||Sears & Roebuck & Co., (Seattle store)
||Starbucks SODO Center
||Commercial - Chicago School, Modern - International Style
Architect: George C. Nimmons for 1916 building.
Now part of the
Starbuck’s Center complex in SODO, two early buildings were designed and
constructed early on for Sears and Roebuck, the mail order company.
Neither is intact, but both buildings have been restored with care.
The first Sears and
Roebuck mail order plant was built in Chicago in 1906 and designed by George C.
Nimmons, a Chicago architect. As the company expanded, it opened branches to
serve specific regions within the country. The first of these branches, which
was to serve the southwest, opened in Dallas, Texas. Not long after, in 1910,
the first Seattle Sears and Roebuck office was established in the Armour Building.
This building, since demolished, was once located near the Railroad tracks at 3rd
Avenue South and Jackson Street, in what is now the Pioneer Square Historic
A few years after, in
Seattle, Sears and Roebuck decided to build its own building, south of its
first location, in the Tidelands area. Again, the proximity of rail tracks was
crucial in the siting of the new building, as well as for subsequent buildings.
Located off of Lander Street, this is the most southern of the two buildings.
Simple and utilitarian on its exterior, it was built between 1912 and 1913. The
ground level was mainly devoted to the shipping, receiving and checking of
merchandise. In particular, mail was processed on the east side of the
building, because of the availability of good natural light for reading.
Executive offices were also located on the east side of the building on an
upper floor. Other functions within the building included the wrapping of
merchandise, clothing alteration and storage.
George C. Nimmons, the
Chicago architect, designed the neighboring building, which is more notable in
terms of architectural design. The 1915 building includes the showpiece tower,
which also accommodated required water storage for a sprinkler system.
Insurance underwriters generally required the stored water to be elevated above
most of the rest of the building and the tower was an easy solution to this
problem. According to Nimmons, this building was designed as a self-contained
mail order house. A Sanborn map from 1915 shows that, at the ground level, the
1912-1913 building accommodated functions such as receiving and checking, as
well as mail processing. The ground level of the 1915 building accommodated
packaging and weighing, located near the Colorado Avenue side of the building,
as well as a pneumatic tube central station and administrative office at the
front of the building along Utah Street. The upper levels of the 1915 building
were designed as an H plan. According to Nimmons, the middle of the H included
offices and bathrooms, while the rest of the H was left open for “storage and
sometimes working in architectural partnerships with others, was responsible
for Sears and Roebuck mail order plants in many other United States cities,
including: Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City,
Minneapolis and Los Angeles. Born in 1865, he received an associate bachelor’s
degree from the University of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio. After travel and study
in Europe, he worked for the architecture firms Burnham and Root and D. H.
Burnham and Company, between 1887 and 1898, before becoming more independent.
During the 1920s,
Nimmons was called upon to refashion part of the complex, specifically several
floors of the 1912-13 building, for the new Sears’ department store. The design
was remarkable for its lack of windows, which had been removed from the design
by the interior designer on the project, Les Janes. The retail store opened in
1925. There was further expansion of the complex, with the construction of
buildings in1946 and in 1966. The Sears store closed its doors in 1987. Nitze
Stagen acquired the complex in late 1990. The Nisqually Earthquake of February
2001 damaged all the buildings very badly. In particular, the 1915 building was
completely reclad in new brick, which is red, rather than the original buff
color, although the lighter trim was maintained. The screen, which covered up
the windows of the 1912-13 building, was also removed.
Heather MacIntosh, Building
a Legacy: The Story of the Starbuck’s Center Building, Nitze-Stagen:
Seattle, New York, 2004.
The complex includes two
early buildings, in addition to two later buildings from the 1940s and 1960s,
respectively set on a larger lot located between Utah Avenue South and Colorado
Avenue South. The southern boundary of the lot is along S Lander Street and the
northern boundary along S Stacy Street. The main façade is along Utah Avenue
South, but clearly visible and accessible from First Avenue South. Parking and
other open spaces are set between Utah Avenue and First Avenue South. The two
earlier buildings are of particular interest.
The first building,
built between 1912 and 1913, has a south elevation along Lander Street. It has
a rectangular plan, as well as flat roof and parapet. Exterior walls are of
reinforced concrete, with a buff brick veneer. The elevations, and particularly
the main façade of the building, feature slightly recessed bays, separated by
engaged piers. On the main façade, each bay consists of a row of three
double-hung windows, mostly replacement windows. Formerly, the ground level
openings featured storefront bays, each surmounted by a transom, composed of
about eight panes, some of which were operable. Each storefront bay surmounted
a series of three separate basement level openings.
The second building,
completed in 1915, has exterior brick walls, with tall vertical pilasters,
separating the bays. It has a roughly rectangular plan, approximately 240 feet
by 320 feet, with slight projections at the main façade. The main façade,
approximately 240 feet in length, has a symmetrical composition, featuring a
slightly projecting central tower, which rises above the rest of the elevation.
To each side of the tower, there are three recessed bays, with a row of four
double-hung windows at each floor. To each side of this, two end bays, project
out slightly and in plan, they are in line with the central tower. Each
bay is composed of a row of three double-hung windows.
Especially in the case
of the recessed bays between the tower and the end bays, vertical pilasters
step back near the parapet. The tops of these pilasters have trim in a white
material, which was formerly terra cotta. Similar trim adorns the edges
of the spandrels between windows, as well as the tops of pilasters that end
about one floor below the parapet level. This building, which suffered greatly
during the Nisqually Earthquake of 2001, was entirely reclad in 2002. New
brick, made from the same clay deposits in Newcastle, Washington as the
original brick, was installed. The new brick appears to be more reddish in
color than the original, which appeared buff colored. Precast concrete, as well
a new composite material, both in a white color, replaced the white terra cotta
trim. The main entry has also been redesigned. It includes new steps, new wood
double doors, a new glass awning, as well as the Starbuck’s mermaid logo set in
new cladding above the main entry.
mermaid logo has also been added at the top of the new tower, whose clock face
was also rebuilt.