AKA: Metropolitan Building Company, Metropolitan Garage, Metropolitan Tract, Downtown, Seattle, WA; Metropolitan Building Company, Olympic Garage, Metropolitan Tract, Downtown, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - infrastructure - transportation structures; built works - recreation areas and structures - arenas

Designers: Howells and Albertson, Architects (firm); Howells and Stokes, Architects (firm); Metropolitan Building Company, Developers (firm); Unico Properties, LLC (firm); Abraham Horace Albertson (architect); John Francis Douglas Sr. (developer); John Mead Howells (architect); Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes (architect)

Dates: constructed 1915-1915

2 stories, total floor area: 79,590 sq. ft.

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1200 5th Avenue
Downtown, Seattle, WA 98101

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The Arena Building stood on the southeast corner of 5th Avenue and University Street.

Building History

J.F. Douglas, Sr., (b. 1874) President of the Metropolitan Building Company (MBC) worked as a lessee of the University of Washington, developing rental properties on the site of the first Territorial University, later known as the Metropolitan Tract. Between 1908-1915, the MBC built the White-Henry-Stuart Buildings, Cobb Building, and Metropolitan Theatre on the 10-acre Metropolitan Tract. By 1915, Douglas wanted to create a multi-purpose auditorium building, one that had a long clear span that could accommodate various events. By the middle of 1915, he had leased this space to a proprietor of an ice skating rink for use in the winter months. He hoped to host other events for seated guests on the Arena's floor. The Arena was built quickly, over several months in 1915. Historian Neal O. Hines described it: "...The new Arena, nearly completed, was stretching along the slope above Fifth Avenue between University and Seneca Streets, a long brick structure, two tall stories at the lower end, not quite so high at the other, a line of twenty-two arched windows extending the length of the building at the second level, and the roof a low, auditorium-style crown scarcely visible from the street. ...It was both structurally innovative and capable of multiple uses, whether for skating or for automobile shows. A 75-ton refrigeration plant would chill floor pipes in the winter for ice skating season. A covering floor would be laid for other events. The Arena had no posts or pillars to block the view of the thousands to be seated at public meetings. The acoustics were superior. The interior was to be brightened by huge murals on Northwest themes." (See Neal O. Hines, Denny's Knoll, [Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1980, p. 133.) Unfortunately for Douglas and the MBC, the Regents of the University of Washington were not fond of the Arena, claiming it not to be fireproof and seeing it as too "temporary" in character. The Superintendent of the Seattle Building Department, Timotheus Josenhans (1853-1929) noted that the wooden roof of the building was not Class A fireproof rated, but that it followed existing building codes.

The Arena lasted from 1915-1924, when it was drastically remodeled into a parking garage.

Building Notes

The Arena Building occupied a half-block bounded by University Street on the north, 5th Avenue on the west, Seneca Street on the south and an alleyway on the east. This alleyway has been vacated on this block but exists on blocks north and south of the arena's building site.

In 1925, managers of the Arena, working for the Metropolitan Building Company, had their offices on the Cobb Building's ground floor. (See Seattle, Washington, City Directory, 1925, p. 246.)

Alteration

The architecture firm of Howells and Albertson transformed the Arena Building into a parking garage for the new Olympic Hotel across the street in 1924. It was known at the beginning as the "Metropolitan Garage." This garage had four stories, with 10 retail store spaces (with 11,240 square feet) located on the first floor. In 1950, the Pande Cameron and Company Oriental Rug store was located on one corner. Scored concrete clad the first floor, with bricks covering the upper two stories. Arched windows composed the second-story fenestration. Four-hundred-fifty cars could utilize what became known as the "Olympic Garage" by 1950.

Demolition

Unico Properties directed the erection of the IBM Building and its Plaza on this site in 1962-1964.

PCAD id: 16710