AKA: University of Washington, Seattle (UW), Philosophy Hall, Seattle, WA; University of Washington, Seattle (UW), Savery Hall, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - public buildings - schools - university buildings

Designers: Bebb and Gould, Architects (firm); Hoffman Construction Company (firm); Jentoft and Forbes, General Contractors (firm); Pioneer Masonry Restoration Company, Incorporated (firm); Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Incorporated (WJE) (firm); Charles Herbert Bebb ; Richard Elstner (structural engineer); Michael Field (building contractor); Forbes (building contractor); Carl Freylinghausen Gould Sr. (architect); Lee Hawley Hoffman (building contractor); Joel Jacobsen (building contractor); Jack Raymond Janney (structural engineer); Jentoft (building contractor); Alonzo Victor Lewis (sculptor); Jack Wiss (structural engineer)

Dates: constructed 1917-1920

3 stories

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Chelan Lane
University of Washington, Seattle, Campus, Seattle, WA 98195

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Commerce Hall, (today the northern portion of Savery Hall), was one of the first two Quad buildings designed by Bebb and Gould, Architects, along with the Home Economics Building (later renamed Raitt Hall). The two set the Jacobethan / Gothic tone for the rest of the campus. The Commerce and Home Economics Halls diverged from the French Chateau and eclectic styles of previous University of Washington buildings, such as Denny or Parrington Halls. Academic quadrangles of buildings, a plan type derived from medieval monasteries and early universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, became the main plan type used by American institutions beginning with Jefferson's design for the University of Virginia. (See Paul V. Turner, Campus An American Planning Tradition, New York: Architectural History Foundation; Cambridge, MA, London: MIT Press, 1985].)Beaux-Arts enthusiasm for the Gothic Revival in the 1900-1920 period coincided with a building boom in American higher education, causing frequent usage of quadrangles in university master plans. In this way, the University of Washington emphasized its parity with Princeton and other established schools building Gothic quads.

Building History

Two parts of Savery Hall, originally known as "Commerce Hall" (eastern portion) and "Philosophy Hall" (western), were finished in 1917 and 1920, respectively. Philosophy extended Commerce Hall about 40 feet to the west, creating an L-shaped building by 1920. The construction of the Elizabethan Commerce and Philosophy Halls closed the northwest side of the Liberal Arts Quad. A reporter for the Seattle Times wrote in 1919: "Philosophy Hall, which will be constructed in the form of an L, will complete the western half of the Liberal Arts quadrangle, which is a part of the group plan for future university buildings. This quadrangle, according to plans, will be the center group of the campus. It is to be made up of seven buildings, two of which, Commerce Hall and Home Economics Hall, were erected in 1915. the other buildings in the group will be Modern Languages, Indeterminate, Education and Fine Arts halls. The western half of the group, including Home Economics, Commerce and Philosphy halls, when completed, will cost approximately $650,000 and cover a ground area of approximately 124,000 square feet." (See "Excavation Completed for New Philosophy Hall, Seattle Times, 06/15/1919, p. 16.) Other quadrangles planned at this time included those for the UW Administration, Sciences, and Library.

Shortages of labor and building materials (particularly steel) during World War I delayed the start of construction for Philiosophy Hall. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported in 1917, when America entered the war: "The excessive cost of building material and the shortage of labor will force the University of Washington to abandon for the present the building of Philosophy hall, the third structure in the new campus plans. Commerce hall, now under construction, will be finished early in August, according to present plans, and will be occupied in September. Upon the completion of this building, which is to house the school of commerce, the school of law and the departments of journalism and printing, Journalism hall and Law hall, relics of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific exposition, will be wrecked. The plans for the third structure of the campus series will be complete by the university architects, Bebb & Gould, and as soon as the price of building material becomes stable work will be begun, according to a statement by Herbert T. Condon, comptroller of the university. It is extravagance to build now, he declared, when the price of steel is so high and the demand for labor in productive lines so great." (See "Building Plans To Be Delayed," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 05/20/1917, p. 7.)

