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Summary for 622 RAINIER AVE / Parcel ID 3320500210 / Inv # 0

Historic Name: J. J. Wittwer & Company Common Name: West Coast Printing
Style: Other - Industrial Neighborhood:
Built By: Year Built: 1923
 
Significance
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.
This factory warehouse was constructed in 1923 for use as a toiletries manufacturing facility for J.J. Wittwer & Co. It was designed by the architectural firm of Schack, Young & Myers (1920-1929). The building is prominently situated at the north end of Rainier Avenue near the east end of Jackson and Dearborn Streets. As early as 1891, an electric railway connected downtown Seattle with the Rainier Valley, via Washington and Jackson Streets, to Columbia City. The line was extended to Renton by 1896. Between 1895 and 1910, several earth-moving projects were undertaken that reshaped the south downtown and tideflats areas, the Duwamish delta and the foot of Beacon Hill. The Rainier Valley became more accessible through the Jackson Street Regrade and the Dearborn Cut (1907-1909).The Jackson Street Regrade was designed to improve connections from the waterfront to the Rainier Valley.


The filling of the tideflats (1895-1921) and related regrade projects in the area of south downtown enabled the development of the rail yards and improved transportation networks from the railyards to the shipping ports for global import and export commerce. Related manufacturing and industrial growth was especially evident in the former tideflats, the Duwamish Valley, and also along related transportation corridors in the vicinity.The growth of manufacturing and industry in Seattle peaked in the 1920s and included production of a wide variety of both domestic and import products.This building is a good example of a manufacturing facility of the early 20th century, a time of significant industrial and economic development in Seattle.


The J.J.Wittwer & Co. was a family business headed by John J. Wittwer that included subsidiaries the J.W. Kobi Co. and the Golden Glint Co., “toilet preparations.” The 1923 Polks Directory lists the company as “Importers of human hair goods; Beauty parlor service.” As late as 1948, John’s widow, Agnes, was serving as the vice president and another relative, Otto Wittwer, served as the president. Original plan drawings indicate that the building was designed with a printshop facility in a portion of the first floor, probably for the production of product labels. This may have been why it was a desirable location for an expanded printing facility for the West Coast Printing Co. when the building was sold in 1954. The West Coast Printing Co, a family business since 1930, has remained in this location since 1954 and was still owned and operated by the Tomita family in 2007.

The partnership of Schack Young & Myers was formed in 1920 and became one of the city’s most prominent firms. James H. Schack was born in Germany in 1871 and studied architecture in Chicago before his arrival in Seattle in 1901. David Myers had come to Seattle from Glasgow in 1889 and worked for several local firms before leaving to study architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He returned in 1905, joining the firm of John Graham Sr. at that time. Arrigo M. Young was born in London in 1884, studied engineering at the University of Michigan, and arrived in Seattle in 1910. The firm of Schack Young & Myers designed numerous residences, hotels, churches and commercial buildings, mostly in the Academic Eclectic style. They are best known for their designs for the Seattle Civic Auditorium (now the Seattle Opera House) and for the buildings of the planned development of the town of Longview Washington. Myers left the firm in 1929, and Schack and Young practiced together until Schack’s death in 1933.



 
Appearance

This large two-story reinforced concrete factory building is mostly intact, with the exception of minor alterations to the windows. The brick veneer is original.The building is characterized by its long, low massing and pattern of large windows set in repeat bays extending across the front, west and side, south exterior elevations. The original windows were wood sash with more divided lights, but the current mullion divisions and the stucco surround, appear the same as the original and the overall appearance is compatible with the historic industrial character of the building. The windows on the rear, east elevation appear to be mostly original with the exception of one large window on the south end. The simple double, wood door entry on the east elevation at the south end, with a simple arched stucco surround and arched window transom, are original design and materials.

Detail for 622 RAINIER AVE / Parcel ID 3320500210 / Inv # 0

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Brick Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat with Parapet Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Commercial/Trade - Warehouse Plan: Irregular
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: two
Unit Theme(s): Commerce, Manufacturing/Industry
Integrity
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Windows: Moderate
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Polk's Seattle Directories, 1890-1996.
City of Seattle DPD Microfilm Records.

Photo collection for 622 RAINIER AVE / Parcel ID 3320500210 / Inv # 0


Photo taken Mar 15, 2007

Photo taken Mar 15, 2007
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