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Summary for 301 Mercer ST / Parcel ID 1988200440 / Inv # CTR005

Historic Name: Fine Arts Pavilion/Exhibition Hall Common Name: Exhibition Hall/PNB Phelps Center
Style: Modern Neighborhood: Queen Anne
Built By: Year Built: 1962
The original exhibition building was constructed in 1961-62 as a permanent facility, which would remain after housing the Fine Arts Exhibit during Seattle World’s Fair Century 21 Exposition. 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 design of the Exhibition Hall as well as the adjacent Playhouse 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. 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. This plan eventually evolved into a plan to construct two new buildings, the Exhibition Hall and the Playhouse, and to remodel the Civic Auditorium into a new Opera House, which would also have exhibition facilities on a lower level. Only the exterior of the Civic Arena would be refurbished so that it would complement the other improvements. 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 Art in their five Worlds of Century 21, which would feature the work of the world’s most outstanding artists and art productions. Although many initially discounted the potential draw of art exhibits, almost one and a half million people entered the Fine Arts Exhibit during their visit to the fair, representing more than one-tenth of the fair’s total attendance. The exhibit included collections of museum masterpieces, modern art, Pacific Northwest Coast Indian Art, and the art of locally prominent artists. After the conclusion of the fair in October 1962, the city leased the Exhibition Hall’s flexible space for a variety of uses until the early 1990s when the Pacific Northwest Ballet created the Phelps Center by building in the unused airspace between the ground floor and the roof. Despite worries by both ballet supporters and exhibitors, the project was successfully completed in 1993. The Exhibition Hall is significant for its design and for its associations with the Seattle World’s Fair Century 21 Exposition and with the development the Seattle Center 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 within the right-of-way of 3rd Avenue North between Mercer and Republican Streets. A flat-roofed colonnade across the principal north elevation connects this building with the other structures along the Mercer Street. A similar colonnade extends along the rear south elevation and terminates at the Opera House on the east and the Intiman Playhouse on the west. Originally, the three-story building enclosed a one-story volume of space with a mezzanine level balcony around all sides. The building measured 220 feet by 240 feet and provided 40,400 square feet of flat floor space with a capacity of 3,500. In the early 1990s, the Pacific Northwest Ballet created the Phelps Center by building in the unused airspace between the ground floor and the roof. Completed in 1993, the project retained a flexible exhibition space at the lower ground floor level and added upper levels, which house rehearsal studios and administrative offices for the company as well as the Pacific Northwest Ballet School. The buff brick exterior matches that of the Intiman Playhouse to the west and the Mercer Arena located on the other side of the Opera House to the east. Concrete piers lined with louvered glass panels frame the brick veneer panels on the exterior of the building. On the east and west elevations, the brick walls extend to the peaks of the building’s distinctive zigzag roof, filling the gable ends under the overhanging roof. On the principal north elevation, the piers divide the façade into seven bays. A full-height glass wall fills the center bay and contains entrances at the bottom floor level and a glass enclosed bay window at the top floor level. Within the adjacent bay to the east, a small booth containing the Ballet Box Office projects from the base of the wall below a large window opening in the upper portion of the wall. Within the adjacent bay to the west, a similar window opening is situated above a smaller opening at the base of the wall. The adjoining bays to the west have the same smaller openings, however one contains a pair of glass entrance doors instead of windows. The bay at the eastern end of the elevation also contains a large window opening in the upper portion of the wall. On the north elevation, a ramp extends from the sidewalk to a wide walkway along the north elevation and terminates at the center entrance of the Phelps Center. Stairs on either side of this ramp lead down to the entrances to the Exhibition Hall at the ground level. Two sets of entrances each have three pairs of glass doors. The brick wall between the two sets of entrances contains three narrow arched ticket window openings. The wide walkway above serves as a roof and covers these openings. The east and west elevations each have eleven bays under the peaked gables of the zigzag roof. A modern flat roof canopy extends the length of the west elevation above the first story level and covers entrances at the northern end and at the center. Seven large glass-enclosed bay windows line the elevation above the canopy. The remaining bays retain the original decorative brick openings below the gable ends. The 100-foot open plaza between this building and the Intiman Playhouse to the west has attractive landscaping. The east elevation has additional window openings at the upper floor level above a one-story structure, which connects to the Opera House to the west and contains a pass through lobby. The rear south elevation has three large window openings along the upper portion of the wall. An elevator tower located south of the walkway has ramps connected to the building at the second and third story levels. This building is well maintained but retains poor physical integrity due to the extensive alterations.

Detail for 301 Mercer ST / Parcel ID 1988200440 / Inv # CTR005

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Brick, Concrete Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat Roof Material(s): Other
Building Type: Recreation and Culture - Auditorium Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: three
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Arts, Community Planning/Development, Entertainment/Recreation
Changes to Windows: Extensive
Changes to Original Cladding: Slight
Changes to Plan: Extensive
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 301 Mercer ST / Parcel ID 1988200440 / Inv # CTR005

Photo taken Nov 16, 2000

Photo taken Nov 16, 2000

Photo taken Nov 16, 2000
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