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Summary for 3839 4th AVE / Parcel ID 7666205660 / Inv # SCL017

Historic Name: South Receiving Substation Common Name:
Style: Art Deco - PWA Moderne, Other Neighborhood: Duwamish
Built By: Year Built: 1937
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the National Register of Historic Places.
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.
With financial assistance from the Public Works Administration (PWA), City Light constructed this reinforced concrete substation in 1937 in anticipation of receiving power from the new Diablo Plant on the Skagit River under construction since 1927. This was the third major receiving substation built in Seattle by City Light and the second substation connected with the Skagit River Project, which eventually saw the construction of three major dams. A previous substation facility at this site on Fourth Avenue South and South Spokane Street received power from City Light’s Cedar Falls Plant and from the Tacoma Municipal system through an inter-connecting transmission line completed in 1923. While the dam had been completed at Diablo Canyon in 1930, construction of the powerhouse and installation of the two 64,500-kilowatt generators was delayed by the collapse of the bond market due to the national economic depression. It was not until September 23, 1936 that the Diablo Plant was officially dedicated. Two months later, City Light received a $3,000,000 PWA grant on November 15 and matched it with nearly $5,000,000 raised through the sale of utility revenue bonds. The grant, the only money received by City Light from federal agencies up to that point, represented the national government’s contribution to flood control on the Skagit River. The funds aided in the immediate construction of the steel tower transmission line from Diablo to Seattle and of the South Receiving Substation, as well as the first unit of Ruby Dam. This third Skagit River dam was later renamed Ross Dam upon the death of City Light Superintendent J.D. Ross in 1939. This substation is an excellent local example of what has been identified as the Classical or PWA Moderne style. Stripped of its classical ornament, the design still maintains the composition and massing of Beaux Arts-inspired buildings. This style was the hallmark of the Public Works Administration, one of the important 1930s Depression-era relief agencies, which funded large and small construction projects around the country. The PWA-funded 1937 South Receiving Substation is a fully realized example of this style. With its distinctive stylistic features, this structure is significant for its design and for its associations with the PWA and with the growth and development of City Light.
Completed in 1937, this two-story reinforced concrete building is situated along the 4th Avenue South side of a large site roughly bounded by South Spokane and South Dakota Streets and by 2nd and 4th Avenues South. Now known as the South Service Center, this site contains a number of additional buildings, including a much-altered 1924 warehouse and shops complex located at the northeast corner and a 1952 rectifier substation at the northwest corner. Electrical equipment fills large portions of the fenced site, which covers several city blocks. Set on a high base lined by small raised blocks, this flat roof structure has a rectangular plan, which measures approximately 112 feet by 41 feet. The distinctive design of the building exhibits Classical or PWA Moderne stylistic features, including a basic Classical composition, the use of wide piers to separate the fenestration in narrow, vertical, recessed panels, and a smooth concrete exterior incised with lines to create strong horizontal bands. On the principal east elevation, the center entrance bay is set between six vertical panels, each containing a multi-paned steel sash window at the first and second story levels separated by a fluted spandrel. A few of the slightly larger upper floor windows have individual air conditioning units installed in them. The alternating piers are incised at the top with Seattle City Light’s logo, a "C" pierced by an "L" set within a circle within a square. The wider end bays do not have this decorative feature but are perforated by single narrow windows in recessed openings at each story. The center entrance bay contains a window at the upper story level above a panel incised with "CITY LIGHT" and a semicircular roof over the wide entrance door. Reached by a short flight of stairs, this door has a "SOUTH RECEIVING SUBSTATION" sign above it. A plaque at the northern end of this elevation indicates construction by the Public Works Administration, a Federal Works Agency. The south elevation has a single vertical panel at the center between wide end bays. The three window openings at the first and second stories contain multi-paned sash, larger at the upper floor level. A fluted spandrel separates the windows in the recessed center bay. The north elevation has a configuration similar to the south elevation with a single vertical panel at the center between wide end bays. However, the recessed center bay has a single large opening with an overhead steel door at the second story situated above multi-paned double entrance doors at the first story. Covered by a shed roof, this entrance is flanked by multi-paned windows centered in the end bays. At the eastern end of the elevation, a ramp leads down to a basement level entrance with large double doors. The rear west elevation is nearly identical in composition to the east elevation. However, the entrance is not situated in the center bay but is located in the bay south of the center. All of the building’s upper floor windows have concrete sills, but the bottoms of the lower floor windows rest on the band of blocks outlining the high foundation. Well-maintained, this architecturally distinctive building displays excellent physical integrity.

Detail for 3839 4th AVE / Parcel ID 7666205660 / Inv # SCL017

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Concrete Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Government - Public Works Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: two
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Science & Engineering, Other
Changes to Windows: Intact
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Seattle Department of Lighting. Annual report / City of Seattle, Department of Lighting. Seattle, WA: 1910-1974.

Photo collection for 3839 4th AVE / Parcel ID 7666205660 / Inv # SCL017

Photo taken Oct 22, 2000
App v2.0.1.0