
Constructed as part of the Civic Auditorium complex between 1925 and 1928, the original reinforced concrete building featured a gable roof and an arcaded entrance facing Mercer Street. Measuring approximately 180 feet by 311 feet, the Civic Arena was aligned along and attached to the rear east elevation of the larger Civic Auditorium, which faced west. For more than thirty years, the building served as an ice arena and multi-purpose sports and entertainment facility. In the early 1960s, the exterior of the Civic Arena was substantially altered in preparation for the Seattle World’s Fair Century 21 Exposition. Only minor improvements were made to update the appearance of the interior. However, the project transformed the interior and the exterior of the adjacent Civic Auditorium in order to create the Opera House. The east and north elevations of the Civic Arena were clad with the same buff brick used on the new Exhibition Hall and Playhouse buildings, which were constructed west of the original Civic Auditorium complex. This created a brick-faced complex lining the south side of Mercer Street. A flat-roofed colonnade 30 feet high, 23 feet wide and 190 feet long was added along the principal north elevation of the newly renamed Arena, which extended past the Opera House and Exhibition Hall and terminated at the Playhouse on the west. The covered walkway tied the structures together visually with a continuity of design. The original entrance openings were retained on the west and north elevations, however their appearance changed with the new brick cladding. On the principal north elevation, three large shallow arched openings at the center lead to double door entrances set in the original recessed arched openings. Smaller arched openings provide access to interior staircases on the east and west ends of this elevation. The east elevation presents a mostly blank wall with a total of nine double door entrances located at both the first floor and the basement levels. Partially clad with the buff brick, only the south elevation reveals a portion of the building’s original exterior and overhanging gable roof. However, extensive alterations have been made to the original door and window openings on this elevation.

Detail for 375 Mercer ST / Parcel ID 1988200700 / Inv # CTR001

Status: No - Altered
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Brick, Concrete, Metal, Stucco Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat, Gable Roof Material(s): Other
Building Type: Recreation and Culture - Auditorium Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Arts, Community Planning/Development
Changes to Plan: Moderate
Changes to Windows: Extensive
Changes to Original Cladding: Extensive
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.
Architecture/West. An Architect's Guidebook to the Seattle World's Fair, 1962. Seattle, WA: Pacific Builder and Engineer, v. 68, no. 4, April 1962.
Morgan, Murray. Century 21, The Story of the Seattle World's Fair, 1962. Seattle, WA: Acme Press, distributed by University of Washington Press, 1963.
Official Guide Book Seattle Worlds Fair 1962. Seattle, WA: Acme Publications Incorporated, c1962.

Photo collection for 375 Mercer ST / Parcel ID 1988200700 / Inv # CTR001

Photo taken Nov 16, 2000

Photo taken Nov 16, 2000

Photo taken Nov 16, 2000
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