AKA: University of Washington, Seattle, Suzzallo, Henry, Library, Seattle, WA; University of Washington Suzzallo Library, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - public buildings - schools - university buildings

Designers: Bebb and Gould, Architects (firm); Bindon, Wright and Partners, Architects (firm); Cardwell/Thomas and Associates, Architects (firm); Croonquist, Alfred H., Architect (firm); Mahlum Architects (firm); Charles Herbert Bebb ; Leonard William Bindon (architect); Richard Cardwell (architect); Allan Clark (artist); Alfred H. Croonquist (architect); Carl Freylinghausen Gould Sr. (architect); John E. Mahlum (architect); David Swenson (architect); Thomas (architect); Henrik Valle (building contractor); John LeBaron Wright (architect)

Dates: constructed 1923-1927

5 stories

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Seattle, WA

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Building History

The renowned Seattle architectural firm of Bebb and Gould designed the Gothic Revival University of Washington Library #3 in 1923-1924, with construction beginning in late 04/1923. The firm devised an unusual plan, with three diagonally placed wings surrounding a central book tower over 300 feet in height. Additional stacks were placed in a square building on the triangle's east end. Carl F. Gould, Sr., (1873-1939) was the firm's Principal Designer on the project. Bids for the library were received on 07/09/1923 and contracts let the following day. For excavation and footings, the Western Construction Company of Seattle won a contract for $3,260; the structural steel contract went to Poole and McGonigle of Portland, OR, for $60,490; terra cotta work by Washington Brick and Lime of Spokane, WA, was to cost $59,095. At this time, no contractor for cut stone work was named because only one firm sent in a bid. Occupants of the library's first floor were able to move in by 10/01/1926 and the building opened fully in 1927. With its extraordinary reading room and other spaces, Gould's Suzzallo Library won a Seattle Honor Award, Washington State Chapter, American Institute of Architects, for "Libraries, Museums, etc." in 1928; despite its professional and popular acclaim, the architects were roundly criticized for the "lavish" cost of the elaborate Tudor building. Problems grew as a result of a personal clash between University of Washington President Henry Suzzallo (1875-1933) and Washington Governor Roland Hill Hartley (1864-1952), first elected in 1924.

Hartley, the small of stature son of a Baptist minister, lived in MN early in his life, and became a bookkeeper for the Clough Brothers Lumber Company in Minneapolis, MN; ambitious, Hartley managed to marry Nina Clough (1869-1953), the daughter of Minnesota Governor David Marston Clough (1846-1924). Aligned with powerful lumber and railroad interests, most notably James J. Hill (1838-1916) of the Great Northern Railway, Clough sent Hartley to resettle in Everett, WA, a new mill town north of Seattle, WA. Hartley fancied himself a potent speaker and entered politics with a strongly conservative view of minimal government and anti-unionism. Suzzallo, during the late 1910s, had served on numerous government boards, chairing the State Board of Defense, advising the War Labor Board, and acting as a member of the Labor Industries Board. At this time, lumber interests bitterly fought union efforts to mandate an 8-hour workday for logging camps and lumber mills, a measure that Suzzallo supported and helped to pass. As a result, Suzzallo made an enemy of Hartley. Once installed in the governor's office, Hartley set about poring over the budget of the University of Washington, and plotting ways in which to remove Suzzallo. The large-scale building campaign undertaken by Suzzallo in the 1910s-early 1920s came under scrutiny, with the Governor complaining that the library, particularly, was too costly and that architects Bebb and Gould had overcharged the State. (This scandal resulted in Gould's forced resignation as Chair of the Department of Architecture on 10/28/1926.) When two Regents of the University retired in 03/1925, Hartley seized the opportunity to appoint two of his own men; he also forced out three other unsympathetic regents on trumped-up charges. With the UW Board of Regents in his pocket, Hartley forced the resignation of Suzzallo, a potential political rival, from the University Presidency effective 10/04/1926. A popular leader, Suzzallo's termination incensed many in the State, stimulating an unsuccessful gubernatorial recall effort backed by alumni and union leaders. Hartley stopped any of the proposed future building phases for the library during his two terms in office. Due to the crushing effects of the Depression, Washington voters removed Hartley and his pro-business allies in 1932; only then could the next planned-for expansion of Suzzallo Library commence.

