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Summary for 401 DEXTER AVE / Parcel ID 198820-1310 / Inv # 0

Historic Name: J.W. Graham & Co. School Supplies Common Name: Seattle Print Works
Style: Modern Neighborhood: South Lake Union
Built By: Year Built: 1948

This building was constructed in 1948 and is associated with the post-World War II developmental era in the South Lake Union area.  The building’s earliest tenant was J.W. Graham & Company School Supplies (Polk 1948-49, 1955). Later tenants included Curley-Bates Co. Wholesale Sporting Goods (Polk 1960) and Singer Sewing Machine Company (Polk 1970). It has been a print shop for at least a decade.

The building designer was Donald Dwight Williams (1908-1990).Williams studied architecture at the University of Washington but did not complete a degree.  Williams never received a formal architectural license, even though he practiced and advertised his services as such for the next 50+ years.  In 1934 Williams established his own independent architectural practice in downtown Seattle. By the mid 1940s he began to offer design/build services; a unique business model at the time.As such, he was one of the first architects in the State to handle both the architectural design and the actual construction of the building. Known as Don Williams & Co., early projects included the KRSC Radio Station (1944); the Electrol Building (1944); and the Home Oil Co. Building (1944). 

In 1944 the Williams’ moved into a home office/warehouse building at 314 Fairview Avenue N. Their live-work space contained his design and construction business (operated with his wife) on the first floor, while the second floor was home to a unique 4,000 sq. ft. apartment. 

Williams specialized in industrial / office-warehouse buildings similar to the subject building. Known projects include the J.R. Watkins Co. Headquarters Building (1955); the DeVoss Desk Co. Building (1956); the Moore Business Forms& Dictaphone Corp. Building (1956); the Metropolitan Press Printing Co.(1957); the Johns-Mansville Sales Corp. Office (1957); the Shifton Plywood Co.(1958); the Charles Bruning Co. Building (1959); the Nebar Supply Co. Building(1960); the Redordak Corp. Building (1960); the Continental Mills Inc.Headquarters (1961); and the William Dierickx Co. Building (1964). 

Other projects include a 100,000 sq. ft. shopping center in Federal Way (1955);the Local 76 Musicians’ Union Building (1955); Bellevue-Medical Dental Building(1955); the US Post Office (1956) in the International District; Renton Carpenters’ Union Building (1957); Sure Fit Seat Cover Store (1958) on Rainier Avenue; Queen Anne Medical Center (1959); and the remodel of the old Green Lake T heater into the home of Western Pacific Insurance Co. (1959). 

Williams design for the 11– story luxury cooperative Mercer West Apartments(1962-63) at the base of Queen Anne Hill, garnered much attention in local newspapers. He also developed a model design for the Federal Old Line Insurance Company, which constructed several offices in Seattle, Tacoma and Everett. 

Residential projects were limited in number. To date known projects include an all-aluminum model home in Bellevue (1948); the W.H. Wagnitz House (1939); ahome featured in Architectural Record (1942); the Mrs. Sigrid Nelson House(c.1948); and the Curtis Lind House (1949). Williams retired in 1987. [Credit: DocomoWEWAwebpage]

The original glazed corner, an important design feature of this building, has been filled in with plywood and new windows. Although it was designed by a prolific architect and built during a period of important industrial, commercial and warehouse construction in the South Lake Union area, this building lacks integrity,noteworthy architectural details and historical associations.

Bibliographical References:

Polk, R.L.

1948-49 City Directory of Seattle. R. L. Polk& Co., Seattle

1960 City Directory of Seattle. R. L. Polk &Co., Seattle

1970 City Directory of Seattle. R. L. Polk &Co., Seattle

Washington State Department of Archaeology andHistoric Preservation Property Inventory Card, 2009

King County Property Record Card (1937-1972), WashingtonState Archives

DocomomoWEWA Webpage:


This one-story rectangular concrete block building sits on a corner lot. It has a flat roof with deep eaves, newer plywood cladding at the corner, and large windows with newer metal sash. The northern and eastern sections are clad in Roman brick and feature large multi-light windows with steel industrial sash located high on the walls, just below the eaves.  The single glass entry door is located on the East facade. The rear and side facades have concrete block and stucco siding. 

Detail for 401 DEXTER AVE / Parcel ID 198820-1310 / Inv # 0

Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Brick - Roman, Concrete - Block, Stucco Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat with Eaves Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Commercial/Trade - Specialty store Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Concrete - Block No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture
Changes to Windows: Moderate
Changes to Plan: Slight
Changes to Original Cladding: Moderate
Changes to Interior: Unknown
Major Bibliographic References

Photo collection for 401 DEXTER AVE / Parcel ID 198820-1310 / Inv # 0

Photo taken Feb 10, 2014
App v2.0.1.0