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Summary for 4541 CALIFORNIA AVE / Parcel ID 338990-0085 / Inv # 0

Historic Name: City Light Common Name: Next to Nature
Style: Modern Neighborhood: West Seattle Junction
Built By: Year Built: 1958

This building, constructed in 1958, is associated with midcentury development of the West Seattle Junction business district. This store was designed by architect Ken Ripley for owner Victor Wolfstone.  It is an example of the modern designs that were built in the Junction after World War II. It sits on the site of a Mission-style City Light substation and it had a City Light office as well as stores; it currently has two businesses and appears to be largely unaltered. Architect Ken Ripley (1910-1997) received his B. Arch. degree from the University of Washington in 1934. He designed a number of commercial buildings, including the IBEW hall in Belltown.

The Junction, West Seattle's primary commercial district, acquired its name in 1907 when a new street car line on California Avenue SW was extended south to Fauntleroy Park, crossing the Admiral streetcar line at SW Alaska Street. West Seattle, incorporated as a city in 1902, had built the Admiral line--the nation’s first municipally-owned streetcar line. At first, the Junction was just a swamp with a few real estate offices, but in 1907 West Seattle voted to be annexed to Seattle. Enhanced transportation and new amenities, accompanied by heavy promotion, encouraged a real estate boom, with new residents rapidly buying lots and building homes. Jefferson School opened in 1912, and had to be expanded in 1917. The 1920s brought significant growth, with major stores such as Ernst Hardware, Bartell Drugs, a J. C. Penney department store and two "five and dimes"--Woolworth's and Kress. Although development slowed during the Depression, the proximity of defense industries brought many new residents during World War II.  The Junction thrived into the 1950s with several modern retail buildings and larger stores. By the 1980s, however, competition from shopping malls made the Junction's stores less competitive. J.C. Penney left in 1987 and many other retailers selling common items such as clothing closed, generally replaced by restaurants, bars and service businesses. In 1985, a large retail/office/residential project was built on the former site of Jefferson Elementary School. In the early 1990s, the City of Seattle adopted a comprehensive plan that focused growth in "urban villages," including the Junction. By 2010, numerous single-story buildings were being replaced by six-story mixed-use structures with underground parking, significantly changing the district’s character.




This one-story building is of concrete block construction and has a flat roof with deep eaves on the front façade. The façade, set back from the sidewalk, is almost entirely glass panels with wide aluminum mullions, with three sets of double doors. There is a narrow (about two feet wide) band of metal cladding below the windows. The rear façade is stucco clad with a rear entry and several windows.

Detail for 4541 CALIFORNIA AVE / Parcel ID 338990-0085 / Inv # 0

Status: No - Altered
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Glass, Metal 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, Commerce
Storefront: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Plan: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
West Seattle Herald. West Side Story, 1987.
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Polk's Seattle Directories, 1890-1996.

Photo collection for 4541 CALIFORNIA AVE / Parcel ID 338990-0085 / Inv # 0

Photo taken Mar 31, 2015
App v2.0.1.0