||Robertson Freight Lines/ Warehouse for D. S. Tobias
||Alaskan Copper Employment Office
||Other - Industrial, Vernacular
Willatsen initially designed 2598 6th Ave South - the office wing,
as well as the freight shed wing - in 1941. The complex was designed as a
“Warehouse & Garage for D. S. Tobias.” On another titleblock, it is also
described as an “Auto Freight Depot for D. S. Tobias.” Willatsen also made
later changes to the complex in 1947, also for the same client. In fact,
D. S. Tobias appears to have been the owner of Robertson Freight Lines.
Architect Benjamin McAdoo designed the small eastern addition to the original
office at the end of 1950. By that time, the complex was called the Robertson
Freight Depot, but the owner was still David Tobias. By 1956, the building
housed the Denver Chicago Trucking Company and by 1970, Northwest Freight
Lines. It is not clear if there was a succession of freight lines in the
building, or whether there were simply several changes of name.
Willatsen, born in 1876, worked in Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio in Oak Park,
Illinois, beginning in 1902 or 1903. There, he worked on the remodel of the
Rookery, as well as the interiors of the Darwin Martin House. He moved to
Spokane in 1907 and worked for Cutter and Malmgren. In 1909, he and Barry Byrne
founded the partnership of Willatsen and Byrne. The firm produced many designs
in both the Prairie and Craftsman styles. Willatsen is probably best known for
the design of the Black House (1914) in Seattle, which he produced after the
Willatsen and Byrne partnership had dissolved. After 1915, he also worked on a
variety of alterations within the Pike Place Market. Although he apparently
officially retired in the late 1940s, he was also responsible for the Richard
Desimone House in 1959. Compared to some of his more sophisticated work, this
small office building is very simple, but has many pleasing elements, which
reflect the talents of its original designer.
McAdoo also worked on the eastern addition to this simple building. He may also
have added another shed, but, if it is still on the property, it is not visible
from the street. As an addition to the office building, his was a sensitive
solution. McAdoo is known as the first African-American architect to have a
long-term architectural practice in the State of Washington. He obtained a
B.Arch. the University of Washington in 1946. During the 1950s, McAdoo became
known for his Modernist residential design work and later for the original
University of Washington Cultural Center (1970-1972) and Fire Station No. 29 in
West Seattle (1969-72). For McAdoo, the remodel came relatively early in his
career and within the body of his entire work, is fairly minor. Still, it is of
some interest that two major Seattle architects, who represent very different
styles of architecture and historical times, both worked on this small
Based on a sign above
the entrance and one at the top of the parapet, the small office building now
functions as the employment office for Alaska Copper Works, which has been in
the building, since at least 1980. The distribution company for the Alaskan
Copper Works is the Alaska Copper and Brass Company. The two companies, as
described on the Alaska Copper Works website, continue to operate as a
“combined metal service center, manufacturer and fabricator of
corrosion-resistant alloy products.” Within the Industrial District, the two
companies are a major landowner and, as of 2003, owned 19 acres. Morris Rosen
founded the Alaskan Copper Works along Alaskan Way during the early Twentieth
Century. The company has been run by at least three generations of the Rosen
family and retains many experienced workers who have been with the company for
over thirty years.
Alaskan Copper website, <http://www.alaskancopper.com/ >,
accessed April, 2010.
Richard Seven, “How Goes SODO?,” Seattle
Times, Pacific Northwest Magazine, October 19, 2003, database at
accessed March 2010.
2598 6th Ave
S is a two-story frame building with horizontal wood siding. Originally, a
one-story freight shed, which was longer than ten bays, was attached to the
two-story building, which operated as a front office wing. The freight shed was
located behind and east of the office wing. It terminated in a more enclosed
bay that had a multi-pane window at its south elevation. This bay contained a
“checking office” and bathrooms.
Despite changes over
time, the original office wing’s main façade, located along 6th
Avenue South, has retained a good degree of integrity. The main façade has a
symmetrical composition. It has a central entry consisting of a double door,
topped by a blind transom and a streamline metal marquee. To each side, two
long window openings flank the central entry. These openings, as well as those
at the second level, have thin surrounds, which are distinctive. At the second
level, the corresponding window openings are each divided into a vertical row
of three panes. The central pane is an operable awning window. Above the
central doorway, the window is also divided into three panes, but is about as
wide as the entry below.
The major change is that
the first floor windows have been replaced with single panes, probably fixed
plate glass. There is an air conditioner set into the transom above the door.
Based on original drawings, most of the other elements, including the metal
marqueee, are original, (or a good replacement in kind).
The south elevation is
hard to see, since a large metal shipping container is set in front of it. The
north elevation retains what seem to be original windows, as well, although
there is a small addition, similar to the original wing, just to the east. On
the other hand, the view of much of the north elevation is also blocked.