AKA: Eagles Building, Downtown, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - public buildings - assembly halls; built works - recreation areas and structures

Designers: Bittman, Henry W., Architect and Engineer (firm); Callison Architecture, Incorporated (firm); Sellen Construction Company, Incorporated (firm); Henry W. Bittman (architect/structural engineer); Anthony Callison (architect); John Henry Sellen Sr. (building contractor/civil engineer)

Dates: constructed 1924-1925

7 stories

1416 7th Avenue
Downtown, Seattle, WA 98101

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The Eagles Building's street address has also been recorded as 1406 7th Avenue and 700 Union Street.

Building History

This was the largest Eagles meeting hall when built in 1924-1925. It stood seven stories tall, and contained retail storefronts and a large auditorium for meetings and other events. Architect Henry Bittman (1882-1953) sheathed the Renaissance Revival building in terra cotta, an inexpensive but decorative cladding material. Terra cotta skins were especially popular for buildings erected between 1905-1930.

Building Notes

The Eagles Building stood on property once occupied by the Dreamland Dance Hall. The Eagles, a fraternal organization founded in Seattle, WA, was formed in 1898 as the "Seattle Order of Good Things." It was later rechristened the "Fraternal Order of Eagles" by 04/1898. Its origins lay in a meeting six Seattle theatre owners had at Moran's Shipyard in Seattle, to discuss the details of musicians' strike that affected them all. They decided to take a united stance with the musicians, and, at the same time, to form a benevolent group dedicated to mutual cooperation and public works. Seattle resident John Cort (c. 1861-1929), who built one of the first national theatre chains, served as the first President.

A key element of the Eagles' success was its free health care and funeral benefits. The organization paid its members weekly payments if they were sick and could not work. The Eagles web site summarized: "The organization's success is also attributed to its sick and funeral benefits (no Eagle was ever buried in a Potter's Field), the provision of an aerie physician and many other benefits." These rare health care benefits (for the Eagle and his family) made the group very enticing to various classes living without any social safety net or insurance. This enlarged it to over 350,000 members in 1800 lodges within 10 years. "Touring theater troupes are credited with much of the Eagles' rapid growth. Most early members were actors, stagehands and playwrights who as they toured, carried the Eagles story across the United States and Canada." (See Fraternal Order of Eagles, "Aerie History: Fraternal Order of Eagles: More Than a Century of "Good Things," accessed 08/04/2011.) In the early 20th century, before Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal filled gaps in social services, fraternal groups and other organizations, like labor unions, provided their working class members with benefits such as insurance, health care and affordable housing.

Alteration

It was later renovated to house Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre (ACT) headquarters. alterations occurred in 1980. A renovation campaign 06/1995-09/1996 hoped to raise $28.15 million to renovate the Eagles Auditorium for use by ACT. Callison Architects' Seattle Housing Resources Group served as Architects for this 1995-1996 effort. Callison redesigned the Eagles Grand Ballroom into an arena stage; below this, a thrust stage with 390 seats was planned. In the space once occupied by a restaurant, an alternative cabaret/black box theatre was devised for the the lower level of the building. Entrances on 7th Avenue and Union Street were renovated, and spaces were found within the building to serve as rehearsal room, and scene, prop, and paint shops.

The American Conservatory Theatre (ACT) began to utilize the Eagles Building's Auditorium as its main performance venue in 1995.

PCAD id: 16750