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Summary for 4735 E MARGINAL WAY E / Parcel ID 3573200975 / Inv # 0

Historic Name: Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant Common Name: Federal Center South
Style: Art Deco - PWA Moderne, Commercial Neighborhood: Duwamish
Built By: Year Built: 1931-19322
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.
In the opinion of the survey, this property is located in a potential historic districe (National and/or local).

Plat: Industrial Addition, Block: 23, Lot: Portion

Architect: Albert Kahn

Architect Albert Kahn designed the large building as a Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant. It was completed between 1931 and 1932. Within Seattle’s Industrial District, it stands out as a striking and well-designed building. It functioned as a Ford Assembly assembly plant and showroom until about 1940.

Albert Kahn was also responsible for the smaller Oil House, also built as part of the original Ford Motor Plant. It too was completed between 1931 and 1932.

Albert Kahn was born in Westphalia, Germany in 1869, but, soon after, his family soon moved to Luxemberg and then in 1880 to Detroit, Michigan. Kahn worked as an apprentice and draughtsman at the firm of John Scott and Associates and then over a decade at the architecture firm of Mason and Rice. He became an architect purely by apprenticeship, without formal academic training. Once an architect, Kahn became the architect of choice for many industrial clients. He is credited with the design of two thousand factories between 1900 and 1940. One of his long and important associations was with Henry Ford. He designed many Ford Motor Plants, including the Highland Park Factory in 1909 and the River Rouge Ford Plant (1917-1939), both in the Detroit area. The East Marginal Way plant dates from somewhat later in his career. Kahn also worked for other clients in the automobile industry, including Henry B. Joy, the President of Paccard. Later in his career, Kahn also worked on large plants for the aeronautics industry, including the Willow Run Factory of 1943 in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Kahn’a ability to create large open and efficient spaces that facilitated industrial production continues to be considered unique among historians of industrial heritage, architects and architectural historians.

From 1940 to 1949, the larger building along East Marginal Way South was owned by the War Department and used as a staging site for supplies headed for the Pacific Front. From 1959 to 1971, Boeing apparently leased the building, where it produced Minuteman Missiles for the United States Air Force. Owned by the General Services Administration since 1973, it is now known as GSA Building 1203 of Federal Center South, a local headquarters of the General Services Administration of the United States Government. Currently the largest tenant at Federal Center South is the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Seattle branch of the U. S. Government Printing Office is also an important tenant, although there is no onsite printing plant.

Additional Sources

Louis Bergeron and Maria Teresa Mauillari-Pontois,“The Factory Architecture of Albert Kahn,” WArchitectureWeek, <>, accessed July 2010.

“Albert Kahn,” UMichiganArchitecture, <>, accessed July 2010

“Ford Richmond Assembly Plant- Architect Albert Kahn,”, accessed July 2010.

Connie Walker Gray, “4735 E Marginal Way S, Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant and Oil House,” Department of Archeology and Preservation website, “Wisaard,” survey information, (not reports), accessed July 15, 2010.

Grant Hildebrand, Designing for industry: the architecture of Albert Kahn, Cambridge, Mass., The MIT Press, 1974.

David Goldberg, “Federal Center South,” – Facebook page, accessed July 2010.






4735 E Marginal Way South is a large property, which includes two related and significant structures.

Larger Building – Former Ford Motor Factory

The larger building, a former factory building, is two stories in height. It is generally clad in buff brick, with cast stone/concrete trim. The building has a regular plan that is almost rectangular, roughly 850 feet long and 320 feet width, (it also was designed with a “small wing” that is 180’ by 100’). The original interior structure includes a structural steel frame, as well as reinforced concrete partition walls. The building was originally designed to accommodate large spaces for factory production. Original exterior walls are of reinforced concrete and solid brick. 

Beginning at its north end, the main exterior east façade along E Marginal Way is marked by a long series of two story bays, which are separated by engaged piers, clad in buff brick. Each of the bays has a large window opening with new glazing. Simple, relatively flat concrete caps surmount the brick clad pilasters. A dentil band, topped by a concrete band, also ties the caps together just above the second level of window openings.

Aside from the contrasting concrete bands and pilasters caps, the building exterior is primarily clad in buff brick; however, a gray and buff diaper pattern occurs across much of the elevation, above the long series of window bays. In its repeated bays and brick detailing, the north elevation includes many elements that are similar to those of this part of the façade.

The south wing, located at the end of the main east façade, although clad in the same brick and detailed in a similar fashion, has a slightly different design. More clearly Art Deco in style, it includes several slightly taller, long, glazed multi-pane bays, separated by similar engaged piers with concrete caps and trim; however there are more reveals and vertical fluting associated with the pilasters. Also, to each side of the four bays is another similar long glazed bay with brick cladding that projects out slightly in front of the four bays. The two flanking bays are also slightly lower than the four bays, but still higher than the continuous and more standardized bays to the north. A tall stack also rises behind this end of the building. Completing the south end of the facade is a more standardized bay, which and is the same height as the main part of the façade. The top window opening is filled with multi-pane sash, while the lower opening has what appears to be a service door. Also, the spandrel above the first floor opening has been reclad or covered by new siding.

Former Oil House

To the south of the larger main building, there is a one-story building, with a similar contrast between buff brick and cast stone, as well as similar detailing. Rectangular in plan, it has a gable roof.  The shorter elevation, which includes a gable end, is divided into three horizontal oblong window openings, also separated by pilasters. Two of these retain what appears to be original multi-pane glazing. The pilasters also rise to the top of the gable end. A much longer elevation includes nine bays, originally designed with a central bay that included a door, flanked to each side with four window openings, filled with multi-pane sash. To each side of this larger grouping, there is a much narrower bays. In the case of this building, many bays appear to have original multi-pane glazing, while others are filled with replacement materials.


Detail for 4735 E MARGINAL WAY E / Parcel ID 3573200975 / Inv # 0

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Site District Status: INV
Cladding(s): Brick, Concrete, Stone - Cast Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat with Parapet, Gable Roof Material(s): Asphalt/Composition
Building Type: Transportation - Road- Related Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Brick No. of Stories: Various
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Manufacturing/Industry, Transportation
Changes to Plan: Slight
Changes to Original Cladding: Slight
Changes to Windows: Moderate
Major Bibliographic References
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Polk's Seattle Directories, 1890-1996.
Drawings, Microfiche Files, Department of Planning and Development.

Photo collection for 4735 E MARGINAL WAY E / Parcel ID 3573200975 / Inv # 0

Photo taken Mar 07, 2010

Photo taken Mar 07, 2010

Photo taken Mar 07, 2010
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