Home Page
Link to Seattle Department of Neighborhoods home page

Seattle Historical Sites

New Search

Summary for 400 DEXTER AVE / Parcel ID 1988201380 / Inv # 0

Historic Name: 400 Dexter Avenue North/ E. J. Towle Company Common Name: Metal Arts Group
Style: Commercial Neighborhood: South Lake Union
Built By: Year Built: 1930
In the opinion of the survey, this property is located in a potential historic districe (National and/or local).
Although it does not have a raised parapet, as many of the early warehouses in South Lake Union of the same vintage often do, 400 Dexter Avenue North was originally designed in 1930 by architect W. R. Grant for A. J. Eberharter. While there have been some changes to the Dexter Avenue storefronts, the building’s brick detailing and general appearance is notable. W. R. Grant, also known as William R. Grant, designed several warehouses in the same period in the South Lake Union area and mostly for the same client, A. J. Eberharter. On Dexter Avenue North alone, in addition to this building, Grant and his client, Eberharter, were responsible for 430 Dexter Avenue N (#151), 228 Dexter Avenue N. (#158), 509 Dexter Avenue N (#163) and 513 Dexter Avenue North (#162). They are all typically one story brick buildings, with storefronts and clerestories, and usually raised parapets over one bay, or symmetrically placed over bays, if the elevation has more than three bays as in the case of 430 Dexter Avenue North. In the case of 400 Dexter Avenue North, Grant has relied on a more intricate use of brickwork and less on the contrast between brick and cast stone ornament. In other parts of Seattle, William R. Grant was also responsible for Christ Episcopal Church in the University District, for the U. S. Naval Reserve Building with B. Marcus Priteca and for the Ballard Building on Market Street in Ballard. Grant worked in Seattle as an architect from 1911 to 1954 and in partnership with his son from 1947 to 1954. The building is also clearly associated with the historic cast-iron clock located in front of it. There is a direct association with the street clock manufacturing company run by Joseph Mayer and successor companies, the E. J. Towle Company and the Northern Stamping & Manufacturing Company. According to the City of Seattle thematic nomination for Mayer clocks in Seattle, in 1897, a jewelry business was founded by brothers Marcus and Joseph Mayer. The Mayer Company of Seattle and its successor companies were responsible for most of Seattle’s signature cast-iron clocks. The Mayer Company split up in 1920 into a wholesaling company, run by Al and Marcus Mayer and a manufacturing company, operated by Joseph Mayer, which, for several years, was listed in Polk’s directories at 81 Marion Street. According to Polk’s directories, by 1936, Joseph Mayer was operating the Northern Smelting and Refining Company, apparently a new name for the manufacturing company, out of this building. Unfortunately, on June 9, 1937, Joseph Mayer also committed suicide in the building. The firm actually stayed in existence, but with a new name, the Northern Stamping and Manufacturing Company. The later was subsequently bought, probably in 1945, by the E. J. Towle Company, another tenant of the building, originally listed in 1930s directories as a manufacturer of “slide fasteners,” presumably zippers. Both businesses appear consistently as tenants of the building, at least into the late 1980s and both are listed as tenants of the same space at “406-410 Dexter Avenue North” from 1951, while a variety of other tenants occupied other spaces within the building. An early photo, which appears to date from 1936, shows that the building was then occupied by Tucker Auto Machine Works and that no clock had yet been installed. The next available photo dates from 1950 and the clock is clearly visible. It seems likely that the clock was added during the late 1930s. In 1947, interior alterations were made to the building by architect J. C. Lounsbury for the Northern Stamping & Manufacturing Company. The 1950 photo also shows that, by this time, sheets of plywood or some other material already covered the south storefront of the Dexter Avenue North façade, as well as the clerestories of the Harrison St storefronts.
This one story building is clad in rug brick in a variety of browns (with some orange) and has a concrete foundation. It has a flat roof, with a rectilinear parapet. It has two street facing elevations, one along Dexter Avenue North and the other on Harrison Street. Of the two elevations, the Harrison Street elevation is the most intact and also the easiest to view, since its details are not covered up by plywood or deep, (but removable), awnings, as is the case on Dexter Avenue North. While the storefronts on the Dexter Avenue elevation have been modified, the real distinguishing characteristic of the building is the detailing of its brick work, which relies, particularly at the parapet level, on a variety of patterns and thicknesses to attract the eye. The brick detailing is consistent from the Harrison Street façade to the Dexter Avenue North façade and is the chief visual and architectural interest of the building. At the very top of the parapet an interwoven zig zag pattern is created by an additional layer of bricks, which has an edge created by bricks in a brighter brown or orange color (The façade has not been cleaned recently, so the pattern is a little muddy). Below this, the brickwork is recessed for at least one wythe, creating a reveal. The next few horizontal rows are extruded out from the recessed row, so that they are in the same plane as the main part of the elevation. These are followed by another recessed row, and then about four extruded rows in the common plane. Below this a single band of stretcher bricks is extruded out slightly past the common plane of the facade. Below this band, in the common plane of the façade, a consistent pattern is created by a row of header bricks, below which is a row of stretcher bricks, set vertically across the façade (soldier course). Aside from the brick pattern above the storefronts, the Dexter Avenue façade is divided into bays by brick pillars, which have mostly been since engaged within storefrontage. In fact, the original design shows a central pillar dividing the façade into two, with another pillar dividing the north façade in half. This is consistent with the present configuration. Storefronts frames sit on low walls with projecting brick sills. Actual storefront glazing has also been replaced by plywood paneling, particularly at the north and south ends. Although this appears to be a reversible condition, clerestories are visible, but also covered with paneling and a deep awning (also not permanent), which runs the length of the Dexter Avenue façade. The Harrison Street façade, whose brickwork is completely visible, had two intact storefronts to the west followed by two large rectangular industrial sash windows and a slightly smaller, but still generous, window opening with industrial sash. The first two windows would be similar, divided into three sections. They originally were in the following configuration: twelve over twelve, fifteen over fifteen and twelve over twelve; however, the west window has the top two row of panes also covered with plywood and a door is inserted within the second window, so that a few panes are gone (about six). The last window consists of two vertical sections, each twelve over twelve, and is intact. All in all, however, the Harrison Street elevation is relatively intact, and the few changes seem to be definitely reversible. The alley elevation exhibits many large openings with intact industrial sash. Also of note, is the clock, which stands on the corner of Dexter Avenue North and Harrison Street and has interesting ties to the building.

