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Summary for 4304 SW Dakota ST SW / Parcel ID 3010301030 / Inv # SCL005

Historic Name: California Avenue Substation Common Name: California Substation
Style: Other Neighborhood: West Seattle Junction
Built By: Year Built: 1930
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.
Puget Sound Power & Light Company constructed this former distribution substation in 1930 as part of their private electric utility operations within the City of Seattle. 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 California Avenue SW at SW Dakota Street in West Seattle. This was one of three distribution substations constructed of brick with decorative trim made of either terra cotta or cast stone. Reinforced concrete was the preferred material for the majority of the substations. It appears to have been designed in keeping with the surrounding residential neighborhood, as were the other brick substations located in Laurelhurst and on East Pine in the Central Area. Not only is it the only remaining brick substation of the original three constructed by Puget Sound Power & Light Company, but it is the only distribution substation of the original ten constructed by the company, which remains in City Light ownership. Only one other, Rainier Avenue, is known to remain extant at this time. With its Neo-Classical Revival stylistic features, the architecturally distinctive California 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.
Set on a slight rise, this one-story brick building is aligned along the eastern side of a large corner lot with a fenced area on the western side. Originally, electrical transmission equipment filled this area, which allows for vehicular access on the southern side through an elaborate wrought iron gate set between two brick columns. All of this equipment has been removed, and the building remains vacant. Completed in 1930, the flat roof structure is comprised of two rectangular plan sections, which exhibit Neo-Classical Revival stylistic influences. On the principal south elevation, the narrower western half extends nine feet beyond the eastern half, creating an L-shaped footprint. The more elaborate eastern half has a slightly higher roofline due to the addition of a terra cotta trimmed parapet wall, which is lined with a terra cotta cornice at the base. The principal south elevation of the eastern half has a recessed entry porch at the center, which contains a paneled wood door with sidelights and a transom. This door is reached by a flight of wide concrete stairs framed by substantial brick columns at the sidewalk level. These columns are set within the three-foot concrete retaining wall, which surrounds the site. Terra cotta pilasters frame the entrance and support a terra cotta lunette embellished with an elaborate wreath at the center and festoons of leaves. The entrance is located within a projecting pavilion with terra cotta coping covering its gabled roofline. This feature is echoed in the stepped parapet of the main roof above. On either side of the entrance, the multi-paned arched window openings are partially covered with plywood panels. Small terra cotta medallions are set in the wall above each window, with three of them set together above the projecting entrance bay. These medallions continue above the windows on the south and east elevations of the western half of the building. The two large multi-paned window openings on the south elevation are partially covered with plywood while the single window on the east elevation has been filled with brick. The east elevation of the building has a large window opening at the center flanked by two narrower openings, all sharing the same terra cotta sill. All of the building’s windows feature terra cotta sills. These openings contain multi-paned windows, which are fixed in the upper half above casement windows below. This elevation has the same medallions centered above these windows as well as plaques set within the parapet wall between the cornice and the coping and projecting above the roofline. In comparison to the south and east elevations, the north and west elevations are more utilitarian in appearance. The north elevation has three window openings with terra cotta sills while the west elevation has one tall narrow opening at the southern end with double doors and two wide brick buttresses at the northern. With the exception of a few alterations, the building retains excellent physical integrity despite a lack of maintenance, but it is covered by ivy and obscured by dense landscaping.

Detail for 4304 SW Dakota ST SW / Parcel ID 3010301030 / Inv # SCL005

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Brick, Terra cotta Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Government - Public Works Plan: L-Shape
Structural System: Unknown No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Commerce, Politics/Government/Law, Science & Engineering
Changes to Windows: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Plan: 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 4304 SW Dakota ST SW / Parcel ID 3010301030 / Inv # SCL005

Photo taken Nov 04, 2000

Photo taken Nov 04, 2000
App v2.0.1.0