Seattle.gov Home Page
Link to Seattle Department of Neighborhoods home page

Seattle Historical Sites

This application will be offline for Maintenance Saturday Feb 4th from 6am to noon

New Search

Summary for 1247 15th AVE / Parcel ID 2925049087 / Inv # DPR094

Historic Name: Volunteer Park Comfort Station Common Name:
Style: Other Neighborhood: Capitol Hill
Built By: Year Built: 1910
 
Significance
This unique structure was completed about 1910 as a combination comfort station and waiting shelter for the northeastern corner of Volunteer Park. In the early decades of Seattle’s existence, Capitol Hill was beyond the city limits, remote and inaccessible, heavily wooded and far from the center of the town of about 2000 residents. In 1876, the recently incorporated city purchased a forty-acre tract at the very top of the hill from James M. Colman, a sawmill engineer who later became a prominent real estate developer, for $2000 without specifying the purpose of the purchase. Presumably, the land had been logged of its stand of old growth forest, leaving behind bare patches between the stumps and smaller trees. This tract would later become one of the city’s preeminent parks, known initially as "Lake View Park" in 1887, then "City Park," and finally Volunteer Park in 1901, honoring those who had volunteered for the 1898 Spanish-American War. Further land acquisitions brought the size up to its present-day 48 acres. The Water Department also took an active interest in this hilltop park as a desirable location for a reservoir to provide gravity service to Seattle’s population. The reservoir was completed in 1901 as part of the initial phase of the new Cedar River Water System, which also included Lincoln Reservoir further south on Capitol Hill and Queen Anne Tank No. 1. The same year, a streetcar line was established along the park’s eastern boundary, 15th Avenue East, and real estate developer James Moore began to plat and improve his 200-acre tract as the Capitol Hill Addition. Millionaires’ Row, then the city’s preeminent place to live, also developed along the four blocks of 14th Avenue East immediately south of the park. As the Capitol Hill residential neighborhoods developed and increased the demand for reliable water service, a metal standpipe was built in 1906 to provide additional gravity pressure. In 1903, the city hired the Olmsted Brothers landscape firm to prepare plans for a comprehensive park and boulevard system, including suggestions for improvements to existing parks, with Volunteer Park first on the list. From 1904 to 1912, extensive formal improvements to the park were made, following the detailed plans of the Olmsted Brothers firm, which called for a "metropolitan appearance" due to the park’s close proximity to the downtown hotel and business district. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, Volunteer Park is recognized as possessing the most fully realized design of all the Olmsted plans created for the Seattle parks, boulevards, and playgrounds system. Although the exact construction date of this unique comfort station is unknown at this time, it is believed to have been built around 1910 during the eight-year phase of Olmsted-designed improvements to Volunteer Park. However, it may have been constructed in conjunction with the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in anticipation of the increased numbers of visitors. It is similar in design and function to two larger buildings constructed at this time at Green Lake and Cowen Park. All of these buildings served the dual functions of providing public restrooms to park users and a protected area for those waiting for the streetcar. Each of the buildings are located at or near what was once the end of a streetcar line, which served a popular public park. Streetcar lines often terminated at a popular attraction so as to encourage real estate development along the length of the line and to increase ridership outside of regular commuting hours, especially on weekends. The establishment of the streetcar line on 15th Avenue East in 1901 provided increased access to the residential neighborhood and to the soon-to-be-improved park, as well as to the nearby Lake View Cemetery. Popular attractions such as the water tower, the band stand, and later the conservatory brought many users to the park, who often traveled via the streetcar lines. By the early 1940s, buses had replaced the streetcars, and many people owned their own automobiles. This modest building is significant for its design and for its associations with the improvement of the park under the direction of the Olmsted Brothers firm and with one of Seattle’s earliest modes of mass public transportation, the streetcar lines.
 
Appearance
Believed to have been built c.1910, this small one-story building is located in the northeast corner of the park near the 15th Avenue East and East Galer Street vehicular entrance. Mostly devoid of exterior ornamentation, the utilitarian building, measuring 15 feet by 16 feet, originally functioned as a combination comfort and waiting station. A pyramidal roof with wide overhanging eaves covers the rectangular plan building constructed with cement stuccoed walls set on a concrete plinth. The rear north elevation has a single multi-paned window set high on the wall at the center. The west elevation has two boarded over doors at either end flanking two louvered window openings set high on the wall at the center. The east elevation has a single door at the southern end, but it appears that any louvered window openings have been covered or removed. The primary south elevation has a recessed waiting area at the center, measuring 7 feet by 5 feet, with a slatted wooden bench and a beaded board lined ceiling. On this elevation, the louvered window opening on the western side of the recessed area remains, however the one on the eastern side has been covered or removed. This building is no longer used as a public restroom but is now used by Metro bus drivers who are on layover at the beginning of Route 10. In addition to the alterations noted above, the building has some graffiti and the roof is in very poor condition, especially the western half, which has exposed slats where wood shakes are missing.

Detail for 1247 15th AVE / Parcel ID 2925049087 / Inv # DPR094

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Stucco Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Pyramidal Roof Material(s): Wood - Shake
Building Type: Other Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Balloon Frame/Platform Frame No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Community Planning/Development, Entertainment/Recreation, Transportation
Integrity
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Windows: Moderate
Major Bibliographic References
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Sherwood, Don. Seattle Parks Histories, c. 1970-1981, unpublished.

Photo collection for 1247 15th AVE / Parcel ID 2925049087 / Inv # DPR094


Photo taken Jul 14, 2000
App v2.0.1.0