The UW administration prioritzed their completion in order to relieve overcrowding in the first buildings on campus, Denny and Science (later renamed "Parrington") Halls, both built about 20 years earlier. An article of 1919 stated: "For years the congestion in Science and Denny Halls on the campus has been so great that students are barely able to pass through the halls to their classes. Large classes have been squeezed into small rooms. Philosophy Hall will greatly relieve this situation." (See "Money Voted for Philosophy Hall," Seattle Daily Times, 03/07/1919, p. 2.)

A Seattle Daily Times newspaper report of 03/07/1919 described the new Philosophy Hall: "Philosophy Hall, a new structure for the University of Washington campus, was definitely assured when Acting Gov. Louis F. Hart signed the bill Wednesday appropriating $18,744,764 for state institutions and offices. The bill contained an appropriation of $200,000 for the new Hall of Philosophy. The new building has been planned for two years, but due to the increase in price of materials and the scarcity of labor during the war it was impossible to build it on the same amount originally estimated. The building, which will be in the shape of an L connected to Commerce Hall by a neck 41 x 48 feet, will complete one side of the Liberal Arts quadrangle. Three more buildings will be added to this quadrangle some time in the future. Two vistas are planned, one opening through the quadrangle from Denny Hall and the major one one the direction of the Library quadrangle." (See "Money Voted for Philosophy Hall," Seattle Daily Times, 03/07/1919, p. 2.)

The 1919 article then went on to describe Philosophy Hall's prominence on the Liberal Arts Quad, and how its location required an enhanced decorative scheme compared with the earlier Home Economics and Commerce Halls: "This building, being the termination of the quadrangle, requires greater architectural attention than Commerce and Home Economics Halls, according to Bebb & Gould, the university architects. The terra cotta detail will be more varied. A tower seventy feet high at the reverting angle provides a portico entrance. On the southwest side, it will be ultimately connected by an arcade concrete wall to the future administration building as decided in the group plan. The design on the entrance side will be patterned with arcaded niches and ornamental gable ends. There will be approximately twenty-eight grotesque figures making an intersection of buttresses with the main corners. Dr. Henry Suzzallo has offered many interesting suggestions for these figures. Much of the ornament has been suggested by local flowers and leaf designs. It is planned that the ground of the quadrangle will be made attractive by flowering shrubs and flowers. Locations for fountains and wrought iron gates and memorial statues are provided for." (See "Money Voted for Philosophy Hall," Seattle Daily Times, 03/07/1919, p. 2.)

Crews cleared large Douglas fir trees from the Philosophy Hall site in mid-04/1919, and contractor H.G. Miblett excavated the site between 04/1919 and 06/1919. (See "Clear Space for Philosophy Hall, Seattle Daily Times, 04/16/1919, p. 25 and "Excavation Completed for New Philosophy Construction of U. of W. Building to Start Soon," Seattle Daily Times, 06/15/1919, p. 16.)

The Departments of Philosophy, Sociology and Economics, have used the building from its beginning. In 05/1919, the usage of Philosophy Hall was as follows: "The hall will have four floors, the lower one being devoted to the department of mathematics. The second or main floor will contain an auditorium having a seating capacity of 220. The philosophy and history classes will also have their rooms on this floor. The third floor will be for the department of psychology and philosophy and the attic space will be used temporarily for the department of architecture and fine arts. It will ultimately be used for the laboratories of the department of psychology." (See "Excavation Completed for New Philosophy Hall, Seattle Times, 06/15/1919, p. 16.) The Architecture Department remained in Philosophy Hall for only about two years, when it was relocated to the former AYPE Administration Building on 15th Avenue NE.

In 1947, Commerce and Philosophy Halls were collectively renamed for Professor William Savery (1875-1945), the first Chair of the Philosophy Department, who served between 1902 and the mid-1940s.

Building Notes

Seattle architectural firm Bebb and Gould employed reinforced concrete as the structural material for Commerce and Philosophy Halls. Many articles charting the progress of construction of Philosophy Hall appeared in the Seattle Times throughout 1919. Its edition of 12/16/1919 stated: "The board of regents of the University of Washington at a meeting yesterday afternoon awarded constracts for the contruction of a new reinforced concrete class room building to be known as Philosophy Hall. The cost of the building will be $301,794.96. Contracts were awarded as follows: Construction to Hansen Contracting Company, $343,389; plumbing, Rautman Heating & Plumbing Company, $22,144; wiring: R.R. Lang & Co., Tacoma, $11,760; painting, Atlas Paint Company, $5,744; hardware, Seattle Hardware Company, $3,419.95. The structure is designed for the mathematics, political science, philosophy and psychology departments, and special psychological laboratories. The cost already incurred, which includes excavation and architect's fee, would bring the total up to $366,044.95. But of this total $60,000 covers the cost of installation of technical laboratories and additional office facilities." The cost of Philosophy Hall increased 50% over that of Commerce Hall, completed just three years previously. In 12/1919, the Seattle Times reported that Philosophy Hall would be completed by 08/01/1920. (See "Let Contracts for Philosophy Hall, Seattle Times, 12-16-1919, p. 15.)

