Structure Type: built works - social and civic buildings - community centers

Designers: Witt, W.H., Company (firm); John Valdemar Christiansen (structural engineer); E. R. Hoffman (engineer)

Dates: constructed 1929

2 stories, total floor area: 16,817 sq. ft.

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7201 East Green Lake Drive North
Green Lake, Seattle, WA 98115-5301

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Overview

The City of Seattle erected the Green Lake Recreation Center in two phases, the first containing a gym, stage and meeting rooms was completed in 1928, while an arched swimming pool pavilion was finished in 1955. By 2020, the City was considering demolishing the whole complex and replacing it with a $132 million facility three times its size.

Building History

Green Lake became one of the interconnected city parks envisioned in the 1903 Olmsted Brothers' City Park Plan. In their plan, the Olmsteds advised draining the lake and filling its perimeter with landfill to provide more usable waterfront recreation space. To accomplish this, city engineers drained the lake beginning in 1911 and, during the early 1930s, added landfill (excavated while building Aurora Avenue through nearby Woodland Park) to the shoreline.

The City of Seattle's Department of Neighborhoods historic buildings database said of the Green Lake Recreation Center: "Upon completion of this massive reclamation effort, the first major improvement was the construction of a large reinforced concrete field house, which featured Art Deco and Streamline Moderne stylistic features. As it was necessary to drive piles to support the foundation, construction of the building lasted from 1928 to 1929. In 1928, the Parks Department had completed a brick bathhouse on the western shore of the lake to replace an earlier frame structure. A structure with similar functions was needed across the lake to serve the East Green Lake Beach. The Parks Department decided to construct a field house, which would not only serve swimmers in the summer months but also offer indoor recreation facilities for year-round activities. The Parks Department had constructed its first field houses in 1911 at Hiawatha and Ballard Playfields. Within the next several years, similar wood frame field houses were constructed at Collins, and South Park Playfields. In the later 1920s, larger masonry field houses were constructed at Green Lake Park and Rainier Playfield. In addition to it bathhouse facilities, this building featured social rooms, clubrooms, and a large gymnasium with a raised stage and full proscenium arch at one end. (See City of Seattle, Department of Neighborhoods.gov, "Historic Seattle Historical Sites Summary for 7201 E Green Lake DR N," accessed 12/07/2020.)

Built for $95,598, the stucco-faced, masonry Green Lake Community Center was sited on unstable land fill, requiring the laying of piling foundations during 1928 and 1929. City of Seattle Parks and Recreation Department Engineer, E. R. Hoffman, designed the complex's first building perched on tall foundations. Hoffman gave it a T-shape, with the basketball court/gymnasium comprising the long leg of the T. The gym occupied a one-story section projecting west, while a stage stood on its east end. The stage's fly tower rose from the building's center. The shorter arm of the T contained an eastern, two-story block accommodating rooms for classes, meetings and other social events as well as bathrooms.

A pool was added to the center in 1955, named for brothers Benjamin and Louis Evans, long-time athletics coaches in the park system. The pool had a capacity of 150,000 gallons and cost $236,286 to erect. It was a notable first work by renowned Seattle engineer John V. "Jack" Christiansen (1927-2017), a pioneer in the use of thin-shell concrete in Modern architecture.

Building Notes

Tel: 206.684.0780 (2012).

Alteration

Changes to the original design occurred when the pool was added to the complex in 1954-1955. The City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods database described these alterations: "The large fly tower, which rises from the western end of the main block, originally served a stage situated at the eastern end of the gymnasium. The stage use was discontinued at the time of the construction of the swimming pool addition. As part of that project, the interior of the original field house was reconfigured, including the insertion of a second floor within the fly tower. The small one-story addition on the north elevation of the gymnasium may have been constructed at this time as well to serve as a concession [stand]." (See City of Seattle, Department of Neighborhoods.gov, "Historic Seattle Historical Sites Summary for 7201 E Green Lake DR N," accessed 12/07/2020.)

A fire sprinkler system was updated in 2001 for $284,000, and floors were repaired in 2007 for $42,000. According to a system-wide assessment of community centers in the Seattle Parks System, reviewer Kathleen Conner wrote in 2008: "...the building condition assessment [was] done in 2007. The total assessment score was 38 out of 100, which is the lowest score for all community centers. The building needs building envelope renovation (roof, exterior, and foundation work), restroom renovations, ADA improvements, and cosmetic finish renovation." (See Kathleen Conner, Seattle Parks and Recreation Community Centers Condition Assessment Screening March 8, 2008 Final,p. 16, )