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Summary for 707 S Plummer ST S / Parcel ID 7666202750 / Inv # FAC008

Historic Name: Frye Investment Company/Frye & Company Common Name: Materials Laboratory (SED)
Style: Modern Neighborhood: Duwamish
Built By: Year Built: 1951
The Frye Investment Company constructed this office building in 1950-51 for their own use. The building also housed the offices of Frye & Company and a contracting business, Lushland Inc. The two Frye companies managed and developed the real estate holdings of the estate of Charles and Emma Frye for the purposes of establishing and maintaining the Frye Art Museum. The free public art museum was created to house and display the Fryes’ beloved collections after their deaths. Charles H. Frye was one of the many entrepreneurs who prospered from the redevelopment of the tidal flats south of the downtown commercial district. Born in Iowa in 1858, Charles Frye had come to Seattle with his wife, Emma, and his brother, Frank, in 1888. The Frye brothers opened their first meat market on Columbia Street between First and Second Avenues. In 1891, the Fryes and a friend, Charles Bruhn, created the Frye-Bruhn Meat Packing Co. in Seattle and relocated to a site along the present-day Airport Way South near South Walker Street. At this time, it was at the base of Beacon Hill, built along the waterline over the unfilled tide flats. The business prospered, sparked by prospectors’ need for provisions during the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1890s. In the early years of the twentieth century, the Frye brothers purchased Bruhn’s share in the company and expanded into other business interests as well. During these prosperous times, Charles and Emma Frye were able to travel to Europe and began to amass an extensive collection of art. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Charles Frye invested in real estate, industry, farms, ranches, gold mines, and oil wells and continued to prosper despite the economic depression of the 1930s. After Emma’s death in 1934, Charles spent his last years alone until he died on May 1, 1940, at age 82. As they had no children, Charles Frye provided in his will for the creation of a free public art museum to house and display his beloved collections. The museum, named after both Emma and Charles Frye, opened to the public in 1952 and continues operations to the present day in a recently enlarged facility on the site of their First Hill home. After the completion of this building in 1951, the Frye companies remained in this location near their real estate holdings until the later 1950s, after which time the building was occupied by a series of tenants. The City of Seattle acquired the building in 1964 to house the Engineering Department’s Materials Testing Laboratory. Since about 1916, the Laboratory had occupied the lower floor of the King County Court House. The principal function of the Laboratory was to analyze the physical and chemical properties of all materials used in public construction in order to determine whether or not the materials met the specified requirements. The Laboratory also performed research and field studies to determine the useful qualities of new materials and new and improved methods of using them. The Laboratory tested materials for their own department as well as other City departments and governmental agencies, such as City Light, the Water Department, the Port of Seattle and the King County Engineering Department. It was not until after this building was constructed that the Engineering Department developed their Charles Street Shops complex on the land surrounding it. This Modern industrial vernacular building is significant for its associations with the Fryes and their real estate holdings and the development of the Engineering Department.
Completed in 1951, this one-story reinforced concrete building faces north and occupies a corner lot on South Plummer Street at 7th Avenue South along the western edge of the Charles Street Shops facility. This large complex of buildings covers six city blocks between South Dearborn Street and South Royal Brougham Way and 7th and 9th Avenues South. The flat roof building has an L-plan, which measures 72 feet square on its longest sides and 48 feet on its shorter sides. In 1965, a freestanding flat roof structure was constructed off the recessed area at the southeast corner of the building. On the principal north elevation, the eastern end is set back slightly behind the rest of the facade. A recessed entrance area and four large window openings line the longer western portion of the elevation. The openings share a continuous concrete sill and contain three multi-paned windows. Within the recessed area, the glass entrance door is set in a glass block surround. The eastern end has a higher parapet wall, which continues over the adjacent recessed entrance, and a single large window opening, which contains four multi-paned sash. The shorter east elevation has four large window openings. Seven large window openings with concrete sills line the longer west elevation. These openings contain the original multi-paned steel sash windows behind later storm windows. The south elevation has three similar windows at the western end and a loading dock at the center. A flat roof canopy covers one of the windows as well as a pair of double metal entrance doors and an adjacent window, which open onto the loading dock. This canopy connects with the flat roof over the one-story structure to the southeast and extends over the recessed area of the main building. The steel frame structure has brown brick walls on the west and south but is open on the north and east, creating a covered parking area. This modest building displays excellent physical integrity.

Detail for 707 S Plummer ST S / Parcel ID 7666202750 / Inv # FAC008

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Concrete Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Commercial/Trade - Business Plan: L-Shape
Structural System: Steel No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Commerce, Conservation, Politics/Government/Law, Transportation
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Windows: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
City of Seattle DCLU Microfilm Records.
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Polk's Seattle Directories, 1890-1996.
Seattle Engineering Department. Annual report / Engineering Department, City of Seattle. Seattle, WA: 1944-1964.
Frye Art Museum Website (

Photo collection for 707 S Plummer ST S / Parcel ID 7666202750 / Inv # FAC008

Photo taken Oct 22, 2000
App v2.0.1.0