Building Notes

In some ways, the west facade of Suzzallo Library resembled the south elevation of La Sainte-Chapelle in Paris (1248); bays, separated by comparable pier buttresses, had similar proportions. Each also had finials topping each buttress and corner tourelles. The library's unusual triangular shape responded to two main diagonal axes that intersected in front of the library, one fixed southwest on Mount Rainier leading to the science quad and one heading northeast to the humanities quad. Its location and scale emphasized it as the heart of the university campus; the triangular form even suggested a heart shape. Of this original equilateral triangle plan, only two segments were built, the western reading room (1927) and a southern staff work space (finished in 1935). The other leg of the triangle was to accommodate a periodicals reading room, but this was not completed.

The building lacked religious imagery, but its decorative program underscored that this was to be a "cathedral of learning." When polled in 1923, the University of Washington faculty picked 18 great intellectuals--Moses, Louis Pasteur, Dante, Shakespeare, Plato, Benjamin Franklin, Justinian, Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Goethe, Herodotus, Adam Smith, Homer, Gutenberg, Beethoven, Darwin, and Grotius--whose busts would appear in terra cotta on the library's exterior. Twenty-seven-year-old Tacoma artist Allan Clark (1896-1950) won this coveted sculptural commission. Clark also crafted the cast stone personifications of “Mastery,” “Inspiration,” and “Thought" positioned above the three portals of the west entrance. Also displayed on the exterior were the crests of 14 peer universities: Toronto, Louvain, Virginia, California, Yale, Heidelberg, Bologna, Oxford, Paris, Harvard, Stanford, Michigan, Upsala, and Salamanca. The ambitious young university was announcing its arrival into elite company. Other academic libraries of the period, such as the William Raney Harper Library at the University of Chicago (1912) and the Doheny Library at the University of Southern California (1932) also depicted crests of peer institutions. The library was named for the ousted President Suzzallo in 1933, the year after Governor Hartley was voted out of office. Suzzallo Library has a long reading room placed on the second floor above the main entry; this plan typology followed the precedent set by McKim, Mead and White's Boston Public Library (1895), and was echoed at universities built across the country. John Galen Howard's Doe Library at the University of California Berkeley (1911) was a prominent example on the West Coast.

Alteration

A south addition, following the original plans, was made by architects Bebb and Gould in 1933-1935; this new section had frescoes painted by Paul M. Gustin (1886-1974) and John T. Jacobsen (1903-1998). Seattle architectural firm of Bindon and Wright added an addition in 1947, and another addition was completed in 1963. (Seattle architect Alfred H. Croonquist [1924-2003] indicated that he had done alterations work on a library at the University of Washington (UW), presumably Suzzallo, in 1960.) Suzzallo Library sustained significant damage in the 6.8-magnitude Nisqually Earthqake of 02/21/2001, requiring renovation and retrofitting. Mahlum Architects supervised this renovation, along with Cardwell/Thomas Architects, who served as Preservation Architects. According to the UW Libraries web site on the renovation: "Not only is Suzzallo Library a high seismic risk, but the infrastructure in the 60-70 year-old building is obsolete and inefficient. The Library's mechanical, electrical, and life safety systems fail to meet current standards, are costly to maintain, contribute to user and staff discomfort, and are unable to support wiring needs for current information technology. The Suzzallo Library's fire alarm system is antiquated and the Library does not have a fire sprinkler system. In addition, the Suzzallo Library meets neither the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), nor those of the Washington State Building code regarding emergency notification, exiting, elevator, or toilet room access. The Library's protective skin (masonry, glass, and roofing) is aging and needs attention. The outer surfaces have been damaged by water penetration, air pollution and mildew, and require repairing, seismic upgrading, cleaning and coating with a breathable sealer. The project described here is the First Phase of the total work needed to fully renovate the Suzzallo building. While this project addresses the seismic and infrastructure deficiencies in the 1925 and 1935 sections and provides seismic bracing for the octagon and the 1963 addition, it does not take care of the mechanical, electrical, and communications upgrades needed for the 1963 addition. These and other improvements scheduled for the 1963 addition are part of a future project." (See "Suzzallo Library Renovation Project,"Accessed 03/04/2011.) In 2009, repairs to the curtain wall of the 1963 addition occurred.

PCAD id: 5137