This commercial building was designed by architect Kenneth S. Ripley and built in 1954. It housed the Singer Sewing Machine Company from 1955 until the mid-1970s (Polk’s City of Seattle Directory, 1955, 1960, 1965, 1970). The subsequent tenant was Benjamin S. Notkin, an HVAC company (Seattle Daily Times, 1976 – 1984). The current tenant is the American Lung Association.
This building was designed and constructed during the post-World War II era, which was an important period of industrial, commercial and warehouse development in the South Lake Union area. It displays characteristics of the Mid-Century Modern or simply Modern style. The Modern style grew out of construction techniques and materials technologies that developed during and immediately after World War II in response to the need to build economical and easily assembled structures. While these techniques were initially used in the construction of military and mass housing structures, they quickly spread to other building types. Characteristics of Modern commercial vernacular buildings during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s modular building systems with cladding materials that could be pre-fabricated and assembled on-site. Common cladding materials included brick (frequently Roman brick), formed concrete, simulated stone, aluminum, Vitrolite (opaque glass), glass block, and small mosaic tile. Modern commercial storefronts often featured an “open front” design, which celebrated the display window as the most prominent storefront element in contrast to earlier storefront designs which placed more emphasis on the wall that framed the windows. Windows were typically plate glass with narrow aluminum frames. Plate glass afforded large, uninterrupted expanses of windows that could extend from floor to ceiling, ideal for displaying merchandise. Storefront bulkheads and enframements were commonly clad in brick, stone, or tile.
This two-story building is situated on a corner lot and features the following characteristics of the Modern commercial style: full two-story-in-height curtain walls of multi-pane windows with divided aluminum sash and what appears to be a band of concrete panels between the first and second floors, Roman brick-clad bulkheads and sills below first floor windows, an open concrete block stairway clad in Roman brick at the northeast corner, and a flat roof with deep eaves. The building retains very good integrity and is an excellent example of the Modern commercial style.
Building architect Kenneth St. Clair Ripley was born on September 29, 1910 and passed away on Mercer Island on September 14, 1997. He received his architectural license (No. 236) on August 31, 1939. (Michael Houser, Washington State Architectural Historian, Aug. 27, 2014).
Jackson, Mike, FAIA. “Storefronts of Tomorrow.” Preserving the Recent Past 2. Eds. Deborah Slaton and William G. Foulks. Washington DC: Historic Preservation Education Foundation, National Park Service, Association for Preservation Technology, 200. 57-65.
R.L. Polk Company, “Polk’s City of Seattle Directory,” 1955, 1960, 1965, 1970.
Seattle Daily Times, Classified Advertisement, Aug. 23, 1976, p. 32.
Seattle Daily Times, Classified Advertisement, Oct. 7, 1984, p. 97.
King County Property Record Card (1937-1972), Washington State Archives