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Summary for 4200 Airport WAY / Parcel ID 3958900065 / Inv # FAC014

Historic Name: Independent Brewing Co./Continental Can Co./Pacific Food Products Common Name: Sunny Jim Original Facility (SeaTran Shops)
Style: Other - Industrial Neighborhood: Duwamish
Built By: Year Built: 1912
This complex of brick and wood frame buildings was most likely constructed between 1902 and 1912 for the Independent Brewing Company. Founded by Samuel S. Loeb and Benjamin Moyses, the Independent Brewing Company operated in this location until 1916 when Prohibition went into effect in Washington State four years before the rest of the county. In November 1914, voters had narrowly approved an amendment to the state constitution, which mandated the closure of saloons and breweries, but allowed individuals to obtain permits from county auditors to import as much as two quarts of hard liquor or 12 quarts of beer every 20 days. Prohibition, the culmination of years of effort by grassroots temperance organizations, shut down the Independent Brewing Company as well as the larger Seattle Brewing and Malting Company located further south in the Georgetown neighborhood. After the departure of the Independent Brewing Company, the complex first housed the Seattle Can Company, manufacturers of all kinds of cans. This company was later purchased by the Continental Can Company, which operated in this location into the early 1930s. The complex remained vacant for the remainder of the 1930s until the Pacific Food Products Company moved its business to this location in the early 1940s. Germanus Wilhelm Firnstahl had founded Pacific Food Products in the 1920s, which became best known for its “Sunny Jim” peanut butter. For many years, its trademark sign of the smiling boy atop the building was a landmark along Interstate 5. Although the company supplied a third of the area’s peanut butter in the 1950s, it was not able to compete with the more popular national brands by the 1970s. The family eventually sold the company in the late 1970s. After the plant closed in the 1980s, the City of Seattle acquired the vacant complex in 1991, including the 1960s warehouse located to the south. The Seattle Transportation Department moved its traffic signal and sign crew operations to this location but made no changes to the exterior. Even the sign remained intact until February 1997 when a disastrous fire started by roofers consumed the two-story building on which it stood. With its simple Industrial Vernacular design, this complex of buildings is significant as an example of an early building type and for its associations with the early brewing industries along the Duwamish corridor and with a prominent Seattle food products manufacturer.
This rambling complex of one and two-story brick buildings occupies the northern end of a long narrow parcel of City-owned property along the eastern side of Airport Way South between South Adams and South Snoqualmie Streets. The southern end of the complex shows the remains of a three-story brick building, which burned down in a 1997 fire. Originally, this building connected the older brick structures at the northern end with the later reinforced concrete additions at the far southern end. The buildings in the complex have been altered substantially over the years, including the painting of the brick exterior. The principal west elevation has a one-story block at the northern end adjoining a two-story block at the center. A one-story recessed section connects these blocks with a two-story block at the southern end, which encloses a one-story volume of space. A continuous shed roof canopy above the first story covers a loading dock, which extends the length of this elevation, and ties these separate blocks together. The three blocks at the front each have a distinctive corbelled cornice above the arched window openings on the facade. The one-story block on the northern end has three window openings set with glass blocks below the canopy. The adjacent two-story block has four window openings at the second story level set with single panes of glass. Under the canopy, there is a sliding door entrance and three additional window openings. The recessed section has a band of windows in a single opening. Three full-height arched openings dominate the block at the southern end. The upper sash remain intact, however the lower halves of the windows have been filled with concrete blocks. These windows have decorative brick surrounds. Along the north elevation, a two-story block at the center adjoins a one-story block at the western end and a one and two-story structure at the eastern end. The one-story block at the western end has large window openings set with glass blocks. At the extreme western end, a large opening at a loading level has been covered with plywood. At the eastern end of the two-story block at the center, a canopy covers an entrance and extends to the sidewalk. The window openings lining the first story have been filled with glass blocks, while the upper floor openings have modern metal sash. The block at the eastern end has a two-story portion adjoining the block at the center and a one-story portion at the rear. The lower story window openings within this block have also been filled with glass block, while the upper windows have the same modern sash as the adjoining block. Much of the north elevation has been covered with corrugated sheet metal. Along the rear east elevation of the complex, there is an odd collection of one story, wood frame, shed roof additions in various stages of deterioration. This Industrial Vernacular building displays poor physical integrity due to numerous alterations, a lack of maintenance, and the devastating fire, which destroyed the southern third of the complex.

Detail for 4200 Airport WAY / Parcel ID 3958900065 / Inv # FAC014

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Brick, Metal, Plywood Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Industry/Processing/Extraction - Processing Plan: Irregular
Structural System: Brick No. of Stories: two
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Commerce, Entertainment/Recreation, Manufacturing/Industry, Politics/Government/Law, Social Movements & Organizations
Changes to Original Cladding: Extensive
Changes to Plan: Extensive
Changes to Windows: Extensive
Major Bibliographic References
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Polk's Seattle Directories, 1890-1996.
HistoryLink Website (
"Benjamin Moyses Dies In Chicago," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Thursday, April 25, 1916, p. 18.
Ho, Vanessa. "Fire destroys Sunny Jim landmark," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Friday, February 21, 1997, p. C1.

Photo collection for 4200 Airport WAY / Parcel ID 3958900065 / Inv # FAC014

Photo taken Nov 07, 2000
App v2.0.1.0