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Summary for 814 NE 75th ST NE / Parcel ID 0525049003 / Inv # SCL013

Historic Name: North Rectifier Substation Common Name: North Substation Building C
Style: Art Deco - Streamline Moderne, Modern Neighborhood: Roosevelt
Built By: Year Built: 1954
This rectifier substation was constructed in 1953-54 in order to convert conventional Alternating Current (AC) to the Direct Current (DC), which powered the Seattle Transit System’s electric trolley buses. More than a decade earlier, the City had converted its electric streetcar system of public transportation to the trolley buses. Since the City’s purchase of the rail lines of the Puget Sound Traction, Light & Power Company in 1919, the Municipal Street Railway System had experienced severe financial difficulties, culminating in bankruptcy by 1938. By this time, the system, which consisted of 26 electric streetcar routes, three cable car lines, and 18 gasoline-powered bus lines, was considered archaic and in need of extensive modernization. Under the auspices of the newly created Seattle Transportation Commission, the new Seattle Transit System replaced the streetcars with trolley buses with a loan secured from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation in 1939. The first trolleys began carrying passengers in April 1940, and the last streetcar ended its last run a year later on April 13, 1941. By 1943, the new trolley system had been finalized and used City Light’s inexpensive hydroelectric power. This conversion required an upgrade in the equipment used to power the system, resulting in the construction of the Roxbury and University rectifier substations and the installation of additional equipment at existing City Light facilities, including the North Substation. The difficulty of transmitting Direct Current over long distances required multiple rectifier substations distributed throughout the City. At North, two 300-kilowatt rectifiers provided the 600-volt Direct Current. Within ten years, further modernizations were necessary to supply Direct Current to the Transit System with higher efficiency and reduced conversion costs. The modern Mercury Arc rectifiers, which replaced the obsolete rotary equipment, also allowed non-attended operation of conversion facilities. From 1951-1955, City Light added equipment at the new Broad Street Substation and constructed new substations at South, University, North, Avalon, Fremont, Leary, Gatewood, and Olympic Hill. At North, the new rectifier substation was constructed between 1953 and 1954 with one 1000-kilowatt rectifier, providing the 600-volt Direct Current. The older equipment previously installed elsewhere on the site was relocated to other newly built substations. The electric trolley buses operated throughout the City for another decade until 1963, when diesel buses replaced them north of the Ship Canal and south of Spokane Street. Ten years later, the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle (METRO) took over the Seattle Transit System, ending over fifty years of municipal control of the City’s public transportation system. This modest utilitarian building is significant for its associations with the municipally owned public transportation system and its conversion and modernization during its years of operation.
Completed in 1954, this typical one-story rectifier substation is situated along 9th Avenue NE on the eastern edge of a site roughly bounded by NE 75th and 77th Streets and by 8th and 9th Avenues NE. The site contains two additional buildings, a 1923-24 receiving substation located along NE 75th Street and a 1930 distribution substation located at the southeastern corner along 9th Avenue NE. Electrical equipment fills the majority of the fenced site, which covers more than two city blocks. This reinforced concrete building has a rectangular plan, which measures approximately 42 feet by 21 feet. The Modern design of this flat roof building displays some Streamline Moderne stylistic influences. These include a smooth concrete exterior incised with lines to create strong horizontal bands and a shallow curved roof over the tall double entrance doors on the principal east elevation. A short driveway leads to these paneled metal doors. Three concrete piers divide this elevation as well as the west elevation into four bays. The single entrance door on the west elevation also has a small streamlined roof over it. The north and south elevations each have a single window opening covered with a plywood panel. The north elevation also has a small square opening set with a wood panel and a vent. The coping of the roof parapet is lined with sheet metal. Although obscured by fencing and landscaping, this building appears to be well maintained with good physical integrity.

Detail for 814 NE 75th ST NE / Parcel ID 0525049003 / Inv # SCL013

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Concrete Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Government - Public Works Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Science & Engineering, Transportation
Changes to Windows: Moderate
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Plan: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Seattle Department of Lighting. Annual report / City of Seattle, Department of Lighting. Seattle, WA: 1910-1974.

Photo collection for 814 NE 75th ST NE / Parcel ID 0525049003 / Inv # SCL013

Photo taken Aug 14, 2000
App v2.0.1.0