Detail for 400 DEXTER AVE / Parcel ID 1988201380 / Inv # 0

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Brick, Concrete, Wood Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat with Parapet Roof Material(s): Asphalt/Composition
Building Type: Commercial/Trade - Warehouse Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: No. of Stories:
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Commerce, Manufacturing/Industry
Changes to Original Cladding: Slight
Changes to Windows: Moderate
Changes to Plan: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Polk's Seattle Directories, 1890-1996.
City of Seattle, Department of Planning and Development, Microfilm Records.
Tobin, Carol. “Christ Episcopal Church, 4548 Brooklyn Ave NE, Seattle, WA - University Neighborhood,” “Historic Property Inventory Report,” City of Seattle Historic Neighborhood Inventory Database. 21 June 2002.
Sheridan, M. “West Home Funeral Chapel, 4400 California SW, Seattle, WA – West Seattle Junction,” “Historic Property Inventory Report,” City of Seattle Historic Neighborhood Inventory Database. 10 February 2002.
Mark L. Peckham, Staff, Office of Urban Conservation, “Seattle Street Clock Thematic Nomination,” 15 October 1980.
Joseph Mayer and Brothers,” “The Online Encyclopedia of American Silver Marks,” 1998-2001, database online available at:
Tobin, Caroline and Hart Crowser, “Historical and Cultural Resources,”Seattle Commons, South Lake Union Plan, Final Environmental Impact Statement, Appendix 15, Seattle: City of Seattle Office of Management and Planning, 1995.
“Joseph Mayer Kills Self.” 9 June 1937. Newspaper Clipping. Pamphlet Files, Manuscripts and Special Collections, University of Washington.

Photo collection for 400 DEXTER AVE / Parcel ID 1988201380 / Inv # 0

Photo taken Feb 17, 2005
App v2.0.1.0