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Summary for 2820 S Myrtle ST S / Parcel ID 7857002030 / Inv # DPR091

Historic Name: Van Asselt Shelter House Common Name: Van Asselt Community Center
Style: Tudor Neighborhood: MLK @ Holly Street
Built By: Year Built: 1938
The Works Progress Administration (WPA) constructed this architecturally distinctive shelter house in 1938 for the City of Seattle as one of the first permanent improvements to the park. In 1933, the city had acquired the property for the playfield located across the street diagonally from Van Asselt Elementary School, named for pioneer settler Henry Van Asselt. The Seattle School District had completed the two-story wood frame building more than twenty years earlier in 1909 two years after the area had been annexed by the city. In 1926, the community had initiated the action to acquire the site with funding from a Local Improvement District (L.I.D.). Condemnation was authorized, however the courts rejected the assessment roll for the L.I.D. Seven years later, the city used money from the general fund to acquire the property. The Parks Department purchase of the playfield site across from the school followed a policy originally developed by the Olmsted Brothers landscape firm. In 1903, the city had hired the Olmsted Brothers to prepare plans for a comprehensive park and boulevard system, including suggestions for improvements to existing parks. This was supplemented by an additional report in 1908 to include the large areas annexed by the city the previous year, which included this area at the southern end of Beacon Hill. In their recommendations, the Olmsted Brothers advocated for the creation of playgrounds located near schools so teachers could direct the children’s activities. The idea of public recreation facilities in parks had only become popular late in the 19th and early in the 20th centuries, and the Olmsted Brothers were at the forefront of the movement. The city immediately began to implement much of the plan but generally neglected those areas not included, especially the outlying areas where there was less residential and commercial development. After the playfield site was acquired in 1933, it remained largely undeveloped until the later 1930s when the Parks Department received the assistance of the WPA. Created in 1935, the WPA consolidated and superseded several earlier programs, including the Civil Works Administration (CWA) and the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), both of which were established in 1933. In its first six years of existence, the WPA allocated 78% of available funds for projects involved with public works, construction and conservation of natural resources. The remaining 22% of the funds were used for a wide range of community services, including education, recreation and the arts. In 1937, the WPA began filling and grading the site’s large mud basin using a small gasoline powered engine hauling a train of small cars on portable tracks. The following year, the WPA constructed the brick shelter house. Beginning in the later 1920s, the Parks Department had constructed brick shelter houses at many of the city’s playgrounds and playfields. These buildings housed large rooms for organized recreation activities in addition to public restroom facilities. Office space for recreation instructors was also provided. The Parks Department continued to construct new shelter houses and larger field houses into the later 1930s due to the availability of labor and funding from state and federal relief programs, such as the WPA. The construction of any new park buildings was otherwise halted until the later 1940s when the financial difficulties of the 1930s and the shortages of labor and materials due to the Second World War had finally ended. This building is very similar in design, materials, and massing to the other WPA shelter houses built in the Seattle area at the same time. These include structures at Madrona and Highland Park Playfields and Victory Heights Playground. During the Second World War, the playfield was the site of an anti-aircraft gun unit. The federal government also built the recently redeveloped housing project at Holly Park to provide housing for war workers. In the later 1970s, the original shelter house was substantially enlarged with the addition of a masonry gymnasium. Despite these alterations, this building is significant for its design and for its associations with the Works Progress Administration and with the development of Van Asselt Playfield.
Completed in 1938, this brick shelter house occupies a site at the center of the higher western end of Van Asselt Playfield located at the intersection of South Myrtle Street and Beacon Avenue South. A large gymnasium addition built in 1977 on the east elevation dwarfs the original structure. The patterned concrete exterior of the later addition also contrasts with the variegated brick exterior of the original building. Recessed courses within the brickwork create decorative bands. The one-story building has an irregular plan created by a cross gable L-plan main block with a projecting gabled wing offset south of center on the west elevation. Overall, the structure measures 49 feet by 32 feet. The Tudor Revival building contains a large recreation room in the eastern half of the building and restrooms in the western half. The main entrance to the recreation room is situated on the principal south elevation. A corbelled recessed opening at the eastern end of the projecting gabled western half of the elevation contains a shallow arched door. A vertical window opening with a multi-paned sash adjoins the arched entrance to the west. A metal screen covers this window along with all of the windows within the recreation room and restrooms. The eastern half of the south elevation has two large vertical openings with multi-paned windows mostly obscured by dense landscaping. Originally, two similar openings flanked the large chimney at the center of the east elevation. With the construction of the gymnasium addition, the southern opening was converted to an entrance door, while the northern opening was filled with brick. On the rear north elevation, the eastern slope of the wide cross gable has been truncated in order to accommodate a single large opening centered within the eastern half. Covered by a shed roof wall dormer, this large opening contains multi-paned windows under a fascia embellished with a scalloped edge. The recreation room has an additional entrance slightly west of center within the gabled western half of the elevation. The horizontal window opening adjacent to the east has a multi-paned window as well. On the west elevation, the side walls of the projecting gable front wing contain the entrances to the women’s restroom on the north and the men’s restroom on the south. The south elevation of the wing has three evenly spaced multi-paned windows. The main block features a larger multi-paned window on either side of the gabled wing on the west elevation and additional openings at the western ends of the north and south elevations. Despite the addition of the gymnasium, this architecturally distinctive building retains very good physical integrity, including the retention of nearly all of the original windows and doors.

Detail for 2820 S Myrtle ST S / Parcel ID 7857002030 / Inv # DPR091

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Brick Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Gable Roof Material(s): Metal - Standing Seam
Building Type: Other Plan: Irregular
Structural System: Unknown No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Community Planning/Development, Entertainment/Recreation, Other
Changes to Windows: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Plan: Moderate
Major Bibliographic References
City of Seattle DCLU Microfilm Records.
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Sherwood, Don. Seattle Parks Histories, c. 1970-1981, unpublished.

Photo collection for 2820 S Myrtle ST S / Parcel ID 7857002030 / Inv # DPR091

Photo taken Nov 07, 2000

Photo taken Nov 07, 2000

Photo taken Nov 07, 2000
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