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Summary for 55 Bell ST / Parcel ID / Inv #

Historic Name: International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, Seattle, Washington (Union Hall) Common Name: Art Institute of Seattle, Industrial Design Technology
Style: Modern - International Style Neighborhood: Downtown Urban Center
Built By: Year Built: 1957
In the opinion of the survey, this property is located in a potential historic districe (National and/or local).
This building was originally designed by architect Thomas Albert Smith, AIA, as a union hall for the “International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, Seattle, Washington” and completed in 1957. T. M. Carstensen and Company also acted as “Commercial and Industrial Consultants.” The upper level of the building was designed to be the official union meeting hall, while drawings indicate that the lower level was primarily designed as a “rental area.” Original drawings indicate that that the new building’s Bell Street façade probably bore lettering, spelling out “I O O M M P” for International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots.” The letters were set west of the main entry, above the mullion separating an upper pane of glass from the lower sidelight. “WEST COAST 90” in smaller letters was to be placed below the same mullion. It is very likely that this design was followed, however no photos show conclusively that this was the case and the letters no longer remain. The building replaced a smaller, one story, industrial frame structure, which dated from 1914 and had exterior cladding of sheet metal. The present building retains the most important features of its original design, but is not completely intact, since windows, glass doors and door hardware have been replaced. Although not outstanding, it is a good example of a well-designed International Style Modern building of the late 1950s. Perhaps its main interest lies in its early association with the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots, the marine division of the International Longshoremen’s Association. Masters Mates and Pilots, as it now frequently known, was founded in 1880, as a result of a fire on the steamboat Seawanhaka in New York Harbor. Masters Mates and Pilots, Pacific Maritime Region still has its main Pacific Northwest headquarters in Seattle. Its members serve on the vessels of a variety of local fleets, associated with Seattle’s Central Waterfront, including: Washington State Ferries, Washington State Department of Corrections, Whatcom County Transportation, Black Ball Transportation. The building’s significance, therefore, relates to Seattle’s labor history, and specifically to that of the Central Waterfront. The building is currently occupied by the Art Institute of Seattle.
This late 1950s International Style building is located between Bell St, Elliott Avenue and SR 99. It has two street facing elevations: a north façade along Bell Street and a west elevation, facing Elliott Avenue. It is two stories in height and has a flat roof and parapet. The building footprint is approximately 60 feet by 71 feet. The exterior structure consists of regularly spaced concrete piers, with infill between the columns consisting primarily of tilt-up concrete walls. In certain portions of both elevations, there is also brick cladding over the concrete walls. The interior structure originally included round steel pipe columns, 6” in diameter, which were mostly hidden within partition walls or, if left free standing, were covered with metal lath and gypsum plaster, for fire safety reasons. There were also several interior brick walls. The original roof was of frame construction and included glu-lam beams. The grade slopes down from east to west. This is expressed in the north facing Bell Street elevation, which consists of five bays, separated by engaged concrete piers. The three western bays have visible concrete infill walls and two levels of ribbon fenestration, which run from pier to pier. Concrete sills and lintels protrude out slightly from the plane of the façade. East of the three identical bays, the fourth bay has the same detailing, but is narrower and only has fenestration at the second floor. East of this, the Bell Street façade is completed by a fairly wide expanse of wall, mainly clad in thin Roman-like brick, followed by a typically Modernist recessed glazed entry. The eastern portion of the recessed entry is taken up by a double door, which is surmounted by a large rectangular piece of glass of roughly the same dimensions as the entire opening for the double door. Above this, is a second “transom,” a rectangular piece of glass, which lines up above the large pane below it and is roughly half of its height. To the west of the main double door, is a corresponding sidelight, originally a large pane of glass, now a square piece of metal, which is wider than the opening for the double door. Two uninterrupted pieces of glass, whose mullions line up with the doorway opening and the “transoms” above, surmount the ground level sidelight. The east side of the façade ends with a pier, clad in the same brick used on the other side of the recessed entry. The shorter west facing elevation is divided into five bays, with a marked difference between the ground level and everything above it. Above the ground level, the three northern bays are defined by engaged piers, ribbon windows and recessed concrete wall, as in the case of the western bays of the Bell St façade. The neighboring fourth bay mimics the narrowness of the fourth bay (from the west) on the Bell St façade. At the ground level, to mark the difference with the upper part of the elevation, brick cladding is used to a greater degree. The first bay from the west has the standard ribbon window and detailing of lintel and sill, but the area below the sill is clad in brick. The neighboring bay has a double door set to its north side, with the rest of it clad in brick. The third bay, which has no fenestration, is entirely clad in brick. The fourth, narrow bay includes a ribbon window, which surmounts a brick clad base. The final, fifth bay, located at the south end of the elevation, has a double door at the ground level, with the rest of the wall, clad in the signature brick, from the ground level to the parapet. A notable and original feature is the sun shade above the second floor windows. Basic window and door openings, as well as exterior walls appear to be intact, although the brick has been painted. The door hardware of the Bell St façade has definitely been replaced and, clearly the metal cladding in the former glazed sidelight is also more recent. In addition, windows have also been replaced, but the changes in the fenestration seem unobtrusive.

Detail for 55 Bell ST / Parcel ID / Inv #

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status: INV
Cladding(s): Brick, Concrete, Glass Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat with Parapet Roof Material(s): Asphalt/Composition
Building Type: Social - Meeting Hall Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Masonry - Unreinforced No. of Stories: two
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Social Movements & Organizations
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Windows: Moderate
Storefront: Slight
Major Bibliographic References
City of Seattle DCLU Microfilm Records.
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
“About International Organization of Masters Mates and Pilots, Pacific Maritime Region,” database available online at:
“About International Organization of Masters Mates and Pilots, Pacific Maritime Region,” database available online at:

Photo collection for 55 Bell ST / Parcel ID / Inv #

Photo taken Jul 31, 2006

Photo taken Jul 31, 2006
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