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Summary for 301 Pike ST / Parcel ID 1975700300 / Inv #

Historic Name: F. W. Woolworth Company Store Common Name: Ross Dress for Less
Style: Art Deco - Streamline Moderne Neighborhood: Commercial Core
Built By: Year Built: 1940
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.
This property is directly associated with a period (1931-1945) during which downtown commercial development was halted by economic depression and slowed by the redirection of resources toward World War II efforts and post-war suburbanization. Few major downtown construction projects occurred during this era with three major exceptions; the Federal Office Building (1932) and the U.S. Federal Courthouse and the F.W. Woolworth Company store, which were both completed in 1940. During this era property and business owners became concerned about parking and traffic impacts within the commercial core as retail activity began to be decentralized to neighborhoods commercial districts and modern post-war era suburban communities. The Woolworth store empire grew from the idea of Frank Winfield Woolworth (1852-1919) of a “five-and-dime” store, where no items would be priced above a dime. This entirely novel concept in retailing led to the creation of a multi-million dollar enterprise – the largest chain of retail stores in the world. Woolworth’s first successful five-cent store opened in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1879; it was the first “fixed-price” store of its kind in the nation. His success enabled him to branch out; in November 1880 he opened a second store in Scranton, Pennsylvania with his brother Charles serving as its manager. By 1886, the enterprise had grown to seven stores, each with familiar carmine red storefronts and bright red and gold lettered signage – the trademark of the chain until 1968. It was one of the first retail operations to put merchandise out for shoppers to handle, select, and purchase rather than requesting the merchandise from a clerk behind a counter. By negotiating with wholesalers and manufacturers for bulk sales, Woolworth was able to reduce the unit price of goods sufficiently to sell them at his stores for a dime or less. With remarkable speed, the Woolworth chain grew. In 1900, 59 stores generated total sales of $5 million. At the time of Frank Woolworth’s death in 1919 there were 1,081 stores in operation with sales generated over $119 million. When built the new downtown Seattle F.W. Woolworth store replaced two prior existing stores (first established at a Second Avenue location c.1907) and was part of a major corporate expansion that by 1945 showed sales figures that exceeded $477 million. Woolworth’s store architecture and signage epitomized the 5 cent and 10 cent variety store image. The new Seattle store building was designed by Harold B. Hillman, a staff member of the Woolworth Construction Department, most likely within the company’s San Francisco offices. It’s cream and salmon colored terra cotta façade, stepped vertical corner tower feature, distinctive ornamentation and original gilded lettering and later red illuminated signage (now removed0 were familiar design elements that appeared over and over again on Woolworth buildings in large cities and small towns across the nation. As the only major commercial building constructed downtown during this era, the Woolworth’s store is significant because it signaled the recovery of the region from the Great Depression and the entrance of Seattle into the war-time economy that brought investment and employment into the region. The Seattle Woolworth’s store was touted as the largest of the chain’s West Coast stores. Some exterior signage and storefront level alterations were made after the store closed in 1994. Despite these changes, the building is architecturally significant as it reflects earlier architectural trends as well as the audience for which it was designed and intended to attract. By the late 1930s, government buildings were being designed in a “stripped classical” mode and streamline “Moderne” styles indicative of merging of prior high style designs with European modernism and the International style. Art Deco was no longer a leading “high-style” design mode. However, aspects of the style had permeated the popular mass market of household items, glassware, cosmetics, costume jewelry, home furnishings and clothing fashion. The streamline moderne design and architectural treatment that were used for this Woolworth store is an expression and a reflection of broad popular tastes. This was an appropriate design choice for the construction of a popular low-priced variety "chain store" that catered to the general populous rather than a perceived elite clientele. [This property was previously determined eligible for listing in the National Register by the SHPO.]
Prominently located at the SE corner of Third Avenue and Pike Street, this is a particularly distinctive three-story retail chain store building measuring 176’ x 111 ft. The exterior is distinguished by two–part façade composition with 10 bays oriented toward Third Avenue and six bays toward Pike Street. It exhibits highly distinctive streamline Moderne architectural character accentuated by Art Deco-inspired terra cotta ornament, modern aluminum details and a low horizontal building form interrupted by a prominent truncated tower at the principal NW corner entry. The steel-reinforced concrete structure with a concrete foundation and basement is almost entirely clad with smooth terra cotta panels and ornament. The base or storefront level is clearly distinguished from the shaft and is primarily clad with a salmon color terra cotta and capped by a wide sign band that includes a narrow chevron frieze. The shaft is clad with wide cream color terra cotta and distinguished by fluted piers/pilasters that terminate at the roofline with a staggered/stepped parapet treatment. The parapet line in conjunction with raised pilasters and ornate vertical spandrel panels (using the darker salmon color terra cotta) creates a rhythmic pattern of layered piers, spandrels and windows at each bay. The recessed spandrels are embellished with vertical salmon colored vine and flower ornament that contrasts with the dominant cream color surfaces. The low horizontal building form is punctuated by a clipped corner entry and a prominent truncated tower at the principal entry located on the NW corner of the building. The entry vestibule is recessed with original black and beige patterned terrazzo paving in place. The tower rises approximately 12 feet above the parapet line with a stepped cap and scalloped parapet trim. The tower is further accentuated by an Art Deco inspired clock flanked by horizontal wing ornament and minimal abstract floral bas relief. The storefront bulkhead is clad with smooth polished black granite and a streamline band of fluted aluminum runs in a horizontal band above display windows. Most of the storefront windows appear to be new aluminum double-glazed product somewhat similar to the original display windows. Several display windows are now covered by obscuring film. Portions of original aluminum fixed sash members appear to remain in place at entryways. Original terrazzo paving, fluted door surrounds and ornate coffered soffits remain in place at the corner entry and at an original secondary entry vestibule on the Pike Street facade. The painted metal sash at the upper floor levels appears to be original. In addition to storefront window alterations, modern back-lit plastic signage has been installed. The original vertical red “Woolworth’s” sign that embellished the corner face of the tower and announced the main entryway is no longer in place. The original emblematic “F. W. Woolworth Co.” signs that were located at each storefront sign band and composed of individual gilded and raised letters have also been replaced with modern new signage. The interior has been completely remodeled. There do not appear to be any intact or architecturally significant interior building features, finishes or public spaces.

Detail for 301 Pike ST / Parcel ID 1975700300 / Inv #

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Concrete, Terra cotta Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat with Parapet Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Commercial/Trade - Specialty store Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: three
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Commerce
Changes to Windows: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Interior: Extensive
Storefront: Moderate
Changes to Plan: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, ed. Shaping Seattle Architecture, A Historical Guide to the Architects. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994.
Courtois, Shirley L. METRO Downtown Seattle Transit Project FEIS Inventory Form, 1984.
Aldredge, Lydia. Impressions of Imagination: Terra Cotta Seattle, Allied Arts of Seattle, 1986.

Photo collection for 301 Pike ST / Parcel ID 1975700300 / Inv #

Photo taken May 23, 2006

Photo taken May 23, 2006
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