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Summary for 157 Roy ST / Parcel ID 5457300580 / Inv # SCL015

Historic Name: Power Control Center Common Name: Retired Power Control Center
Style: Modern Neighborhood: Queen Anne
Built By: Year Built: 1963
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.
City Light constructed this now retired Power Control Center in 1962-63 on the site of a previous distribution substation built by Puget Sound Power & Light Company in 1926 as part of their private electric utility operations within the City of Seattle. Formed in 1900 as a subsidiary of Boston-based Stone & Webster, the Seattle Electric Company, a predecessor company, consolidated under unified operation the properties of virtually all of the private electric utilities and street railway businesses, which had previously operated within the city. In the next decade, the company took over most of the remaining independent utility and street railway operations. In 1902, the company acquired a fifty-year franchise to operate a private electric utility system within the Seattle City limits. In March of that same year, the citizens of Seattle had voted to establish their own lighting plant in order to ensure good street lighting service at reasonable rates. This began nearly fifty years of direct competition between the private and the municipally owned electric utilities, which did not end until the 1951 purchase by City Light of Puget Sound Power & Light Company’s Seattle-area properties. After the purchase, the elimination of duplication resulted in substantial savings, which translated into significant rate reductions for consumers. The purchase included three transmission substations and ten distribution substations, including the Queen Anne distribution substation located on Warren Avenue North and Roy Street near today’s Seattle Center. After City Light purchased the property in 1951, operation of the substation was discontinued during the process of consolidation, which closed unnecessary facilities. Ten years later, City Light selected the site as the location for its new power dispatching headquarters or control center for the city’s entire electrical distribution system. Since 1952, this operation had been housed in the former Yesler Substation, the original receiving substation in the City Light system. Built in 1904-05 at Seventh Avenue and Yesler Way, the Yesler Substation initially received power from the recently constructed Cedar Falls Plant, the first municipally owned hydroelectric plant in the United States. By 1951, the construction of new generating plants and receiving substations had made the old plant obsolete. It was retired from service and modernized the following year for its new function. Ten years later, the building lay directly in the route of the new Interstate 5 freeway through downtown Seattle, which forced City Light to construct a new facility as a replacement. The freeway construction schedule required the completion of the new structure before the planned demolition of the old building late in the summer of 1963. Architects Harmon, Pray & Detrich designed an architecturally distinctive modern structure carefully set within its prominent corner site. Designed to be protected from nuclear fallout, the windowless octagonal form allowed for the installation of a semicircular "pinboard" diagram of the electric system, which kept operating personnel informed of the exact status of the system at all times. The adjacent office portion, which cantilevered over eight concrete columns, allowed for parking spaces underneath. The architecturally distinctive Power Control Center is significant for its Modern design and for its associations with the era of privately owned electric utilities in Seattle and with the growth and evolution of City Light as the sole supplier of electric power in the area.
Completed in 1963, this architecturally distinctive Modern building is situated on a large corner lot at the intersection of Roy Street and Warren Avenue North. The reinforced concrete structure consists of an elongated octagon attached along its longer east elevation to an elongated hexagonal office wing supported on eight concrete columns to allow parking underneath. Exposed aggregate panels cover the eight canted walls of the octagon, which support the flat roof without any interior support and overhang the recessed concrete foundation. With the exception of an angled window opening centered on the longer west elevation, this half of the building is windowless and doorless. Access to the fallout-protected structure is through the adjoining office wing and through an entrance set in the southern wall connecting the two sections. The same exposed aggregate panels cover the angled north and south end walls of the office wing, which measures approximately 34 feet by 80 feet. On the east elevation, a raised concrete surround contains seven large picture windows separated by seven narrow concrete and steel piers. A multi-colored zigzag panel is set below each window. At the ground floor level, double metal entrance doors are mounted between the two support columns at the center. The building’s main entrance is located on the west elevation of the office wing. This elevation has three bays, which extend beyond the connecting wall between the two sections. The entrance is recessed within the center bay framed by concrete and steel walls. The adjoining bays have three windows above a continuous multi-colored zigzag panel. A flight of stairs leads from the recessed porch to a small landscaped area between the two halves of the building, where a second set of stairs continues down to the sidewalk. These stairs are set in a low concrete retaining wall, which surrounds the larger western half of the site. A plain concrete wall lines the driveway along the southern boundary of the site. This wall is topped by a screen, consisting of narrow exposed aggregate panels mounted on individual posts. The use of exposed aggregate cladding and attractive landscaping helps to unite the disparate elements of this unique structure. Well-maintained, this building retains excellent physical integrity.

Detail for 157 Roy ST / Parcel ID 5457300580 / Inv # SCL015

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Concrete, Other Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Government - Public Works Plan: Irregular
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Politics/Government/Law, Science & Engineering
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Windows: Intact
Changes to Plan: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
City of Seattle DCLU Microfilm Records.
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Puget Sound Power and Light Company. Agreement of purchase and sale between Puget Sound Power & Light Company and the City of Seattle. c1951.
Seattle Department of Lighting. Annual report / City of Seattle, Department of Lighting. Seattle, WA: 1910-1974.

Photo collection for 157 Roy ST / Parcel ID 5457300580 / Inv # SCL015

Photo taken Nov 10, 2000

Photo taken Nov 10, 2000
App v2.0.1.0