AKA: McKay, William O., Company, Ford Sales and Service, South Lake Union, Seattle, WA; McKay Ford Dealership, South Lake Union, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - stores

Designers: McClelland and Pinneh, Architects (firm); Milner, Warren H., Architect (firm); Sylliaasen and Sando, Building Contractors (firm); Robert F. McClelland (architect); Warren H. Milner (architect); Edward F. Pinneh ; Magnus Sando (building contractor); Christian Tørgersen Sylliaasen (building contractor)

Dates: constructed 1923-1923, demolished 2009

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615 Westlake Avenue North
South Lake Union, Seattle, WA 98109-4307

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William O. McKay received his Ford dealership in 11/1922, building his franchise business with remarkable speed. Between 11/1922 and 07/1923, McKay occupied three different showrooms and set a Pacific Coast record for sales in 02/1923, selling 150 Fords in 28 days. (This record was even more impressive considering that a severe storm in February hampered business activities in the city for three days.) He opened this and a neighboring dealership for Lincoln automobiles by 1925. The gleaming terra cotta facades of his two showrooms stood as landmarks at the north end of Westlake Avenue for over 80 years before they were demolished during the South Lake Union building frenzy of the late 2000s and early 2010s.

Building History

William Osborne McKay (1887-1956) opened his Ford McKay dealership on 07/07/1923 with a housewarming and dance. The dealership building measured 120 feet on Westlake and 108 feet deep, and had two stories, the upper floor housing the maintenance shop. At its opening, the Seattle Times said: "The shop, one of the big features of the building, is probably one of the largest, most complete in the country. It occupies the entire top floor and is equipped with the latest and best machinery." (See "William O. McKay Opens New Building," Seattle Times, 07/08/1923, p. 6) McKay obtained a Ford dealership in 11/1922, operating at first at East Pine and Summit Streets. He drove his salesmen with an aggressive sales pitch that urged them to go out to seek customers, rather than waiting for customers to come into the dealership. The Times observed, "The result was that in a very short time, McKay, the youngest Ford Dealer, was up in the front ranks with the dealers who were leading in city sales." His dealership's second location was at Pine and Bellevue. Eight months after starting in business he had moved into this third and most elaborate building.

Seattle architect Warren O. Milner (1865-1949) designed the Ford McKay Building, working with the interior designers, McClelland and Pinneh, and building contractors Sylliaasen and Sando, The Seattle Times gushed, "The building is truly a monument to Seattle's newer automobile row, and ... reflects [the] very highest type of construction adopted by a progressive automobile dealer...." (See "William O. McKay Opens New Building," Seattle Times, 07/08/1923, p. 6)

McKay's two dealership were some of the earliest showrooms on what became one of Seattle's main rows of automobile dealerships; the other operated on the Pike/Pine corridor in the 1910s-1920s; in 1939, before post-World War II suburban sprawl, Westlake Avenue North and its near vicinity had more than 40 automotive businesses. McKay is thought to have located his Ford dealership near to the Ford Model T Factory at the intersection of Fairview Avenue North and Valley Street.

Building Notes

A note in the weekly San Francisco-based publication Building and Engineering News of 12/14/1922 said: "Sylliasson [sic] and Sando, Maynard Bldg., Seattle, at approx. $85,000 awarded contract to erect 3-story brick and terra cotta garage and auto sales rooms for E.F. Sweeney, L.C. Smith Bldg., Seattle. Will be erected at Westlake Ave. and Roy St., and will cover an area of 130 by 108 ft. Warren H. Miller [sic], architect, Haight Bldg., Seattle.” (See “Building News Section: Garages,” Building and Engineering News, vol. 22, no. 50, 12/14/1922, p. 9.)

The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board (LPB) met on 12/17/2008 to hear a briefing on a demolition proposal for the Pacific McKay and Ford McKay Buildings in order to widen Mercer Street. The LPB met on 01/07/2009 for further briefing on the Ford McKay Building. In its presentation on the historic importance of BOLA Architects noted that the building had historic significance on four of the City of Seattle's six criteria for Historic Status. Later in 2009, the Seattle Landmark Preservation Board named the Ford McKay and the Pacific McKay buildings a single designated Seattle landmark.


The terra cotta facade of the Ford McKay Dealership was removed in 2009. Most of the original structure was demolished at this time. As of 08/27/2009, only the building's concrete walls and some parapet masonry remained at the site. This process occurred as a result of a deal between the City of Seattle and Vulcan Real Estate; the city allowed Vulcan to dismantle what was a City of Seattle Landmark in return for the developer's help in widening Mercer Street. Vulcan agreed to erect a new building incorporating the original terra cotta skin.


Demolished; The building was torn down in 2009; NBBJ Architects would design the next building on the site of the Ford McKay and Pacific McKay dealerships; their design had to incorporate the terra cotta cladding of the previous buildings.

Seattle Historic Landmark: ID n/a

PCAD id: 12207