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Summary for 1740 23rd AVE / Parcel ID 0924049004 / Inv # DPR017

Historic Name: Colman Playfield Shelter House Common Name:
Style: Spanish - Mediterranean Neighborhood: North Rainier Valley
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.
In the opinion of the survey, this property appears to meet the criteria of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.
This architecturally distinctive structure was constructed for the City of Seattle by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1937-38. The Parks Department had originally acquired the park property in 1910. The previous year, the Seattle School District had completed construction of the new brick Colman School on the block to the north. The new park’s creation was the result of efforts by the local community, dominated at the time by Italian immigrants. The priest of the nearby Roman Catholic Church, Our Lady of Mount Virgin, was especially concerned about the needs of neighborhood families, who lacked a local playfield and family picnic grounds. Despite the objections of Parks Superintendent J.W. Thompson and H.L. McGillis, park engineer, the block south of the school was selected as the site for a new city park named for the same early pioneer, James M. Colman. Within five years, the playground had been graded for ball ground and picnic purposes, and quickly became popular for its bocce matches, an Italian game of bowling. However, by the mid-1930s, the local community recognized the need for further improvements at the park. The Italian Club together with the Atlantic Street Community Club and The Consolidated Club petitioned for a new shelter house, athletic field and tennis courts. Construction of the shelter house became a WPA project, which was completed in 1938. The strong influence of the local Italian community is evident in the Mediterranean Revival design of WPA architect Arthur Wheatley and park horticulturist Jacob Umlauff, who provided the appropriate landscaping. In the later 1920s, Arthur Wheatley had enjoyed a successful five-year partnership with Bertram Dudley Stuart. Born in England in 1885, Bertram Dudley Stuart practiced in Canada before his arrival in Seattle in 1918. The architecture firm of Stuart & Wheatley was established in 1925 and lasted until 1930. The firm was well known for its residential and commercial projects, especially for a number of large apartment buildings and hotels. These included the 1926 Bergonian Hotel (now the Mayflower Hotel), the 1927 Exeter House Apartments, and the 1926-27 Marlborough Apartments. The full extent of Arthur Wheatley’s career after the dissolution of the partnership in 1930 is not known at this time. However, Wheatley’s modern design for this building shows a progression from his earlier work, which was dominated by Gothic and Tudor Revival stylistic features. With its distinctive tower, this two-level concrete shelter house, unique in the entire park system, is significant for its design, and for its associations with the local Italian community, the Works Progress Administration, and the development of Colman Playfield.
Completed in 1938, this reinforced concrete shelter house occupies a site at the southern end of Colman Playground. Built into a steep hillside, the upper level of the one-story building faces north onto the playfield, while the lower basement level faces south onto a terraced landscaped area. Sets of stairs beyond the east and west elevations provide access between the levels. The Mediterranean Revival stylistic features include a side gable roof with cross gable wall dormers, a distinctive square tower at the southwest corner, a light stucco and concrete exterior, and triple-arched focal windows separated by spiral columns. On the north elevation, a cross gable wall dormer dominates the side gable main block at the center between the lower side gable end wings. The three arched openings of the focal window fill the main block below a narrow louver centered within the gable end and share a continuous bracketed concrete sill. Decorative cut bargeboards with scalloped edges cover the gable end with tight rakes. The same bargeboards cover the gable ends on the other elevations as well. Aligned along the north elevation of the main block, the smaller eastern wing has a saltbox form with a longer southern roof slope. On the north elevation, a projecting entrance bay has an arched door opening now covered by a wide wood panel. A wood panel also covers the narrow vertical opening at the northern end of the east elevation of this offset wing. The large opening at the southern end still contains a multi-paned window. The north elevation of the larger western wing has a narrow horizontal window opening set high on the wall adjacent to a single door opening. The original multi-paned sash remains within the window opening lined by a bracketed concrete sill. However, the door at the western end appears to be a later replacement. A wide chimney within the end wall of the main block straddles the ridge of the western wing. On the west elevation of this wing, the northern end has another small horizontal window opening, which adjoins a door set within a slightly projecting bay at the center. Rising more than a story above the roofline of the wing, the corner tower truncates the southern end of the elevation. Capped by a pyramidal roof, this tower has a circular window centered within each elevation below the roofline. At the second and third story levels, concrete buttresses wrap the corners and frame pairs of narrow arched louvered openings above pairs of smaller multi-paned windows on the south and west elevations. These elevations also have large multi-paned windows at the ground floor level of the tower. On the south elevation of the building, the upper floor of the main block has a window configuration identical to the north elevation below the cross gable wall dormer. The ground floor has two smaller multi-paned windows flanking two large multi-paned windows at the center. Between the tower and the main block, the south elevation of the western end wing has a small horizontal window opening within the upper story above a covered entrance door at ground level. Recessed behind the façade of the main block, the south elevation of the eastern end wing has another covered entrance at the lower floor level below a large multi-paned window at the main floor level. A narrow entrance door is also situated on the exposed east wall of the main block. Many of the original metal sash windows remain extant intact within the openings. However, many are missing glass panes, and most show significant levels of deterioration. The building is currently vacant and largely open to the elements. A severe lack of maintenance has allowed the concrete to deteriorate in places. Although this architecturally distinctive building remains essentially unaltered, the level of deterioration noted above has reduced its overall physical integrity and will continue to do so as long as the building remains in its current state of total neglect.

Detail for 1740 23rd AVE / Parcel ID 0924049004 / Inv # DPR017

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Concrete, Stucco Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Gable, Pyramidal Roof Material(s): Wood - Shingle
Building Type: Recreation and Culture - Sports Facility Plan: Irregular
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: two
Unit Theme(s): Architecture/Landscape Architecture, Community Planning/Development, Entertainment/Recreation, Ethnic Heritage, Other
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Original Cladding: Slight
Changes to Windows: Moderate
Major Bibliographic References
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.
Erigero, Patricia. Seattle Public Schools Historic Building Survey Summary Report. Seattle, WA: Historic Seattle PDA, 1990.

Photo collection for 1740 23rd AVE / Parcel ID 0924049004 / Inv # DPR017

Photo taken Nov 09, 2000

Photo taken Nov 09, 2000

Photo taken Nov 09, 2000
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