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 2601 Elliott AVE / Parcel ID 0653000250 / Inv #

Historic Name: American Can Company Common Name: Real Networks/ former Seattle Trade Center
Style: Commercial, Other Neighborhood: Downtown Urban Center
Built By: Year Built: 1916
In the opinion of the survey, this property is located in a potential historic districe (National and/or local).
This imposing building was originally designed as a factory building for the American Can Company, and was completed in two phases. The first phase, corresponding mainly to the northern portion of the building, was completed in 1916 and the second phase was completed in 1925. In 1931, the company also rebuilt and began to use Pier 13/69 to store rolls of aluminum, used in the production of cans. Several photographs from the 1930s show that there was a skybridge that linked the building to the waterfront and to the pier. This bridge no longer exists, although the west elevation shows elements that were probably associated with the bridge. The building, although not intact, is significant in that it was built with a direct connection to the waterfront. It is also part of the industrial context represented by neighboring buildings, such as: the former Booth Fisheries housing, now the Belltown Cottages (2512-16 Elliott Avenue); the Booth Fisheries Plant, the Ainsworth and Dunn Pier (former Pier 14, now Pier 70), and the former Ainsworth and Dunn Warehouse, which later became the I. F. Laucks Company, Plant No. 2 (now the Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant). In addition, the building originally served a company, which in its day, was developing a national reputation. The American Can Company was (and is) a national company, originally founded in 1901, with early headquarters located in New York City, in lower Manhattan. By 1906, the company had a small “Chemical Department.” By 1908, its researchers in Baltimore, then known as “the home of canning,” were experimenting with the canning of common fruits and vegetables. In 1913, American Can Company acquired the Sanitary Can Company and also acquired that company’s method of closing the top of the can with a seam at the edge of the can top. (The previous method involved a small circular hole at the top of the can, through which the contents were introduced. The hole was then closed with a small circular disk, which was soldered at the edges of the hole). According former President William C. Stolk, by this period, the American Can Company, was making a third of all cans produced in the United States. Based on its interpretation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, the United States Attorney General’s Office brought a suit against the company, charging it with attempting to create a monopoly. In 1916, while the Federal Judge in the case agreed that the company had been “conceived in the sin of defying the Anti-Trust law,” he ruled that it was not involved in “unfair or unethical” behavior. The judge decided not to force the break-up of the large company. These decisions tie in with the completion of the first wing of the present building. During the same period, the company played an important role by providing canned goods for the war effort, during World War I. It also apparently produced “two million artillery shells,” in support of the Czarist Russian government. This building, like many others close to Seattle’s waterfront, is likely to have been involved in these efforts. The building was remodeled, based on designs by Ralph Anderson and Partners, produced in 1976. At that time, it was converted to house the Seattle Trade Center. By 1997, it was known as the Seattle International Trade Center. In 1999, Zimmer Gunzul and Frasca (ZGF) produced designs, which further transformed the building for Real Networks. The building includes other tenants and ZGF also did tenant improvements for the Art Institute of Seattle. In the opinion of this surveyor, because the building exterior has been clearly modified in many aspects, it is not eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Although its exterior is not sufficiently intact for it to be a City of Seattle landmark, the building is of historical interest, because of its association with the early Seattle waterfront, as well as this area’s early industrial history.
This building is located between Elliott Avenue and the east side of Alaskan Way. From north to south, from Clay Street to Vine Street, it covers two city blocks. The older, northern and eastern portion of the building, which runs roughly from Clay to Cedar Streets, was constructed in 1916. The rest of this very long building was completed by 1925. The building, which includes a full basement level, varies in height from four stories, mainly in the older wing, to five stories in the newer wing. The original structure includes regularly spaced concrete columns and exterior concrete walls. Originally, the roof was mainly flat, but overall, there tend to be a variety of penthouse levels areas and other construction at the original roof level, particularly in the later and southern wing. In general, the building is distinguished by a higher ground floor, with recessed bays usually defined by large, single window openings. The ground level is topped by a projecting belt-course. Above the belt-course, particularly along the older, northern portion of the eastern elevation, the standard bay consists of two levels of trabeated openings, surmounted by a corresponding segmental arched opening at the top level. Above this is a cornice. On the original older eastern façade, end bays and a special central bay are emphasized by raised parapets, reminiscent of Dutch gables. The central bay is a special feature of the older, northern portion of the eastern façade. It includes two horizontal sub-bays and the wider bay is topped by a corresponding raised parapet/ gable end, which includes two small windows. Historical photos indicate that there were originally two large smoke stacks, set behind the larger bay. The composition of this early portion of the façade is symmetrical: four sets of standard bays flank the wider, central bay and this entire arrangement is book-ended by the typical end bays with raised parapets. In general, spandrels are clad in brick, but lintels and sills are in concrete. The corresponding western elevation of the older portion of the building has similar elements, although it is less symmetrical: a typical end bay is followed by seven standard bays, which is followed by a typical end bay, followed by three standard bays. On both east and west elevations, a narrower bay announces the newer portion of the building. The newer, southern addition repeats many of the elements of the earlier building. The standard bays are wider, sometimes more tower-like, and, in general, openings are wider. Based on historical photos and on drawings by Zimmer Gunzul and Frasca (now ZGF) from the late 1990s, a penthouse level, which originally only corresponded to the sixth, seventh and eighth bays from the south, was extended to cover eleven bays north of the end bay. The original glazing, which was multi-pane sash, was an important element of the building exterior and has been replaced. There is also another change, which has occurred since the 1930s. Based on photos from the 1930s and a faded elevation of the western elevation from 1916, what corresponds to the bottom two levels of that elevation were originally open and resembled an arcade/ loading area. This has since been modified, so as to create two enclosed floors, with window openings, which resemble those of the upper floors. Several 1930s photos also indicate that there was a skyway, which began at the fifth bay of the western elevation and led to Pier 13/ 69. Although the building is still imposing and retains important elements of its original design, the original glazing, which has been replaced, was an important part of the original design. In addition, the enclosing of the arcade on the western elevation and the addition of such elements as the continuous penthouse level on 1925 addition mean that the building has lost some integrity.

Detail for 2601 Elliott AVE / Parcel ID 0653000250 / Inv #

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status: INV
Cladding(s): Brick, Concrete, Stone - Cast Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat with Parapet Roof Material(s): Asphalt/Composition
Building Type: Industry/Processing/Extraction - Manufacturing Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: six
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Communications, Manufacturing/Industry, Science & Engineering
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Windows: Moderate
Major Bibliographic References
City of Seattle DCLU Microfilm Records.
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Dorpat, Paul. Seattle Waterfront: An Illustrated History. Seattle, June 2005.
Sheridan, Mimi.“SR 99: Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement Project Historic Resources Inventory.” Draft, ca. 2004.
Stolk, William. American Can Company: Revolution in Containers. New York: The Newcomen Society in North America, 1960.
“Item No:8737, Railroad Avenue North from Cedar Street.”Engineering Department Photographic Negatives Collection, Seattle Municipal Archives Photograph Collection.

Photo collection for 2601 Elliott AVE / Parcel ID 0653000250 / Inv #

Photo taken Dec 12, 2006

Photo taken Aug 04, 2006
App v2.0.1.0