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Summary for 2505 1st AVE / Parcel ID 065300-0160 / Inv #

Historic Name: Sailors Union of the Pacific Common Name: El Gaucho
Style: Modern Neighborhood: Belltown
Built By: Year Built: 1954
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the National Register of Historic Places.
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.
This building is significant for its connection with the labor union movement in Seattle and on the West Coast, as a reminder of the maritime industry in Belltown, and for its architectural features. This was one of the largest and most prominent of the numerous labor union halls constructed in Belltown in the years following World War II. It was designed in 1953-54 by architect Fred Rogers for the Sailors Union of the Pacific. The contractors were Haddock Engineers and K. G. Bitter of San Diego. Rogers was known primarily for his residential work, including houses in Mount Baker, the University District and West Seattle. This was perhaps the most comprehensive union hall, because of the transience of the members. The expansive hiring hall, offices and dispatch counter were on the main level, while the lower floor provided complete services for sailors—a gymnasium, café, bar, cigar store, barber shop and showers. The top floor had 22 small apartments with wall beds, where sailors could live between trips. In recent years the building has been transformed into an elegant restaurant with a nightclub and smal movie theater on the lower level and a small hotel on the second floor. The building is also notable for its blue green terra cotta cladding, one of the relatively few post-war buildings using the material. It appears to be largely intact. The Sailors’ Union of the Pacific represents primarily unlicensed sailors that work on U.S. flag vessels, either under contract to the union or through collective bargaining agreements. The union itself decides how jobs are rotated and dispatches workers to the ships as needed, a hard-won right that is the cornerstone of the union’s operations. Since this is done in person at the hiring hall, the building itself as much greater significance than a simple office building. The union was formed in 1891 by the merger of two earlier groups, the Coast Seamen’s Union (1885) and the Steamships Sailors’ Union (1886), both of which were organized to fight for better wages and working conditions aboard merchant ships. Union headquarters are in San Francisco, with branch offices in Seattle, Wilmington CA, Honolulu and Norfolk. The sailors’ union has had a stormy history up and down the West Coast; because of the key role of the shipping industry, labor activities in one port quickly spread to others. The union played a key role in the Great Maritime Strike and the San Francisco General Strike of 1934, which closed down shipping from San Diego to Alaska. Local activities included a police raid on SUP headquarters and a battle at Smith Cove between union members and police armed with submachine guns and tear gas, with many injuries. The union’s headquarters building in San Francisco, built in 1950, has been called by the city “a most appropriate memorial to the seamen and the maritime character of the neighborhood, and to a significant degree, the labor movement in San Francisco.” The same can be said of this building, constructed about the same time and one of the few remaining intact maritime union structures in the area. (
This is a deceptively simple building, clad with blue-green terra cotta tile on the second story and Roman brick veneer, now painted black, on the lower stories. Wide courses of dark red terra cotta run below above and below the second story, contrasting with the green. The building is on a slope, so has three stories with the main entrance on First Avenue and a restaurant entrance on Wall Street. This originally provided direct entry to the union’s café and bar, and has been a public restaurant for many years (once featured in the movie “The Fabulous Baker Boys”. Windows are older aluminum sash, with large 16-light windows on the first story and six-light sash on the second story.

Detail for 2505 1st AVE / Parcel ID 065300-0160 / Inv #

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Brick - Roman, Concrete, Terra cotta Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat with Parapet Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Social - Meeting Hall Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: three
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Social Movements & Organizations
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Windows: Slight
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
King County Tax Assessor Records, ca. 1932-1972.
City of Seattle, Department of Planning and Development, Microfilm Records.
Berner, Richard. Seattle 1921-1940: From Boom to Bust. Seattle: Charles Press, 1992.

Photo collection for 2505 1st AVE / Parcel ID 065300-0160 / Inv #

Photo taken Jul 04, 2006
App v2.0.1.0