AKA: Pacific Medical Center, Beacon Hill, Seattle, WA; Amazon.com World Headquarters, Beacon Hill, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings; built works - public buildings - hospitals

Designers: Bebb and Gould, Architects (firm); Graham, John and Company, Architects and Engineers (firm); Wright Runstad and Company (firm); Zimmer Gunsul Frasca (ZGF) Partnership (firm); Charles Herbert Bebb ; Robert J. Frasca (architect); Carl Freylinghausen Gould Sr. (architect); John Graham Sr. (architect/engineer); Brooks R. Gunsul (architect); H. Jon Runstad (developer); Howard S. Wright (building contractor/developer); Norman Cunningham Zimmer (architect)

Dates: constructed 1930-1933

16 stories

1131 14th Avenue South
Beacon Hill, Seattle, WA 98144

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14 Avenue South and South Judkins Street.

Overview

The US Marine Hospital in Seattle, WA, was complex consisting of a reinforced concrete main tower and an attendants' building housing 40 employees, a nine-room house for the officer in charge, and four duplex residences each with two six-room apartments.for administrators and medical personnel. The main tower had a strongly vertical character marked by continuous pilasters separating windows, Its exterior appearance was characterized by Art Deco ornamentation and horizontal incised lines suggesting Streamline Moderne influences. The complex cost about $1.4 million at the time of construction.

Building History

A previous U.S. Marine Hospital operated in Port Townsend, WA, from 1855-1933. The U.S. Public Health Service moved the location to Seattle, WA, in 1933. The distinguished Seattle architecture firm Bebb and Gould, designed the building, assisted by the John Graham Company. This hospital originally had 312 beds, and served U.S. Armed Forces veterans, merchant seamen, personnel from the U.S. Light House Service and the poor, referred to as "Federal compensation cases." (See "A Short History of the Pacific Hospital Preservation and Development Authority,"accessed 07/31/2009.) An article of 1935 indicated that the tower normally was to have 324 beds, "With beds in smoking rooms, 48 additional patients possible. Program called for future addition of 70 to 80 beds. A vertical addition deemed preferable to a wing." (See "U.S. Marine Hospital, Seattle, Wash.," American Architect, vol. CXLVII, no. 2639, 11/1935, p. 30.)

The new US Marine Hospital occupied a hilly, nine-and-one-half-acre tract, just south of Downtown Seattle, in the Beacon Hill neighborhood. The architects chose a tower form to enable efficiency of planning and to provide ample sunlight and expansive views to patients. As noted in the American Architect in 1935: "Why skyscraper? For economies including centralization of food, laundry, supply service; and simplification of heating, ventilating, plumbing and wiring. The patients' rooms are well above ground level and by limiting beds to forty-five to fifty-five per floor, they always receive ample sunlight. Elevators, dumbwaiters and principal service stairs are centered, and close to utilities and kitchens." The article noted the importance of locating the main entrance on the tower's south side. It noted that there was "...psychological value of placing the entrance, reception rooms, examination rooms and executive suite on the sunny south side."(See "U.S. Marine Hospital, Seattle, Wash.," American Architect, vol. CXLVII, no. 2639, 11/1935, p. 29.)

In various contexts of the 1910s-1930s, adequate exposure to sunlight was considered crucial for human health, and was emphasized in progressive design of houses, schools and hospitals, particularly tuberculosis sanitaria. In this way, this hospital reflected the influence of what has been called the "heliotherapy movement" in the US and Europe.

In 1998, the Pacific Hospital Preservation and Development Authority (PHPDA) signed a 99-year lease with the Seattle development firm, Wright Runstad, who attracted a private firm, Amazon.com, the online retailer, to rent offices in the hospital tower. Amazon.com occupied 190,000 square feet in the hospital between 1998-2008 before moving to new offices in South Lake Union. Amazon paid about $1.5 million in rent per year, which, in turn, the PHPDA spent on medical care services for the indigent.

Building Notes

A variety of dates are given for the construction of this hospital, ranging from 1930-1934. The exterior was done by 03/14/1933, and the U.S. Public Health Service moved into the facility in 1933. T. William Booth and William H. Wilson, in their authoritative essay "Bebb & Gould," in Jeffrey Karl Ochsner, Shaping Seattle Architecture, (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1994), p. 179, indicated dates of 1930-1932.

The American Architectdescribed the hospital's basic layout: "A general hospital, exclusively for men, largely gregarious, many 'ambulatory,' moving about without assistance. Therefore, typical floor plan has large wards and a smoking room solarium at one end of each 14-bed ward. Also, for this reason, there is a large recreation room on the second floor with library adjoining; the cafeteria adjoining the kitchen on the ground floor, and dining rooms adjacent to diet kitchen on each floor. Likewise, the doctor's office, treatment room and patient's locker rooms were placed on each floor." (See "U.S. Marine Hospital, Seattle, Wash.," American Architect, vol. CXLVII, no. 2639, 11/1935, p. 29.)

Alteration

In 1987, King County citizens passed a regional health bond measure appropriating $9.3 million to update the U.S. Marine Hospital seismically. As part of this project, Portland-based architects, Zimmer Gunsul Frasca (ZGF), designed a north addition to the hospital, between 1991-1994. According to a Pacific Hospital Preservation and Development Authority web site: "Rather than retrofit the entire structure with new support beams and trusses, the architects decide to build a structure on the north side of the building, creating a buttress to the Tower while also providing additional clinic and office space. When completed, the building receives an honor from the American Institute of Architects for being 'utterly responsive to the original building' and 'a wonderful seismic solution.'" (See "A Short History of the Pacific Hospital Preservation and Development Authority,"accessed 07/31/2009.)

Seattle Historic Landmark (1992): ID n/a

National Register of Historic Places (December 21, 1979): 79002543 NRHP Images (pdf) NHRP Registration Form (pdf)

PCAD id: 6459