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Summary for 300 Mercer ST / Parcel ID 5457800310 / Inv # CTR010

Historic Name: Parking Garage Common Name: Mercer Garage
Style: Modern Neighborhood: Queen Anne
Built By: Year Built: 1962
Occupying two full city blocks, this 1,500-car garage was constructed in 1961-62 to provide parking for the Seattle World’s Fair Century 21 Exposition. The reinforced concrete structure was a collaboration between N.G. Jacobson & Associates, consulting structural engineers, and Kirk, Wallace, McKinley & Associates, architectural consultants, who also designed the Exhibition Hall and Playhouse across the street as well as the exterior alterations to the Arena. After receiving his architectural degree from the University of Washington in 1937, Paul Hayden Kirk worked as a draftsman and designer for several prominent local architects before starting his own practice in 1939. In the 1940s, Kirk practiced in partnership with Bertram Dudley Stuart and Robert L. Durham during the Second World War and then with James J. Chiarelli for five years. During the seven years from 1950 to 1957 that Kirk worked as a sole practitioner, he helped to develop and define the regional variant, Northwest Contemporary Modernism, a style that combined elements from the International Style, traditional architecture of Japan, and local vernacular traditions and materials. Kirk continued to employ this new design idiom after creating the firm, Paul Kirk & Associates in 1957. By 1960, the firm had become known as Kirk, Wallace, McKinley & Associates with the elevation of Donald S. Wallace and David A. McKinley, Jr. to full partnership. The three buildings at today’s Seattle Center represent some of the firm’s larger scale projects in the early 1960s, which included the 1962-64 Magnolia Branch of the Seattle Public Library. Paul Kirk continued in active practice until his official retirement in 1979 at the age of 65. The parking facility replaced a variety of older wood frame structures in what was primarily a residential neighborhood of handsome but decaying older residences and apartments, which was undergoing a transition to a more commercial character. One of the greatest concerns of the fair organizers was to provide adequate parking for the thousands of daily visitors. Construction of the Monorail was one of the solutions to this potential problem. There would also be free shuttles to parking lots in outlying areas. Funds for the garage were not included in the bond issue approved by Seattle voters in November 1956. However, the city soon realized that its new post-fair Seattle Center would also require adequate parking and approved the use of emergency funds to pay for the construction of such a facility in the summer of 1961. In the construction of this utilitarian facility, an effort was made to improve the aesthetics through the installation of sculptured precast panels by Charles Smith. In the weeks before the start of the fair, the city leased the newly constructed parking garage to Century 21 Exposition, Inc. for operation in conjunction with and during the Seattle World Fair’s Century 21 Exposition. As it turned out, the parking problems were less severe than expected, partly due to the fact that a number of landowners in the area decided at the last minute to demolish their old buildings to profit from the lucrative business in surface parking. With its skybridge connection across busy Mercer Street, the parking garage has served its necessary function for the last forty years. This parking garage is significant for its design and for its associations with the Seattle World Fair’s Century 21 Exposition and the development of the Seattle Center.
Completed in 1962, this multi-story reinforced concrete parking garage occupies two full city blocks bounded by Roy and Mercer Streets and 3rd and 4th Avenues North. The four-level structure has a rectangular plan, which measures 540 feet by 238 feet. Because the site slopes down from north to south and from west to east, the lowest level is partially below grade. The main vehicular entrances to the open air parking garage are on the east and west elevations. There is an additional entrance on the north entrance. Open stairwells are located at the four corners of the building and west of center on the south elevation at the covered skybridge, which extends across Mercer Street to the Opera House. The exposed concrete frame has exterior piers and interior columns, which support the concrete beams, bearing the garage decks and ramps. Exposed aggregate concrete panels between the concrete piers line each level below a large opening. The stairwells have the same panels on the north and elevations but decorative concrete panels on the north and south elevations. Charles Smith designed these sculptured precast panels in ½-inch or ¾-inch relief. The east elevation also has wide full-height panels above the entrance drives at the center with a narrower panel at the center. Decorative concrete sculptures embellish the foundation wall below the center panel. The interior layout has one-way traffic throughout the garage, with angle parking on the 60-foot ramps and level area by the use of four interlocked helices, two spirals up and two down. This utilitarian structure retains excellent physical integrity.

Detail for 300 Mercer ST / Parcel ID 5457800310 / Inv # CTR010

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Concrete, Other Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Roof Material(s):
Building Type: Transportation - Road- Related Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: four
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Community Planning/Development, Entertainment/Recreation, Transportation
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
City of Seattle DCLU Microfilm Records.
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, ed. Shaping Seattle Architecture, A Historical Guide to the Architects. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994.
Architecture/West. An Architect's Guidebook to the Seattle World's Fair, 1962. Seattle, WA: Pacific Builder and Engineer, v. 68, no. 4, April 1962.
Morgan, Murray. Century 21, The Story of the Seattle World's Fair, 1962. Seattle, WA: Acme Press, distributed by University of Washington Press, 1963.

Photo collection for 300 Mercer ST / Parcel ID 5457800310 / Inv # CTR010

Photo taken Nov 16, 2000

Photo taken Nov 16, 2000
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