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Summary for 5900 Lake Washington BLVD / Parcel ID 2324049007 / Inv # DPR080

Historic Name: Seward Park Bathhouse Common Name: Seward Park Art Studio
Style: Other Neighborhood: Seward Park
Built By: Year Built: 1927
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the National Register of Historic Places.
This architecturally distinctive brick building was constructed in two phases between 1927 and 1940 to serve as a bathhouse for swimmers at the north cove of Seward Park. Originally, the peninsula was known as Graham Peninsula after Walter Graham purchased it in 1863. In 1890, the real estate developer William E. Bailey purchased the land from a subsequent owner, and it became known as Bailey Peninsula. In the early 1890s, Edward O. Schwagerl, the Superintendent of Public Parks, proposed selling Volunteer Park, then known as City Park, to fund the purchase of the Bailey Peninsula for a new "Southeast Park." However, this plan was not realized partly due to the fact that the peninsula was considered to be even further out in the wilderness than Volunteer Park and fairly inaccessible. 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. This move was largely brought on by the public interest generated for the planned Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition and through the purchase of Woodland Park and the acquisition of Washington Park, two large tracts of mostly undeveloped land. The first proposal on the list of the Olmsted Brothers was a recommendation to acquire the still heavily wooded Bailey Peninsula before it was developed. At the time, the peninsula was located outside the southern city limits situated well to the north at South Hanford Street. A new boulevard on the western shore of Lake Washington could connect the proposed park with the southern boundary of the city. In 1908, the Olmsted Brothers supplemented their original plan with an additional report, which included the large areas annexed by the city the previous year, including this area of the Rainier Valley. The Baileys withheld development of the peninsula in anticipation of selling it to the city. However, condemnation proceedings became necessary after the two parties could not agree on a fair price. In 1911, the city paid $322,000 for the peninsula with funds from the 1910 bond issue and named the new park after William H. Seward, who had acquired Alaska for the United States in 1867. The city also hired the Olmsted Brothers to prepare landscape plans for the new park. Seward Park was one of 37 individual parks and playgrounds for which the Olmsted Brother prepared detailed landscape plans between 1904 and 1930. As envisioned by the Olmsted Brothers, Seward Park would be designed as a water and forest oriented park with piers for boats to dock. Four miles of drives along the bluffs above the shoreline would provide scenic views of lake and mountains, however the focus of development would be on access from the water. Twelve miles of winding paths would connect various amenities, which would be clustered at the northern end for the convenience of boaters. These included picnic groves, summer houses, a dancing pavilion, bathing beaches and bathhouses, piers, and children’s play equipment. At the time, the peninsula was almost an island with only a narrow neck of land connecting it to the mainland. The Olmsted Brothers proposed construction of a land bridge to better connect the peninsula with the new lakeshore boulevard, already under development. The first improvements were made in 1913 when a path system was established through the forest. However, the lowering of Lake Washington in 1916 due to the construction of the Ship Canal changed the focus of development from the northern to the southern end as vehicular access from the mainland improved. The drained marshes at the formerly narrow neck were also filled to create a broad meadow at the park entrance. By 1919, boaters could dock at newly built piers and enjoy picnics, hiking trails, and a children’s play area. Over the next ten years, a number of additional improvements were made, including construction of picnic and stove shelters, comfort stations, a privately operated boat pavilion, and a concession stand. These wood frame structures were constructed as temporary amenities until more permanent improvements could be built. In 1927, the beach area at the northern end of the meadow was developed. Concrete beach steps were constructed, sand was added, and piles were driven in the water to anchor a diving float. The first phase of a new masonry bathhouse was also completed. Initially, only the north and sound ends containing the dressing room and restroom facilities for men and women were constructed. The intention was to complete the central portion, which would contain a public lobby and locker room, the following year. At the same time, the Parks Department constructed identical bathhouses at Madrona and Green Lake Parks. However, the central portion of the Seward Park Bathhouse was not completed until 1940 due to insufficient funding at the time. During much of the 1930s, the financial difficulties of the Depression halted the construction of most new park buildings with the exception of those built by state and federal unemployment relief agencies, such as the Works Progress Administration. 