AKA: Penney, J.C., Company, Incorporated, Department Store, Downtown, Seattle, WA; Penney, J.C., Department Store, Downtown, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - department stores

Designers: Graham, John and Company, Architects and Engineers (firm); John Graham Sr. (architect/engineer)

Dates: constructed 1929-1930, demolished 1989

5 stories, total floor area: 115,916 sq. ft.

2nd Avenue and Pike Street
Downtown, Seattle, WA 98101

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The architectural firm, John Graham and Company, designed this five-story department store originally for the Fraser-Paterson Company.

Building History

Built on the site of the Bon Marche Department Store #2, on the southwest corner of 2nd Avenue and Pike Street; the J.C. Penney Department store chain operated this outlet from 1930-1982. Its closure in the early '80s precipitated the decline of this portion of Downtown Seattle. One merchant in this area, Joe Fuss, of Joe's Bargain Mart, stated in 1986: "Over the years [since 1950] I've seen the area [shopping area near Pike Place Market] change drastically--from blue collar to wino. Penney's closing at Second and Pike has made the biggest difference." (See "Closing of TJ's Signals the End of a Downtown Era," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, published 1986, the article was accessible at <http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/archives/1986/8601270205.asp> accessed 01/12/2008. The article may have dated from 01/27/1986.) According to a former Penney's administrator quoted in the Seattle Times, this store closed because of the antiquated nature of the facility: " 'The building was a conglomerate of three other stores, an old building that was hard to maintain,'" says J. Lynn Dunkley, retired JCPenney district manager. '(And) we were no longer in the retail core.'" The core had moved a few blocks north and east, to the vicinity of 5th/6th Avenues and Pine Street, where the Frederick and Nelson and Nordstrom Department Stores operated. (SeeSeattle Times, accessed 08/16/2010.)

One author, Clark Humphrey, indicated that this location on the southwest corner of 2nd Avenue and Pike Street was the J.C. Penney department store chain's best selling branch. (See Clark Humphrey, Vanishing Seattle, [Charleston, SC: Arcadia Press, 2006], p. 15.) Humphrey noted that James Cash Penney himself would visit the store, sometimes with his friend, Joshua Green, who owned a large office/retail building a block away on 4th Avenue. In 1983, the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) received the parcel on which the Penney's Department Store stood as a donation; SAM decided that it was not a suitable site on which to build a larger museum, (it was seeking to expand beyond its Volunteer Park location) and sold it to the developers of the Newmark Condominium Tower. Eventually, SAM built on land at 1300 1st Avenue.

In 1933, the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee, WI, owned the building at 1419-1435 2nd Avenue in Seattle.

Building Notes

Graham designed the building to have a reinforced concrete exterior with granite base. It had a reinforced-concrete frame resting on a concrete foundation. Its roof was sheathed by a coating of tar and gravel. Each floor plate measured 108 feet x 176 feet, 5 and 1/4 inches. This comes to approximately 19,062 square feet per floor (for 5 floors and basement) and an 1,544-square-foot sub-basement, equalling 115,916 total square feet.

The store had five floors with a basement and a 1,544-square-foot sub-basement. It came equipped with 5 Otis manual passenger elevators, 1 employee elevator and 1 freight elevator. The first floor had concrete and terrazzo floors. The heights of the floors were as follows: basement, 15 feet; 1st floor, 19 feet, 3 inches; 2nd floor, 15 feet; 3rd floor, 14 feet; 4th floor, 14 feet; 5th floor, 13 feet. All floors had sprinklers.


According to King County records, a 7,920-square-foot balcony with two sets of terrazzo stairs were built beginning on 01/17/1939. New wiring was added under one side of the balcony. At this time, new stairs were constructed from the first floor to the basement with a wide iron rail and oak cap. A new elevator was added from the basement to the 5th floor. One passenger elevator and one freight elevator were extended to serve between the 5th and 6th (roof) floors.

The J.C. Penney Department Store underwent significant interior remodeling in 1963.

Demolished in 1989 to make room for the Newmark Mall and Condominium Tower. Just after the demolition, architectural historian Lawrence Kreisman wrote in 1990 in the Seattle Times: "John Graham Sr. designed the Fraser-Patteson Department Store (later J.C. Penney) in 1930 with the natural wonders of the Northwest in mind. The facade expresses vertically the ground cover, streams and rivers; a horizontal frieze suggests the shores of Puget Sound and the evergreen forests; crowning the tops of pilasters and the parapet of the building are eagles with outspread wings. Sadly, this evocative and original depiction of the Northwest - and, in fact, the entire building - was recently demolished." (See Lawrence Kreisman, "Northwest Living Nature In Architecture -- Seattle Buildings Wear Waves Of Creature Profiles," Seattle Times, 01/14/1990,Accessed 02/01/2011)

PCAD id: 6237