||Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant
||Federal Center South
||Art Deco - PWA Moderne, Commercial
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.
In the opinion of the survey, this property is located in a potential historic districe (National and/or local).
Plat: Industrial Addition, Block: 23,
Architect: Albert Kahn
Architect Albert Kahn designed the large building as a Ford
Motor Company Assembly Plant. It was completed between 1931 and 1932. Within
Seattle’s Industrial District, it stands out as a striking and well-designed
building. It functioned as a Ford Assembly assembly plant and showroom until
Albert Kahn was also
responsible for the smaller Oil House, also built as part of the original Ford
Motor Plant. It too was completed between 1931 and 1932.
Albert Kahn was
born in Westphalia, Germany in 1869, but, soon after, his family soon moved to
Luxemberg and then in 1880 to Detroit, Michigan. Kahn worked as an apprentice
and draughtsman at the firm of John Scott and Associates and then over a decade
at the architecture firm of Mason and Rice. He became an architect purely by
apprenticeship, without formal academic training. Once an architect, Kahn
became the architect of choice for many industrial clients. He is credited with
the design of two thousand factories between 1900 and 1940. One of his long and
important associations was with Henry Ford. He designed many Ford Motor Plants,
including the Highland Park Factory in 1909 and the River Rouge Ford Plant
(1917-1939), both in the Detroit area. The East Marginal Way plant dates from
somewhat later in his career. Kahn also worked for other clients in the
automobile industry, including Henry B. Joy, the President of Paccard. Later in
his career, Kahn also worked on large plants for the aeronautics industry,
including the Willow Run Factory of 1943 in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Kahn’a ability
to create large open and efficient spaces that facilitated industrial
production continues to be considered unique among historians of industrial
heritage, architects and architectural historians.
From 1940 to
1949, the larger building along East Marginal Way South was owned by the War
Department and used as a staging site for supplies headed for the Pacific
Front. From 1959 to 1971, Boeing apparently leased the building, where it
produced Minuteman Missiles for the United States Air Force. Owned by the
General Services Administration since 1973, it is now known as GSA Building
1203 of Federal Center South, a local headquarters of the General Services
Administration of the United States Government. Currently the largest tenant at
Federal Center South is the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Seattle branch
of the U. S. Government Printing Office is also an important tenant, although
there is no onsite printing plant.
and Maria Teresa Mauillari-Pontois,“The Factory Architecture of Albert Kahn,” WArchitectureWeek,
<www.architectureweek.com/2000/1115/culture_2-1.html>, accessed July 2010.
accessed July 2010
Assembly Plant- Architect Albert Kahn,” www.fordmotorhistory.com/factories/richmond/albert_kahn.php,
accessed July 2010.
Walker Gray, “4735 E Marginal Way S, Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant and Oil
House,” Department of Archeology and Preservation website, “Wisaard,” survey
information, (not reports), accessed July 15, 2010.
Hildebrand, Designing for industry: the architecture of Albert Kahn, Cambridge,
Mass., The MIT Press, 1974.
“Federal Center South,” – Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=5971524987, accessed
4735 E Marginal Way
South is a large property, which includes two related and significant
Larger Building – Former
Ford Motor Factory
The larger building, a
former factory building, is two stories in height. It is generally clad in buff
brick, with cast stone/concrete trim. The building has a regular plan that is
almost rectangular, roughly 850 feet long and 320 feet width, (it also was
designed with a “small wing” that is 180’ by 100’). The original interior
structure includes a structural steel frame, as well as reinforced concrete
partition walls. The building was originally designed to accommodate large spaces
for factory production. Original exterior walls are of reinforced concrete and
Beginning at its north
end, the main exterior east façade along E Marginal Way is marked by a long
series of two story bays, which are separated by engaged piers, clad in buff
brick. Each of the bays has a large window opening with new glazing. Simple,
relatively flat concrete caps surmount the brick clad pilasters. A dentil band,
topped by a concrete band, also ties the caps together just above the second
level of window openings.
Aside from the
contrasting concrete bands and pilasters caps, the building exterior is
primarily clad in buff brick; however, a gray and buff diaper pattern occurs
across much of the elevation, above the long series of window bays. In its
repeated bays and brick detailing, the north elevation includes many elements
that are similar to those of this part of the façade.
The south wing, located
at the end of the main east façade, although clad in the same brick and
detailed in a similar fashion, has a slightly different design. More clearly
Art Deco in style, it includes several slightly taller, long, glazed multi-pane
bays, separated by similar engaged piers with concrete caps and trim; however
there are more reveals and vertical fluting associated with the pilasters.
Also, to each side of the four bays is another similar long glazed bay with
brick cladding that projects out slightly in front of the four bays. The two
flanking bays are also slightly lower than the four bays, but still higher than
the continuous and more standardized bays to the north. A tall stack also rises
behind this end of the building. Completing the south end of the facade is a
more standardized bay, which and is the same height as the main part of the
façade. The top window opening is filled with multi-pane sash, while the lower
opening has what appears to be a service door. Also, the spandrel above the
first floor opening has been reclad or covered by new siding.
Former Oil House
To the south of the
larger main building, there is a one-story building, with a similar contrast
between buff brick and cast stone, as well as similar detailing. Rectangular in
plan, it has a gable roof. The shorter elevation, which includes a gable
end, is divided into three horizontal oblong window openings, also separated by
pilasters. Two of these retain what appears to be original multi-pane glazing.
The pilasters also rise to the top of the gable end. A much longer elevation
includes nine bays, originally designed with a central bay that included a
door, flanked to each side with four window openings, filled with multi-pane
sash. To each side of this larger grouping, there is a much narrower bays. In
the case of this building, many bays appear to have original multi-pane
glazing, while others are filled with replacement materials.