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Summary for 32nd AVE / Parcel ID 0582000685 / Inv # SCL009

Historic Name: Magnolia Substation Common Name:
Style: Art Deco Neighborhood: Magnolia
Built By: Year Built: 1943
 
Significance
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.
City Light constructed this distribution substation in 1943 on land purchased the previous year. This substation is architecturally similar to one located on Rainier Avenue South just south of the Columbia City commercial district. While the Magnolia substation is still in active operation, the substation on Rainier has been retired and converted to offices for a local community development organization. The construction of this substation is unusual for several reasons. The majority of City Light distribution substations built at that time typically consisted of the electrical equipment set within a relatively small fenced enclosure and open to view. In the case of this facility, the substation equipment was installed within a fairly large reinforced concrete structure with Streamline Moderne stylistic elements, which screened the operations from view. Its location in a residential neighborhood may have influenced the design. Incised above the entrance on the south elevation is a prominent "CITY LIGHT" sign, perhaps to distinguish this publicly owned facility from the privately-operated electric system in Seattle at that time owned by Puget Sound Power & Light Company. The substation was also constructed in an era of severe shortages of manpower and materials due to the Second World War. Other than performing basic maintenance, City Light could only proceed with essential capital projects during this time. With its Streamline Moderne stylistic features, the architecturally distinctive Magnolia Substation is significant for its design and for its association with the growth and development of City Light.
 
Appearance
Completed in 1943, this one-story reinforced concrete building occupies a large corner lot at the intersection of West Grover Street and 32nd Avenue West in a residential neighborhood of single family homes. Set on a high concrete plinth, this architecturally distinctive flat roof structure displays many typical Streamline Moderne stylistic features. These include a smooth concrete exterior incised with lines to create strong horizontal bands of varying widths, a curved southwest corner, and a small semicircular roof over the entrance centered within a low-relief projecting pavilion at the western end of the south elevation. A graduated recessed opening contains this double door entrance below a covered transom. A prominent "CITY LIGHT" sign is incised in the concrete fa├žade above the curved roof covering the entrance. Three vertical openings line the remaining portion of the south elevation. A large horizontal opening wraps the curved southwest corner. A single vertical opening is situated beyond on the west elevation. Patterned concrete panels fill all of these openings. A January 1945 historic photograph shows that these panels date to the original construction of the building. The slightly higher walls of the northern half of the building enclose an open yard and screen transformers and other electrical equipment from view. Five shallow piers on the north, east, and west elevations divide the walls of this section into four bays, which contain inset panels embellished with incised lines. On the west elevation, three bays have narrow louvered openings at the center while the fourth has a large opening, which contains the original metal door. This large door is set with a smaller entrance door, now partly covered with plywood. The east elevation has a similar configuration, however the fourth bay contains a blind opening. The north elevation presents a blank wall with no openings and faces onto a small yard enclosed by chain link fence. Well maintained with attractive landscaping, this building retains excellent physical integrity.

Detail for 32nd AVE / Parcel ID 0582000685 / Inv # SCL009

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: one
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Science & Engineering
Integrity
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Windows: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
City of Seattle DCLU Microfilm Records.

Photo collection for 32nd AVE / Parcel ID 0582000685 / Inv # SCL009


Photo taken Oct 31, 2000
App v2.0.1.0