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Summary for 201 Mercer ST / Parcel ID 1988200440 / Inv # CTR008

Historic Name: Playhouse Common Name: Intiman Playhouse
Style: Modern Neighborhood: Queen Anne
Built By: Year Built: 1962
The original 800-seat theater building was constructed in 1961-62 as a permanent facility, which would remain after the Seattle World’s Fair Century 21 Exposition. It was hoped that the new Playhouse would attract a permanent theater company. This building is part of a brick-faced complex lining the south side of Mercer Street, which is connected by a colonnade 30 feet high. Extending from the Arena on the east end, and past the Opera House and Exhibition Hall to the Playhouse on the west, the covered walkway ties the structures together visually with a continuity of design. The Playhouse as well as the adjacent Exhibition Hall was a collaboration between Kirk, Wallace, McKinley & Associates, architectural consultants, and Worthington, Skilling, Helle & Jackson, structural engineers. The two firms also collaborated on the exterior alterations to the Arena. Additionally, Kirk, Wallace, McKinley & Associates designed the large parking garage located across Mercer Street with N.G. Jacobson & Associates as consulting structural engineers. The theater building was further enhanced with the installation of works of art. The entrance court featured a four-piece abstract bronze fountain by James FitzGerald set in a center pool, while the interior contained a mural by Kenneth Callahan, a wood and metal sculpture by Philip McCracken, and an oil painting by Margaret Tompkins. This art was part of an effort by the city and the fair’s organizers to portray Seattle as a cultured metropolis. 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. By the mid-1950s, the city began to conceive a new plan for the Civic Auditorium complex, which would create new cultural and sports facilities. In November 1956, the City held a special municipal election to approve a $7,500,000 bond issue to fund the acquisition of a site for a Civic Center development, the construction of a concert and convention hall and multi-purpose auditorium, and the modernization and remodeling of the Civic Auditorium. The City planned these improvements with the idea that the new Civic Center could also be used for the proposed Seattle World’s Fair along with nearby property acquired by the State. However, the following year, the fair’s Design Standards Advisory Board, a volunteer group of seven architects charged with making recommendations on site and design issues, proposed an alternative to building a new Opera House. Detroit architect Minoru Yamasaki suggested that a new Opera House could be constructed within a remodeled Civic Auditorium, which would save money and solve the problem of what to do with a building considered ugly but useful. A smaller playhouse would also be constructed nearby. While the city embraced the plan, the public clamored for a new Opera House as promised in the bond issue. In a lawsuit filed against the city, a Superior Court judge ruled that funds assigned for the construction of a new Opera House could not be used for the conversion of the Civic Auditorium. The matter was not settled until a second special election was held in September 1959, which approved the modified civic center plan. Despite the fair’s emphasis on science and technology, the organizers also wanted to include a World of Entertainment in their five Worlds of Century 21, which would feature international performing arts, sports and spectacular events, and the latest creations in recreation and amusement. During the fair, the Playhouse hosted a varied schedule of live entertainment performances, including plays, ballets, and popular and classical music concerts by national and international performers and companies. After the conclusion of the fair in October 1962, the city leased the theater facility to the newly founded Seattle Repertory Theatre. For the next twenty years, the Seattle Rep made the Playhouse its home until construction of the new $10 million Bagley Wright Theatre was completed in 1983. Four years later, Intiman, a theater company founded in 1972, moved into a renovated and re-named Intiman Playhouse at the Seattle Center. The $1.2 million project reduced the seating capacity to 446 seats in an intimate and highly raked configuration and converted the stage with its traditional proscenium arch to a semi-thrust, proscenium stage. In the late 1990s, Intiman completed additional renovations and built a freestanding rehearsal hall at the rear of the original building. This theater is significant for its design and for its associations with the Seattle World’s Fair Century 21 Exposition and with the development of theater companies in Seattle over the last forty years.
Completed in 1962, this reinforced concrete and brick veneer structure occupies a site along the southern side of Mercer Street on the northern edge of Seattle Center. This would have been located at the southeast corner of Mercer Street and 2nd Avenue North. The flat roof building has a rectangular plan, which measures 120 feet by 180 feet, and an enclosed courtyard at the northern end. A large fly tower extends from the roof at the southern end of the building. This courtyard has a covered walkway on four sides around a center plaza, which contains James FitzGerald’s "Fountain of the Northwest," a large four-piece abstract bronze in a center pool. At the center of the western side of the courtyard, stairs lead down from a large opening in the upper wall to a landing flanked by two sets of stairs, which continue down to the courtyard level. A flat-roofed colonnade extends from an opening in the east elevation of the enclosed courtyard and connects this building with the other structures along the Mercer Street. A similar colonnade extends along the rear south elevation of this building as well as the neighboring Exhibition Hall/Phelps Center and terminates at the Opera House on the east. The buff brick exterior matches that of the Exhibition Hall/Phelps Center to the immediate east and the Mercer Arena located on the other side of the Opera House. Concrete piers frame the brick veneer panels on the exterior of the building. The north elevation of the building within the courtyard has full-height glass walls between the concrete piers, which divide the façade into six bays. The center four bays contain double wood entrance doors within the glass walls. Two door openings at the center have been glassed in. A ticket booth extends from the western end bay within the covered walkway. The east and west elevations each have eleven bays filled with brick veneer panels. On the east elevation, the four bays south of the center have glassed in walls across the first story, which contain two double door entrances covered by canopies. A bay near the southern end retains the original decorative brick openings. The 100-foot open plaza between this building and the Exhibition Hall/Phelps Center to the east has attractive landscaping. On the west elevation, four bays near the southern end have bands of windows across the upper portion below the roofline covered by a flat roof screen. There are also two single door openings along this elevation. The rear south elevation has an elevator tower addition near the western end and three arched door openings at the center. Two single wood doors flank the double wood doors at the center. A small balcony above these doors has an additional set of doors in an arched opening. A band of windows line the upper floor level below the roofline. A two-story addition located south of the walkway has a ramp connected to the building at the second story level. This structure houses the Intiman Rehearsal Studio. Despite extensive interior alterations, this building retains good physical integrity.

Detail for 201 Mercer ST / Parcel ID 1988200440 / Inv # CTR008

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Brick, Concrete Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Recreation and Culture - Theater Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: two
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Arts, Community Planning/Development, Entertainment/Recreation
Changes to Original Cladding: Slight
Changes to Plan: Slight
Changes to Windows: Moderate
Major Bibliographic References
City of Seattle DCLU Microfilm Records.
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.
Official Guide Book Seattle Worlds Fair 1962. Seattle, WA: Acme Publications Incorporated, c1962.

Photo collection for 201 Mercer ST / Parcel ID 1988200440 / Inv # CTR008

Photo taken Nov 16, 2000

Photo taken Nov 16, 2000

Photo taken Nov 16, 2000

Photo taken Nov 16, 2000

Photo taken Nov 16, 2001

Photo taken Nov 16, 2001
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