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Summary for 551 1st AVE / Parcel ID 7666206935 / Inv #

Historic Name: Triangle Hotel/ Flatiron Building Common Name: Triangle Hotel & Bar Tavern
Style: Commercial, Tudor Neighborhood: Pioneer Square
Built By: Year Built: 1910
In the opinion of the survey, this property is located in a potential historic districe (National and/or local).
This building is on the National Register of Historic Places. Please see the individual National Register Nomination for additional information. The Triangle Hotel, also known as the Flatiron Building, was designed by architect C. A. Breitung for real estate figure and financier, Victor Hugo Smith. It is architecturally distinctive because of its rich detailing and its shape, dictated by its location at the intersection between First Avenue South and the railroad tracks which led to Seattle’s wharves. The site had previously been occupied by the Stetson and Post Sawmill and Planing Mill Company. Construction was begun in 1909 and completed in1910. The hotel was built in the northern portion of First Avenue South, south of King Street. In the early 1900s, this part of First Avenue South was still a planked street and the adjacent tidelands were being filled. The area was developed to allow more direct access from railroad cars to the wharves along the waterfront, facilitating both transportation and industrial growth. This development was typical of the explosive growth of the original commercial center of Seattle (more or less represented by the original Pioneer Square-Skid Road National Historic District created in 1970) from the period 1900 to 1910. Victor Hugo Smith, heavily involved in real estate development, acquired the site around 1908 or 1909. In 1909, Pacific Builder and Engineer announced Victor Hugo Smith’s intention to erect a building on the site for $ 15,000. The building was completed by December of 1910 for $22,000. Victor Hugo Smith (1854 or 1860 -1927) was a successful Seattle financier and real estate investor. President of the Peninsular Land and Building Company when the Triangle Hotel was built, he played an important role in Seattle’s real estate boom from 1889 to the height of the tidelands development in 1907. A native of Iowa, he arrived in Seattle in 1883 and began his career at the Puget Sound National Bank, a position he held until 1887. From 1887 to 1889, he was cashier for the Bank of Snohomish in Snohomish County (Washington State). He returned to Seattle in 1889, launching a career in real estate and loans. By 1892, he had formed the brokerage house of V.H. Smith and Company and was also an unsuccessful candidate for City Treasurer. He secured financial backing for the electrification of the Second Avenue street car line and was one of the incorporators of the Seattle Electric Railway. Carl Alfred Breitung, the architect of the Triangle Hotel, is often mentioned in association with the short-lived, but productive partnership with Theobald Buchinger, which lasted from 1905 to 1907. The Seattle firm produced the Academy of the Holy Names (1906-07) and the House of the Good Shepherd (1906-07), both well-known Seattle landmarks. In general, Breitung’s work reflects a knowledge of Classical architecture, as well as exposure to Central and Northern European examples. The Triangle Hotel, a Seattle landmark as well a National Register landmark, is a famous work by Breitung, as is the Jackson Building (the former Capital Brewing and Malting Company), also in the Pioneer Square-Skid Road National Historic District. Another well-known building is the Odd Fellows Temple of 1908-10 in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Breitung was born near Munich in 1868 and according to most accounts, studied architecture in both Munich and Rome. He began his career in the United States in the late 1880s, first on the East Coast and then in Kansas City, Missouri. His architectural career in Seattle began in 1900 and one of his earliest projects was the Jackson Building. After the dissolution of the Breitung & Buchinger Partnership in 1907, he worked independently in Seattle until the early 1920s, when he appears to have relocated to San Antonio, Texas. Nothing seems to be known of his life or career after that time. The Triangle Hotel, which opened at the end of 1910, had a saloon and eight rooms. At some point, like many hotels in the district, it operated as a brothel, while the ground story continued as a neighborhood tavern until 1929. In 1929, the Western Union Telegraph Company established its “C” branch in the space. The “C” branch was the first Western Union branch office in Seattle and communicated with the main office at Second and Cherry Street by pneumatic tubing. It is also thought to be one of the telegraph company’s early urban branch offices.
The Triangle Hotel is trapezoidal, almost triangular in plan, and three stories in height. It was sited on a triangular lot, whose shape was dictated by the intersection of First Avenue South and the railroad tracks which led to Seattle’s wharves. It has a narrow, south elevation of one bay, which is only six feet in length, a major 48 foot east elevation facing First Avenue South, a less complete 56 foot west elevation along Railroad Avenue and a rear, north elevation of 28 feet. The basement is concrete and below grade the east basement wall extends an additional six feet under the sidewalk. In general, the building stands out because of its shape and eclectic detailing which includes rusticated brickwork with a Flemish bond pattern and pointed arches, inspired perhaps by Late Medieval architecture (perhaps Venetian or Moorish architecture). The ground story structure is of cast concrete and has a brick and pebble-dashed stucco veneer exterior. On the First Avenue South façade, the ground floor exterior has three large openings, topped by steel spandrel beam and then three flat pointed arches. The central bay is slightly narrower than the other two. Above the ground level, a projecting string course is decorated with a band of lozenges in copper-green ceramic tile. The second and third level walls are faced with dark red brick and darker clinker header bricks set in a Flemish bond pattern. The brickwork is also rusticated. Set within the brick walls are three projecting wood frame window bays with decorative brackets and zinc-coated sheet metal veneer. The wood bays are completed by a cornice with a deep cavetto molding pierced by pointed arches, which is then topped by a projecting fillet molding. The brick wall in the background continues up several feet and is surmounted by a corbelled parapet. The topmost course is a cast concrete beam, originally tinted to match the brick and ornamented with a raised floral design. In general, the rich surface ornament, particularly the brick detailing, string course and cornice, is also seen on the south and east elevations. The ground level of the narrow, south elevation has a rectangular glazed opening framed by cast-iron columns with cushion capitals which support the steel spandrel beam. Above the beam is a narrow round arched opening. The top levels, clad in rusticated brick in the Flemish bond pattern, also have narrow arched window openings. The longer elevation along Railroad Avenue only has one typical, wide arched opening at the ground level, while the rest of the wall is concrete (and apparently partially filled in), with a small doorway and one small opening to the north. At the upper levels are two wood frame bays, similar to those on the main façade. In other respects, the detailing of the upper levels reflects the detailing of the First Avenue South façade.