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. One of the later WPA projects at Seward Park was the completion of the center section of the bathhouse in 1940. In the intervening years, a small wood frame structure remained between the two portions and served as a supply house. The completed building exhibited the same Classical Revival stylistic details as the earlier bathhouses. After the Second World War, a brick concession stand was added to the south end of the bathhouse. Over the years, the popularity of the beach at Seward Park remained constant, however demand for the bathhouse facilities decreased dramatically, as it no longer was considered indecent to remove street clothes in public. The situation was the same at the Green Lake and Madrona Park bathhouses. At the same time, the Parks Department was expanding its cultural arts programs and needed larger and better-equipped facilities. As a result, the underused bathhouses were rehabilitated to provide space for the Arts (Seward Park), Drama (Green Lake Park) and Dance (Madrona Park) programs of the Parks Department. In 1970, a skylighted addition was made to the bathhouse at Seward Park, creating an Arts and Crafts Studio for both children and adults. Despite its alterations, this building is significant for its design and for its associations with the Works Progress Administration and the development of Seward Park.
Completed in 1940, this one-story brick bathhouse occupies a site along the northern shoreline of the narrow neck of land, which connects the Seward Park peninsula to the mainland. During the first phase of construction in 1927, the flat roof end blocks were completed. These rectangular plan structures measured 44 feet by 38 feet and featured small projecting bays off the inner ends of the south elevations. These bays measured 9 feet by 7 feet and contained entrances to the dressing room and restroom facilities housed within the end blocks. The women’s facilities occupied the western block, while the men’s facilities occupied the eastern block. Thirteen years later, the building was finally completed with the construction of the flat roof center portion, which measured 52 feet by 42 feet and projected slightly on the north elevation facing Lake Washington. This center portion exhibited the same Classical Revival stylistic details as the earlier end blocks and contained a public lobby and locker room. Overall, the completed building measured approximately 140 feet by 38 feet until the addition of a brick concession stand centered on the west elevation after the Second World War. This one-story brick structure measured 14 feet by 21 feet. Few additional alterations were made until 1970 when a skylighted addition replaced the flat roof over the center portion and the interior was reconfigured in its conversion to an art studio. Set on a truncated hip roof, this shed roof penthouse has multi-paned windows filling the east elevation and wood shingles covering the triangular north and south side elevations. On the north, south and west elevations, cast stone diamond tiles set within brick soldiers embellish the low parapet walls along the roofline. This parapet steps up over the center entrances on the north and south elevations. A cast stone coping covers the parapet, and cast stone rope molding outlines the base of the wall and functions as an intermediate cornice. These trim details give visual unity to the building’s various components. On the north elevation facing the lake, wide projecting brick piers frame the center entrance under the stepped parapet. This entrance contains double doors below a multi-paned transom. On either side of this projecting entrance pavilion, single window openings feature pairs of multi-paned casement windows. The original door openings at the outer ends of the center block have been filled with brick. The eastern end block has an entrance to the men’s facilities covered by a modern metal gate and accessed by an elaborate modern brick stairwell. The western end block has two similar stairwells near the eastern end. One leads to an entrance to the lifeguard office, while the other provides access to the gated entrance to the women’s facilities. A small metal sash window is situated within the wall between the two entrances. These entrances appear to be later alterations, possibly installed during the building’s conversion to an art studio. On the south elevation, the entrance bays of the original end blocks frame the later center block. The original door openings within the bays have been filled with brick, however the decorative cast stone sign panels above the doors remain extant. Each panel has a border of egg and dart molding around a shell at the center with "WOMEN" or "MEN" in raised letters and fanciful sea creatures along the bottom. The center block on the south elevation also has wide projecting brick piers framing the double entrance doors under the stepped parapet. The window openings flanking this projecting entrance pavilion contain modern replacements. The eastern end block presents a blank brick wall, while the western end block has a single modern entrance door. The east elevation of the building has no decorative parapet and a blank wall with a concrete or stucco exterior finish. The west elevation of the concession addition has an overhead metal door at the northern end adjacent to a similar opening filled with brick. The south elevation of the addition has another infilled opening. Despite the alterations noted above, this building retains good physical integrity.

Detail for 5900 Lake Washington BLVD / Parcel ID 2324049007 / Inv # DPR080

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Brick, Shingle, Stone - Cast, Stucco Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat, Other, Pyramidal, Shed Roof Material(s): Asphalt/Composition, Unknown
Building Type: Other Plan: Irregular
Structural System: Unknown No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Arts, Community Planning/Development, Entertainment/Recreation
Changes to Windows: Moderate
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Plan: Slight
Other: Extensive
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 5900 Lake Washington BLVD / Parcel ID 2324049007 / Inv # DPR080

Photo taken Oct 27, 2000
App v2.0.1.0