Home Page
Link to Seattle Department of Neighborhoods home page

Seattle Historical Sites

New Search

Summary for 333 Pontius AVE / Parcel ID 2467400335 / Inv # DPR014

Historic Name: Cascade Playground Comfort Station Common Name:
Style: Art Deco - PWA Moderne Neighborhood: Cascade
Built By: Year Built: 1938
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the National Register of Historic Places.
This architecturally unique comfort station was constructed for the City of Seattle in 1937-38 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). When the Parks Department first acquired the property in 1926, the neighborhood was still largely residential. The mostly working class families lived in older wood frame homes and multi-family dwellings. The park parcel, covering nearly an entire block, was located across the street from the Cascade School, a six-room brick school built in 1893. The site had been selected as a result of a massive community petition for a "Pontius Playground" near the school although the playground was eventually named for the adjacent school. The Parks Department purchase of the playfield site adjacent to the school followed a policy originally developed by the Olmsted Brothers landscape firm. In 1903, the city had hired the Olmsted Brothers to prepare plans for a comprehensive park and boulevard system, including suggestions for improvements to existing parks. This was supplemented by an additional report in 1908 to include the large areas annexed by the city the previous year. In their recommendations, the Olmsted Brothers advocated for the creation of playgrounds located near schools so teachers could direct the children’s activities. The idea of public recreation facilities in parks had only become popular late in the 19th and early in the 20th centuries, and the Olmsted Brothers were at the forefront of the movement. Efforts to fund the purchase of the park with a Local Improvement District were opposed by property owners who believed the trend of development was turning from residential to commercial. Once the park had been acquired with money from a 1924 bond issue, the same property owners opposed the development of the park through a 1932 bond issue. Eventually, these local landowners, especially the Seattle Times, were successful in getting the district rezoned for Light Industry, which effectively eliminated the residential character of the neighborhood. The park remained largely unimproved until the mid-1930s when the WPA began to develop the site. By 1936, the WPA had constructed retaining walls around the park, and within two years, had completed this unusual comfort station, which is divided into two separate buildings with a path between. Located at the northeast corner of the park, the comfort station also serves as a gateway to the park with the orientation towards the school site across the street to the east. The modest buildings exhibit Art Deco/Art Moderne stylistic features. In 1939, the WPA also constructed a wading pool at the park. After the Second World War, the neighborhood became increasingly commercial and industrial as older homes and apartments were replaced by new construction. This trend was reflected in the closing of the Cascade School in 1949 due to damage incurred in the strong earthquake of that year. Instead of rebuilding on the site, the School District chose to replace the school building with a warehouse. Currently, a number of small private schools in the neighborhood use the park as their playground on a daily basis. This distinctive building is significant for its design and for its associations with the Works Progress Administration and the development of the South Lake Union neighborhood and Cascade Playground.
Completed in 1938, this unique comfort station is divided into two identical brick buildings, which frame the entrance at the northeast corner of Cascade Playground. The playground covers nearly all of the city block bounded by Minor and Pontius Avenues North and Harrison and Thomas Streets. The one-story buildings have irregular footprints and rest on concrete foundations incorporated into the retaining walls surrounding the park. Lined with low curbs, a wide, gently sloped path from the sidewalk separates the two buildings, which exhibit Art Deco/Art Moderne stylistic features. These include smooth volumes squared off at the top, blocky horizontal bases, and stepped parapets. Originally, recessed bricks at every seventh row created a banded exterior with a strong horizontal emphasis. As part of a late 1990s renovation project, the recessed rows were filled with a slightly contrasting brick, producing a more seamless appearance. The building on the northern side of the path contains the women’s restroom while the building on the southern side contains the men’s restroom. The restrooms are situated within the outer halves of the buildings and adjoin the maintenance/caretaker rooms along the entrance path. Low parapet walls with slight setbacks line the roof along the inner half of each building. The buildings present formal facades to both the street and the park. On the street side, single horizontal openings are centered on the long outer walls. Originally, these openings were located closer to the outer edges of the walls but were moved inward during the renovation project. However, the original multi-paned steel sashes were retained. On the short inner walls, the single horizontal openings have been filled with brick set in a herringbone pattern. Originally, these openings were the same size as the similarly filled vertical openings on the walls facing onto the center path. The walls fronting onto the park appear to retain the original openings, including a single door into the maintenance/caretaker’s room and a horizontal multi-paned sash window into the restroom. Later brick wing walls enclose the end walls of the buildings, which contain entrances to the bathrooms at the center. Modern metal gates have replaced the original single entrance doors. Despite the alterations to the brick cladding and the window openings, this distinctive comfort station retains good physical integrity in terms of its form, function and massing.

Detail for 333 Pontius AVE / Parcel ID 2467400335 / Inv # DPR014

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Brick Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Other Plan: Irregular
Structural System: Brick No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Community Planning/Development, Entertainment/Recreation
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Moderate
Changes to Windows: Extensive
Major Bibliographic References
Sherwood, Don. Seattle Parks Histories, c. 1970-1981, unpublished.
Erigero, Patricia. Seattle Public Schools Historic Building Survey Summary Report. Seattle, WA: Historic Seattle PDA, 1990.
Seattle Office of Management and Planning. Seattle Commons/South Lake Union Plan: Seattle, WA: Office of Management and Planning, 1995.

Photo collection for 333 Pontius AVE / Parcel ID 2467400335 / Inv # DPR014

Photo taken Oct 30, 2000

Photo taken Oct 30, 2000
App v2.0.1.0