Plat: Industrial Add, Block: 21, Lots: 4-7
The Austin Company designed the building for the Liquid Carbonic Company in 1930. Although the building was clearly designed for utilitarian purposes, the Colorado Avenue South façade, in particular, is architecturally significant. It is reminiscent of some of John Graham Senior’s work, including the former Ford Motor Plant in Seattle. Original drawings suggest that although the other elevations differ, they all have common characteristics, including common brick cladding, cast stone trim and multi-pane steel sash.
Although the title block of the original drawings describes the building as having been designed for the Liquid Carbonic Company, other information describes the building as being a Factory and Office Building for General Dynamics Corporation. In fact, the first company became a division of the second. By 1940, the building was again definitely associated with the Liquid Carbonic Corporation, by 1965 with the Liquid Carbonic Division of the General Dynamics Corporation and, by 1992, with the Carbon Dioxide Corporation. The Liquid Carbonic Company was known for its manufacture of soda fountains, described by one author as “superior to all others.” The company was apparently founded in 1888 by Jacob Baur, a second generation pharmacist from Indiana. Although the original use and associations are of some interest, the association with the Austin Company, a firm that designed several other industrial buildings nearby, is also of note.
Samuel Austin and his son, Wilbert, an engineering graduate from Case Western Reserve, founded the Austin Company in 1916. Samuel Austin was originally from the United Kingdom. In 1872, he had immigrated to Cleveland, Ohio, where, at first, he had worked as a carpenter. The Austin Company was a successor to the father and son’s previous operation, Samuel Austin and Son, incorporated in 1904. Soon after its incorporation in 1916, the Austin Company developed branch offices all over the United States. It was Wilbert Austin, who had initially devised the idea of a full service firm. The “Austin method,” first pioneered at Samuel Austin and Son, provided an integrated approach to the engineering design and construction of buildings, all within one company. The Austin Company became known for the design of factories and other industrial buildings throughout the United States. By 1927, the Austin Company had designed and built the world’s largest building, a factory for the Oakland Motor Company in Pontiac, Michigan. The Building for the Liquid Carbonic Company dates from a few years later.
The firm subsequently became even more well-known and spread further. By the mid-1940s, there were over thirty offices throughout the United States. The Austin Company was responsible for a number of Boeing complexes, including the Boeing Assembly Plant of 1936-38 in Renton and the Boeing Plant No. 2 and Headquarters of 1940.
Drugstore Museum, Soderlund Village Drug, 2004
<http://www.drugstoremuseum.com/sections/level_info2.php?level=1&level_id=13>, accessed May 2, 2010.
“2003 4TH AVE / Parcel ID 1977201245, Huston Swanstrom Building/Marshall Building,” Historical Sites, Historic Resource Survey, Department of Neighborhoods, City of Seattle, available through portal:
< http://web1.seattle.gov/dpd/historicalsite/>, accessed April 23, 2010.
Grief, Martin. The New Industrial Landscape: The Story of The Austin Company. Clinton, N.J.: The Main Street Press, 1979.