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Summary for this site is under review and the displayed data may not be fully up to date. If you need additional info, please call (206) 684-0464

Historic Name: Unique Merchandise Wholesalers Common Name: Kakao Cafe/Union Church
Style: Modern Neighborhood: South Lake Union
Built By: Year Built: 1947

In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. 

Please see 333 Westlake Ave N. [Pande Cameron Building – Durant-Star Co./Dunn Motors Showroom] for Westlake Avenue N. – Historic Context Statement.

This commercial building was constructed in 1947 and originally housed Unique Merchandise Wholesalers (Polk 1948-49, 1951) but was vacant in 1953 (Polk 1953). Seattle Garage Door was the tenant in 1954 (Polk 1954) and the building was vacant again in 1956 (Polk 1956).  In 1957, Volkswagen Washington, Inc. established an automobile dealership in the building (Polk 1959).  The dealership, renamed Metro Motors, Inc. (Seattle Daily Times, May 15, 1962, p. 6), remained in the building until 1963, when it moved to a larger site at 8th and Blanchard where it sold new cars, and 7th and Blanchard, where is sold used cars (Seattle Daily Times, March 17, 1963, p. 155).

Historical Significance
This building was designed and 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 is also associated with the development of auto-related businesses in South Lake Union. During the immediate post World War I era, industrial land use patterns began to change as the South Lake Union area attracted commercial business, particularly automobile showrooms and auto-related products or maintenance. While most of Seattle’s earliest auto showrooms and auto-related businesses had been located in the Pike-Pine corridor, the presence of the Ford Motor Assembly Plant and Showroom at 1155 Valley St, the central location and still undeveloped land in the neighborhood appears to have caused a shift. By the mid-1920s, a string of automobile related businesses, several housed in architect-designed and elaborately decorated terra cotta buildings, had been erected along Westlake Avenue. Westlake Avenue quickly became Seattle’s urban “auto-row.” By 1939 some 40 automobile related businesses could be found on the 12-block stretch of Westlake near South Lake Union (History Lake Union Walking Tour). 

Architectural Significance
The building 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 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 featured the following characteristics of the Modern commercial style: concrete block walls and an “open front” storefront with a continuous band of large aluminum sash windows that turned the northeast corner where the glazed aluminum frame main entry was located, facing north. A secondary, narrow glazed entry was located toward the south end of the east-facing, primary storefront and concrete block piers framed a single storefront bay at the very west end.  A wide, flat soffit above the storefronts provided the ideal surface for the tall, painted “VOLKSWAGEN” sign when the building housed this auto dealership in the late 1950s and early 1960s, The building remains largely intact and retains sufficient integrity to convey its historical and architectural significance. 

Architect Raymond H. Peck
The building was designed by architect Raymond H. Peck (1917-1998).  Born November 8th, 1917, Raymond Holmes Peck received his formal architectural training at the University of Idaho graduating in 1940. He received his architectural license in 1943. A simple minimal traditional house featured in a 1947 issue of the Pacific Northwest Book of Homes brought Peck some notoriety and commissions following World War II. 

Early projects include the conversion of a 1908 livery stable into a parking garage in 1949 in downtown Seattle; a house in the Wallingford neighborhood (c. 1950); and the Les Teagle Restaurant (c. 1955) in Seattle.

In 1955 Peck designed and built an office for his growing business. He shared the space with fellow architect John C. O’Brien, whom he collaborated with periodically on projects. The flat roof Miesian style office building was featured in the November 1955 issue of Pacific Architect & Builder and shows Peck’s increasing bent toward European International Style. The only documented project by Peck and O’Brien to date is the Casa Del Rey Apartments (c. 1952) in Seattle, which was featured in a Concrete Products Association of Washington advertisement.

In the late 1950s, Peck formed a limited collaboration with fellow architect, John S. Detlie. This brief partnership culminated in a design with architect B. Marcus Priteca for the Temple de Hirsch Sinai (1960) on Capitol Hill. The space-age cast concrete building received an AIA Honor Award in 1962. Other joint efforts included the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity house (1960) in Seattle; the Bellevue Christian Church (1960); and the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. store (1958) near Northgate Mall. In 1960, Detlie returned to Los Angles to practice, and Peck continued his own independent practice.

Peck’s most notable project was the Polynesia Restaurant (1961) on Pier 51 near the Seattle ferry dock. The restaurant, demolished in 1981, consisted of three attached A-frame structures, lavishly ornamented with Hawaiian lava rock, Asian woods and heavy posts and beams all carved with Peck’s Polynesian designs. Peck also served as the associate architect and construction supervisor for Seattle’s Cinerama Theater (1963). Peck also designed a model home for the 1956 Parade of Homes in Bellevue, and several of Dick's Drive-Ins.
 Peck passed away in Seattle on June 12, 1998. (Credit: Webpage:

Bibliographical References:

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.  

DocomomoWEWA Webpage:

R.L. Polk Company, “Polk’s City of Seattle Directory,” 1948-49, 1951, 1953, 1954, 1956, 1959.

Seattle Daily Times, Classified Advertisement, May 15, 1962, p. 6

Seattle Daily Times, Classified Advertisement, March 17, 1963, p. 155 Lake Union Walking Tour:, 2012, p. 5.

King County Property Record Card (1937-1972), Washington State Archives

Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation Property Inventory Card, 2004


This 7,230 square foot building has a concrete block structural system with a parabolic roof with interior decking supported by bow trusses that are exposed on the interior. The parabolic roof has multi-pane skylights in the arched ends and on the top (visible from the interior). A section of lower, flat roof with parapets that are taller on the north and south walls sits proud of the vaulted roof to the front and rear but the arched roof structure is visible at both ends. The front facade features continuous storefront windows with thin aluminum sash that wrap the northeast corner where the glazed entry is located.  It has low bulkheads clad in ceramic tile and a tall, blank stucco-clad facia.  A retractable fabric awning with what appears to be original hardware runs the length of the front facade above the windows.The north and west walls are painted concrete block. The north wall is blank west of the entry with the exception of a newer aluminum door door at the west end. The west (alley) facade retains original mulit-light industrial sash windows with painted brick sills and heads.    

Detail for this site is under review and the displayed data may not be fully up to date. If you need additional info, please call (206) 684-0464

Classication: District Status:
Cladding(s): Concrete - Block Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Barrel Vault, Flat with Parapet Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Commercial/Trade - Business Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Concrete - Block No. of Stories: one & ½
Unit Theme(s):
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Windows: Moderate
Changes to Original Cladding: Slight
Changes to Interior: Unknown
Storefront: Slight
Major Bibliographic References

Photo collection for this site is under review and the displayed data may not be fully up to date. If you need additional info, please call (206) 684-0464

Photo taken Aug 25, 2014

Photo taken Aug 25, 2014

Photo taken Feb 10, 2014
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