This commercial building was completed in 1946. It served as the office and warehouse for the Seattle branch Sheilds-Harper and Company, a petroleum marketing and industrial equipment firm based in Oakland, California (Polk 1948-49, 1960). The company moved out of the building in 1964 (Seattle Times Archives, 1964). Allied Floors and Acoustics moved into the building in 1965, staying there until the early 1970s (Polk 1965, 1970).
The building was completed from a design by architect William R. Grant (1890-1957), who worked as a draftsman for the Beezer Brothers, a prominent Seattle architectural firm, in the late 19teens and early 1920s. Grant formed his own firm in 1924 and established an office in the Seaboard Building at 1506 Westlake Avenue. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Grant designed several buildings along Dexter Avenue N. for Seattle developer Adolph Jacob Eberharter (1887-1955), including 400 Dexter Ave. N. (1930), 430 Dexter Ave. N. (1930), 228 Dexter Ave. N., 509, Dexter Ave. N., and 513 Dexter Ave. N., all one-story brick masonry buildings. Other buildings Grant designed in the South Lake Union neighborhood include 522 Dexter Ave. N and a two-story warehouse building at 507 Westlake Ave. N. Grant also designed the Fraternal Order of Eagles Building in Ballard (1927), and the Raymond Theater in Raymond, Washington (1928). Later in his career, Grant assisted Marcus Priteca with Seattle’s Naval Reserve Armory (1942), remodeled the West Home Funeral Chapel in West Seattle (1941), and designed the Ilwaco Town Hall (1947), the King County Medical Services Building (ca. 1953) and Christ Episcopal Church Office (1954). Grant was joined by his son Austin after the war, and the practice was renamed Grant & Son. After Grant retired in 1953 his son took on additional partners and the firm was renamed Grant, Copeland and Chevenak in 1955. William R. Grant passed away on Vashon Island on February 22, 1957. (Credit: Houser, Michael, “William R. Grant,” Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation,” http://www.dahp.wa.gov/learn-and-research/architect-biographies/william-r-grant, and The Johnson Partnership, “Appendix A Report, 400, 416, & 430 Dexter Ave. N., Seattle, WA,” April, 2014 (Revised June 9, 2014), Seattle, WA.)
This building was constructed during the post-World War II era, which was an important period of industrial, commercial and warehouse development in the South Lake Union area. It displays characteristics of the Mid-Century Modern or simply Modern style. The Modern style grew out of construction techniques and materials technologies that developed during and immediately after World War II in response to the need to build economical and easily assembled structures. While these techniques were initially used in the construction of military and mass housing structures, they quickly spread to other building types. Characteristics of Modern commercial vernacular buildings during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s include modular building systems with cladding materials that could be pre-fabricated and assembled on-site. Common cladding materials included brick (frequently Roman brick), formed concrete, simulated stone, aluminum, Vitrolite (opaque glass), glass block, and small mosaic tile. Modern commercial storefronts often featured an “open front” design, which celebrated the display window as the most prominent storefront element in contrast to earlier storefront designs which placed more emphasis on the wall that framed the windows. Windows were typically plate glass with narrow aluminum frames. Plate glass afforded large, uninterrupted expanses of windows that could extend from floor to ceiling, ideal for displaying merchandise. Storefront bulkheads and enframements were commonly clad in brick, stone, or tile.
This building features the following characteristics of the Modern commercial style: an “open front” style storefront at the southern end of the primary facade with some original plate glass aluminum sash windows. It also features a large expanse of glass block on angled wall leading to a recessed entry at the north end of this facade. The building’s integrity has been compromised by the replacement of original Vitrolite panels with non-original Wilkinson Stone, replacement of an original section of the storefront with an aluminum roll up door, and the loss of additional aluminum sash windows in the northern portion of the front facade.
Houser, Michael, “William R. Grant,” Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation,” http://www.dahp.wa.gov/learn-and-research/architect-biographies/william-r-grant.
The Johnson Partnership, “Appendix A Report, 400, 416, & 430 Dexter Ave. N., Seattle, WA,” April, 2014 (Revised June 9, 2014), Seattle, WA.
Jackson, Mike, FAIA. “Storefronts of Tomorrow.” Preserving the Recent Past 2. Eds. Deborah Slaton and William G. Foulks. Washington DC: Historic Preservation Education Foundation, National Park Service, Association for Preservation Technology, 200. 57-65.
R.L. Polk Company, “Polk’s City of Seattle Directory,” 1948-49, 1955, 1960, 1965, 1970.
Seattle Times Historical Archives, July 22, 1964, p. 18.
King County Property Record Card (1937-1972), Washington State Archives