AKA: Continental Baking Company, Hostess Cake Bakery, Seattle, WA; Interstate Bakeries Corporation, Hostess Cake Plant, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - industrial buildings - factories; built works _ industrial buildings - processing plant

Designers: Aitken, William, Architect (firm); William Aitken (architect/engineer)

Dates: constructed 1916-1916, demolished 2015

2 stories, total floor area: 60,470 sq. ft.

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434 Dexter Avenue North
South Lake Union, Seattle, WA 98109

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For those driving on State Highway 99, the Hostess Cake Bakery served as a landmark just north of Seattle's Downtown. Variously sited at 434 Dexter Avenue North or 418-422 Aurora Avenue North, the plant used to produce snack cakes--Twinkies, Ding Dongs, and fruit pies-- sold under the Hostess label. It was demolished in 02/2015 to make room for a 294-unit apartment building--Modera South Lake Union--erected by McRef 435 Dexter Development LLC, a development/construction company owned by Mill Creek Fund I LLC of Dallas, TX. (See Marc Stiles, Puget Sound Business Journal.com, "$19M sale of Hostess site gives rise to big S. Lake Union apartment project," accessed 04/14/2015.) Mill Creek was working on three new apartment projects in Seattle in early 2015, one in Capitol Hill, one in Ballard, and this one in South Lake Union.

Building History

An industrial building stood on this site by 1900, although it is doubtful if it had any connection with the later Hostess Bakery. The Hostess Factory had its origin in the Three Girls Bakery built on this site between 01/1916 and 04/1916. Seattle architect WIlliam Aitken produced the design for this state-of-the-art, bakery for the Three Girls Company. An article in the Seattle Times on 01/02/1916 stated: "Work on the construction of the new bakery will begin this week. Plans call for the completion of the structure in three months. The building will be 120 feet square and two stories high. The exterior will be finished in paving brick and cement panels, while cement floors and rat-proof construction will feature the interior." Influenced by the need for efficiency and cleanliness so strong during this Taylorist era, Aitken hoped to create a decidedly new bakery building type. The Times noted,"In planning the building the owners sought to deviate from the usual bakery construction. Accordingly the bakery will be of low even construction, with high conical tower at the entrance corner, facing the street intersection. A large number of windows have been provided but the general appearance will be very plain. The baking room is to contain seven large ovens of the most modern manufacture, which will have a working capacity of 30,000 loaves of bread a day and a maximum capacity of 50,000 loaves. A number of sanitary mixing bins will be built. All corners within the bakery will be rounded to prevent the accumulation of dirt between the walls." (See "Modern Bakery To Be Built at Once," Seattle Times, 01/02/1916, p. 20.)

Changing eating habits during the 1980s and 1990s made Twinkies and other snack cakes less popular, and rising costs also undermined the company's finances. In financial difficulty for at least a decade, Hostess filed for bankruptcy protection twice, first, in 09/2004 and, next, in 01/2012, citing rising labor costs, particularly back pension payments, for its troubles. (See David A. Kaplan, Fortune.com, "Hostess is bankrupt...again," accessed 04/14/2015.) Angered by the company's non-payment of pension funds, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union declared a strike against the company on Friday, 11/09/2012; the company responded on Monday, 11/12/2012, by closing three factories, the Seattle facility along with others in Saint Louis and Cincinnati, putting 627 employees out of work. (The Seattle plant employed 110 when it closed.) (See King 5.com, "Hostess closing Seattle bakery; 110 workers affected," accessed 04/14/2015.) The Hostess Bakery property changed hands twice between 2013 and 2015. The first was a sale, on 04/09/2013, for $10,533,268 from Interstate Brands Corporation to Mountain States Bakeries LLC. On 02/05/2015, Mountain States realized a significant profit, selling the parcel to McRef 435 Dexter Development LLC, for $19,033,790.00.

Building Notes

The Wagner Family began what became the Continental Baking Company in New York City in 1849. Through a series of acquisitions of other bakeries by William Breining Ward (1884-1929), grandson of the founder, Robert Boyd Ward (1852-1915), in the mid-1920s, Continental became the largest baking company in the US. One of the brands purchased was Wonder Bread, a brand invented by the Taggart Baking Company of Indianapolis. Continental was purchased in 1968 by the conglomerate, ITT, which became the new owner of this property; Ralston Purina, a Saint Louis-based food conglomerate, obtained the brand in 1984. Interstate Bakeries bought Hostess and its products from Ralston Purina in 1995. In 2009, this plant served the entire Pacific Northwest and was one of 39 bakeries in the U.S. operated by Dallas-based Interstate Bakeries Corporation. It produced Twinkies, Ding Dongs and other snack cakes. By its closing in 2012, Interstate operated only 36 bakeries nationally. (See Casey McNerthney, "Hostess Bakery in Seattle To Close," Seattle Post-Intelligencer.com, accessed 04/14/2015.) Tel: 206.328.7545 (2009).


The building was changed on a number of occasions. Renovations occurred in 1928, and the Hostess Company modernized the exterior after 1939, probably in the late 1940s or early 1950s, giving the factory its streamlined, rounded-corners and a new facade on Aurora Avenue North. This facade had been completed by at least 1956.

PCAD id: 14421