Detail for 551 1st AVE / Parcel ID 7666206935 / Inv #

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status: NR, LR
Cladding(s): Brick, Concrete, Metal Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat with Parapet Roof Material(s): Asphalt/Composition
Building Type: Domestic - Hotel Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: three
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Commerce, Communications, Transportation
Changes to Plan: Intact
Storefront: Slight
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Windows: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
Shaping Seattle Architecture: A Historical Guide to the Architects. Jeffrey Karl Ochsner, ed. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994.
King County Tax Assessor Records, ca. 1932-1972.
Krafft, Katheryn Hills. “Northwest Hotel Supply, 212 Second Avenue, Historic Preservation Certification, Part 1,” 24 July 1989.
“A Lot of Worthy Men: Brief Biographies of Republican Candidates,” Seattle Press-Times (7 March, 1892), Page 1. Note on Victor Hugo Smith, candidate for City Treasurer.
City of Seattle, Department of Neighborhoods, Historic Preservation Program, Files.
Greissinger, Walter. Historic Building Data Sheet prepared for the City of Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board. 8 July 1974.
Pacific Builder and Engineer. Tidelands and Business Realty Special Supplement (1904).
Potter, Elizabeth Walton.“Triangle Hotel and Bar – Flatiron Building, National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination.” 19 December 1975.
“Seattle’s Old Triangle Building,” Seattle Times Magazine, 17 July 1966, p 7 (Article on cover illustration by William Oakes).
Victor H. Smith, Obituary, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 4 March 1927.

Photo collection for 551 1st AVE / Parcel ID 7666206935 / Inv #

Photo taken Nov 27, 2004
App v2.0.1.0