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Summary for 118 Dexter AVE / Parcel ID 1991201077 / Inv # DPR071

Historic Name: Parks Department Headquarters Common Name: Seattle Parks Department Headquarters
Style: Modern, Modern - International Style Neighborhood: South Lake Union
Built By: Year Built: 1948
 
Significance
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).
In 1864, David T. and Louisa Boren Denny gave a portion of their Donation Land Claim for the purposes of establishing a public cemetery. At the time, this was far from the center of town in Pioneer Square and was reached only by wagon roads. Within twenty years, however, it no longer considered so far away. In 1884, the Dennys prepared a new deed rededicating most of the cemetery property to become Seattle’s first public park with a provision to remove the gravesites. The site was initially named Seattle Park but later renamed Denny Park about 1887. In 1894-95, landscape designer Edward Otto Schwagerl, the Superintendent of Public Parks, designed the park’s first improvements, a decade after its creation. By 1903, the newly developed residential area surrounding the park called for a more formal design. The park was redeveloped with new walks, plantings, and lawns, and a competition was held for a combination shelter and tool house, which was won by the prominent Seattle architect James H. Schack. The nearby Denny School (1884-1929) made good use of the play area. For a time in the later 1920s, the regrading of Denny Hill reduced the park to an island sixty feet above the surrounding area before flattening it by 1930. L. Glenn Hall developed a new landscape plan, which featured a formal and symmetrically planned, classic design and a new comfort station located near the western side of the park. The 1884 Ordinance that accepted the Denny property as Seattle’s first park also made some allowances for its conversion from a cemetery and included a provision that three Park Commissioners be appointed to oversee the conversion. This was the modest beginning of the Seattle Parks Department. Later legislation created a Board of Park Commissioners whose composition and responsibilities changed over the years with subsequent legislative action by the City Council. In general, the Board held complete management responsibilities for Seattle’s parks and possessed the authority to appoint a superintendent and to negotiate for property. However, the City Council retained the authority to purchase and condemn property. Over the years, periodic park legislation also abolished and reinstated the position of Park Superintendent. In 1948, a charter amendment required the establishment of a permanent position for a Parks Superintendent. By this time, the Parks Department had gained enough stature and staff to build its own Administration Building. Previously, the department had moved about the city in rented offices. Despite the objections of the Denny family, the new building was constructed along the western side of Denny Park in 1948-49, where it replaced the 1930s comfort station. The architecture firm of Young and Richardson was a successor to the Schack, Young and Myers partnership (1920-1929), one of Seattle’s most successful design firms of the 1920s. After David J. Myers departure in 1929, Arrigo M. Young and James H. Schack continued the practice until Schack’s untimely death in 1933. Originally educated as a structural engineer, Young later obtained an architectural license and practiced architecture and engineering independently before forming a partnership with Stephen H. Richardson in 1941. At the time of Young’s death in 1954, it was known as Young, Richardson, Carleton and Detlie, by 1956 as Young Richardson and Carleton and later as The Richardson Associates, and then simply as TRA. The firm designed several other buildings for the city, including the 1941-42 clubhouse for the West Seattle Golf Course and the 1956-58 North Service Center for City Light. (Cathy Wickwire – 2000) {Located on the west side Denny Park, along Dexter Avenue North, this architecturally distinctive Modernist building was constructed in 1947-48, (rather than 1948-49),according to King County Tax Assessor Records and the Don Sherwood Files. It was designed by the architecture firm of Young and Richardson, who won an AIA Grand Honor Award for it in 1950. As Young Richardson and Carleton, in 1960, the firm also designed the Seattle Unity Church of Truth, located north of Denny Park, on 8th Avenue North and John Street. It became one of the pre-eminent Seattle and national architecture firms, designing public buildings and airports, including Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, until it dissolved around the late 1990s. The Seattle Parks Department Headquarters Building is significant for its International Style massing and detailing and for its associations with the development of the Seattle Parks Department and of Denny Park. It is also important as a work of one of Seattle's oldest and most famous architecture firm. Early on, this firm designed landmark buildings following historical styles, and later designed major Modernist buildings and complexes all over Seattle and the United States. (Karin Link- South Lake Union Survey – 2005)}
 
