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Summary for 201 Thomas ST / Parcel ID 1985200185 / Inv # CTR014

Historic Name: Nile Temple Building/Club 21 Common Name: Pacific Arts Center/Seattle Children's Theatre
Style: Modern Neighborhood: Queen Anne
Built By: Year Built: 1956
Designed by the firm of Samuel G. Morrison & Associates, this building was constructed in 1956 as a new headquarters building for the Nile Temple of the Shrine. At the time, the primarily residential neighborhood of handsome but decaying older residences and apartments was undergoing a transition to a more commercial character. Lying at the perimeter of downtown expansion, the nearby area also included the Roman Catholic Sacred Heart Church and School, and the Warren Avenue School, a public elementary school. Many houses had been converted to commercial uses such as groceries, upholstery shops, and beauty parlors. Owned by the Nile Temple Holding Corporation, the building included rooms and storage facilities for various Shrine Clubs and special units, general and private offices, lounge and card rooms, and a 700-seat auditorium, which could accommodate 500 diners as a banquet facility. The Nile Temple chose the site in order to permit uniformed units to dress in the Nile Building and then march to the nearby Civic Auditorium for Shrine ceremonials twice a year. Founded in Seattle in 1909, the Nile Temple had 11,000 members by 1956, with 7,000 in the Seattle metropolitan area, making it the ninth largest in terms of membership among a total of the 167 temples then in existence. Nationally, the Shrine was founded in 1872 by a group of 13 men belonging to the Masonic Order. It was originally established to provide fun and fellowship for its members, who became well known for wearing the distinctive red fez at official functions. However, as the organization grew, its members decided to dedicate their efforts to helping others by establishing an official Shrine philanthropy, a network of specialized hospitals that have provided expert medical care to more than 600,000 children, free of charge. At the same time that the Nile Temple was constructing its new headquarters facility, property in the vicinity of the Civic Auditorium was selected as the site of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair Century 21 Exposition. 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. Before the election, the Nile Temple was assured that their property on the southwest periphery of the site would not be taken. When condemnation plans were originally developed, the property had been omitted in order to avoid a conflict with the Masons. 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, decided that the property of the Nile Temple was essential for inclusion in the fair grounds. Under the threat of legal action, a compromise was crafted, which proposed a lease arrangement for the Nile Temple for the duration of the fair. As preparations for the fair proceeded, a temporary structure was constructed on the vacant space at the front of the building, which would house the Christian Witness Pavilion & Child Care Center. During the fair, the Nile Temple housed the Century 21 Club, a membership organization formed especially for the fair, which offered lounge, dining room, and other club facilities. The $250 membership fee provided a permanent gate pass along with club facilities for the six-month duration of the fair. Less than a year after the conclusion of the fair in October 1962, the City entered into a lease agreement with the Nile Temple for the continued use of the property and eventually purchased it fifteen years later. In 1983, the City leased the building to the Pacific Arts Center. Four years later, the Seattle Children’s Theatre moved into the facility as well and eventually took over the entire building as part of their larger theater complex. Since that time, there have been subsequent additions and alterations to the complex. This building is significant for its associations with a prominent fraternal organization and with the Seattle World’s Fair Century 21 Exposition.
Completed in 1956, this one and two-story concrete structure occupies a site near the southwest corner of the Seattle Center. Originally, this former headquarters and office building for the Nile Temple of the Shrine would have been located at the southwest corner of the intersection of Thomas Street and 3rd Avenue North. The formerly freestanding structure has an L-plan, which measures approximately 184 feet by 116 feet along the outer margins, arranged around an interior courtyard. Now attractively landscaped with outdoor sculptures, this area previously contained service parking for the Nile Temple. Currently, the Administrative Offices and Drama School of the Seattle Children’s Theatre occupy the southern block, which measures 115 feet by 56 feet. The perpendicular block at the northern end, which measures 58 feet by 116 feet, houses the 280-seat Eve Alvord Theatre. Completed in 1993, the 485-seat Charlotte Martin Theatre adjoins the building’s longer west elevation. Between 1999 and 2000, the Allen Family Pavilion was constructed along the south elevation. This state-of-the-art technical facility contains scene, costume, prop and paint shops, as well as rehearsal and classroom space. The building features a reinforced concrete frame with a concrete block infill. A one-story flat roof section connects the two-story southern block and the higher two-story northern block, which encloses a one-story volume of space. A distinctive undulating roof covers both of these blocks as well as the center entrance pavilion on the east elevation of the north block. This overhanging wavy roof is constructed of a thin-shell concrete slab with 16-foot-wide vaults, which flare upward along the end walls. The principal east elevation of the southern block has six shallow arched openings between concrete piers. Wide concrete spandrel panels separate the multi-paned windows in the large openings at the upper and lower floor levels. In the southern bay, both openings have been filled with a single recessed concrete panel. At the northern end of this block, a glass-enclosed lobby has entrance doors under a wide flat roof marquee. A flat roof penthouse lined with windows provides additional light into this space, which also adjoins the northern block. The two-story entrance pavilion dominates the east elevation of the northern block. One-story wings flank this pavilion and feature the same wavy roof. While the northern wing has a single bay, the southern wing has two bays and extends beyond the block’s south elevation. Originally, this extra bay served as a covered drive-in for unloading passengers at the entrance to the auditorium. A large shallow arched opening fills the east elevation of the entrance pavilion and contains a glass wall set with double entrance doors. The side elevations of this pavilion have additional double door entrances covered by the adjacent wings. Large shallow arched openings line the north and south elevations of the northern block. On the south elevation, the original window openings in the upper portion of the three eastern bays have been filled with recessed concrete panels. On the north elevation, only the center three bays retain the original openings set with multi-paned windows. The openings within the end bays are no longer intact. With these window alterations, the building lost some of the transparency of its original appearance. Concrete blocks fill the bays below the arched openings and between the concrete piers. A wheelchair accessible ramp extends along the center portion of the north elevation and terminates at a pair of metal doors. This well-maintained building retains good physical integrity despite the alterations and later additions.

Detail for 201 Thomas ST / Parcel ID 1985200185 / Inv # CTR014

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Concrete, Stucco Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat, Other Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Social - Meeting Hall Plan: L-Shape
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: two
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Community Planning/Development, Entertainment/Recreation, Social Movements & Organizations
Changes to Plan: Moderate
Changes to Windows: Slight
Changes to Original Cladding: Slight
Major Bibliographic References
City of Seattle DCLU Microfilm Records.
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.
"Nile Temple to Construct New Headquarters Building," Seattle Times, Sunday, November 13, 1955, p. 44.
Rumley, Larry. "Shrine and its hospitals observe triple anniversary," The Seattle Times, Magazine, Sunday, September 10, 1972, p. 12.

Photo collection for 201 Thomas ST / Parcel ID 1985200185 / Inv # CTR014

Photo taken Nov 14, 2000
App v2.0.1.0