The artist Alonzo Victor Lewis (1886–1946), born in UT, attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, before moving to Spokane, WA, and then Seattle, WA, in 1912. Lewis painted in the Impressionist mode and attained acclaim for his architectural sculptures adorning various public buildings in WA State, including those on Philosophy-Commerce Halls (1917-1920), Education Hall (later renamed Miller Hall, 1922) and the "Winged Victory" at the State Capitol in Olympia, WA (1938). The University Daily reported on the World War I-themed architectural sculpture adorning Philosophy Hall: "Figures will include a Red Cross nurse, a soldier, General John Pershing, ..and among local subjects will be Mr. Earl Park [sic], chief draftsman of Bebb & Gould, architects who designed the building and Bebb himself. The figures were designed by Mr. [Harold Ogden] Sexsmith of the University Art Department, and Alex Kurn, draftsman in the office of the architect." (See "Grotesque Terra Cotta Mannikens [sic] Will Decorate New Philosophy Hall," Daily of the University of Washington, 09/28/1920.)

Soil excavated for the foundation of Philosphy Hall was used as fill to even the grade of Stevens Way's southern extension. "The group [quadrangle] plan is of great value, according to Bert S. Gould. One proof of this, they say, is the fact that the excavation materials is being used to build up Stevens Way, on the lower end of campus, and a boulevard which will circle the campus when it is completed." (See "Excavation Completed for New Philosophy Hall, Seattle Times, 06/15/1919, p. 16.)

In 2009, the building housed the UW Department of Economics among other units.


In 1959, the building contractors, Jentoft and Forbes, received $251,761 to remodel Savery Hall. (See "Regents Approve Building Plans, Seattle Times, 06/21/1958, p. 3.)

Savery Hall underwent a wholesale renovation that was completed in 06/2009. During this renovation, all departments in the building had to vacate it and were relocated to the campus's "surge" space, Condon Hall #2. The renovation team included Wiss, Janney and Elstner, Architects, the Hoffman Construction Company, General Contractors, and the Pioneer Masonry Restoration Company, Incorporated, Masonry Contractors. The renovation of Savery Hall was part of the UW's "Restore the Core" building campaign. The UW Capital Projects Office had several goals for the renovation: 1.) Preserve the historic character of the Jacobethan Revival building. 2.) Improve its energy efficiency through replacement of outmoded HVAC equipment and othe measures. Initially, the UW Capital Projects Offfice sought LEED Silver certification, but during the project upgraded its goal to Gold certication. 3.) Strengthen Savery Hall's resilience to seismic shocks.

According to the Masonry Systems.org web site, treatment of the building's brick exterior was one of the key elements of the project. It stated, "Using the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, a scope of repair was established for the masonry. According to the precepts set forth by the Standards, the project team sought to preserve and make necessary repairs to the building’s character defining features, such as grotesques, niches, and ornamental terra cotta. In addition to designing specialized repairs of the terra cotta, brick, and sandstone, some components of the masonry required stabilization and it was necessary to repoint the entire building to maintain a weathertight envelope." The industry web site continued: "The full masonry restoration cumulated in installation of newly fabricated terra cotta units, replacing raked brick mortar joints with weathered joints to shed water, seismically retrofitting the brick veneer, repair and installation of new sandstone, and cleaning the building. The interior has been remodeled using several sustainable and energy efficient design strategies." (See Masonry Systems.org, "University of Washington - Savery Hall, Seattle, WA" accessed 05/26/2022.) The Masonry Institute of Washington (MIW) awarded Savery Hall one of its 2010 Excellence Awards in Masonry Design.

PCAD id: 16372