Appearance
Set on the western edge of Denny Park facing Dexter Avenue North, the 1948-49 Parks Department Headquarters is an informal, gracious building, which embodies the spirit of the International Style. Sited on a slight incline, this one-story structure includes a full lower story at the rear east elevation, which opens onto an adjacent parking lot. The building presents its best façade to the street while the minor rear elevation faces the park grounds beyond. However, it contributes to the amenity of the park nonetheless. Random-coursed ashlar masonry walls of roughcut Wilkenson sandstone frame the building’s glass curtain walls. These walls extend beyond the envelope of the building where they appear to become part of the landscape. A low stone wall surrounds the building and contains extensive plantings that obscure much of the principal elevations at the height of the growing season. The flat roof building has an irregular but roughly L-shaped footprint, which measures approximately 140 feet by 80 feet overall and includes five rectangular plan blocks with different sizes and functions. The principal west elevation has a higher lobby block centered between a boardroom block at the northern end and a general office block at the southern end, which create a façade with varied wall planes. A long office block extends almost the full length of the rear of the building facing the park and presents a façade with a more conventional appearance. The lower level of this block also contains restrooms for men and women. A smaller drafting block projects beyond the northern end of this block. At the center of the west elevation, a wide walkway leads to the higher lobby block, which has a full height window wall framed by stone walls. Within the wall, double metal entrance doors with glass windows have replaced the original all-glass doors, somewhat reducing the original transparency of the glassed in lobby area. The southern wall framing the entrance projects several feet beyond the façade and above the roofline of the lobby block, providing a strong vertical emphasis in contrast to the horizontality of the low-slung building. Beyond this wall, the long office block at the southern end has a band of windows separated by steel mullions under the overhanging flat roof. The south elevation of this block presents a blank stone wall. The northern wall framing the entrance extends 22 feet towards the sidewalk and then continues as a lower wall within a low planter. Beyond this lower wall, the boardroom block at the northern end presents a blank stone wall with the exception of a single entrance door at the southern end reached by a short flight of stairs. The north elevation of this block has bands of windows at the main and lower floor levels between stone end walls and under the overhanging flat roof. A continuous spandrel of striated wood separates the larger windows of the upper band and the smaller windows of the lower band. At the northeast corner of the building, the north elevation of the drafting block has a similar window configuration but with bands of windows of the same size. The east and west elevations of this block present blank stone walls. At the rear east elevation of the building, a band of windows lines the main upper floor level of the office block above a continuous spandrel of striated wood. The lower floor level has double door entrances in recessed openings near the northern and southern ends. Single window openings set high on the wall separate these entrances and the single door entrances to the restrooms situated towards the center of the elevation. Six additional window openings line the upper wall between the restroom entrances. A band of three larger windows covers each end of the elevation. The south elevation of this block presents a mostly blank stone wall with a single window opening at the upper and lower floor levels. Recessed some ten feet behind the main façade, the short west elevation of the rear block has a band of windows as well. This building is generally well maintained and retains excellent physical integrity. (Cathy Wickwire - 2000) {Note: The King County Tax Assessor’s Record card and the Don Sherwood files give the date of the building as 1947-1948 – Karin Link, South Lake Union Survey -2005}

Detail for 118 Dexter AVE / Parcel ID 1991201077 / Inv # DPR071

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status: INV
Cladding(s): Concrete, Other, Stone Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Government - Government office Plan: Irregular
Structural System: Balloon Frame/Platform Frame No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Community Planning/Development, Entertainment/Recreation, Politics/Government/Law
Integrity
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Windows: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
City of Seattle DCLU Microfilm Records.
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl, ed. Shaping Seattle Architecture, A Historical Guide to the Architects. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994.
Sherwood, Don. Seattle Parks Histories, c. 1970-1981, unpublished.
Bagley, Clarence B. History of Seattle. Chicago: S.J. Clarke, 1916.

Photo collection for 118 Dexter AVE / Parcel ID 1991201077 / Inv # DPR071


Photo taken Nov 04, 2000

Photo taken Nov 04, 2000

Photo taken Nov 04, 2000
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