Structure Type: built works - exhibition buildings - exposition buildings

Designers: Skillings, Warren Porter, Architect (firm); Warren Porter Skillings (architect)

Dates: constructed 1893

3 stories

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Stony Island Avenue
Hyde Park, Chicago, WA 60637

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Washington was one of 37 states (out of 44) to build or share a pavilion at the World's Columbian Exposition. A competition for the Washington Building occurred in 1892, in which the architect Warren Porter Skillings (1859-1939), placed third. The Columbian Exposition's Chief Consulting Architect Daniel Hudson Burnham convinced state authorities, however, that Skilling's design had the most authentic regional character of the submissions. The building showcased the remarkable natural resources of Washington State, most notably its stunning, immense specimens of Douglas Fir logs that composed its walls and structural framework. The building also portrayed the state as having ample mineral resources as well as outstanding fisheries on which to build commerce. Skillings had only recently migrated to Washington from Massachusetts in 1890.

Building History

Seattle architect Warren Skillings produced a hybrid design for this pavilion, the first to represent Washington as a state. (Washington gained statehood just three years previously in 1889.) Skillings communicated the socially dominant Anglo roots of the territory by designing its upper portions in the half-timbered manner of the English Tudor Revival Style. It also had the shallowly-pitched gable roof of a Swiss chalet; Spokane architect Kirtland K. Cutter (1860-1939) utilized the chalet as a model for his design of the Columbian Exposition's Idaho Building. The Washington Pavilion's half-timbered portion rose from rustic stone and log cabin foundations. Placing the Tudor atop the rustic cabin made this a metaphor for the way contemporary culture rested on the foundations laid by Euro-American pioneers.

Building Notes

A contemporary guide book, Appletons' General Guide to the United States and Canada, described the Washington Pavilion, "A building entirely of wood from the Puget Sound region has been erected by this State. Warren P. Skillings, of Seattle, is the architect, and the cost was $100,000. State appropriation, $100,000." (See Appletons' General Guide to the United States and Canada, (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1893), p. 596.)

Administrators placed the Washington Building in the far northwest corner of the Columbian Exposition, sandwiched between the South Dakota and Colorado Pavilions, on the east side of the Northwest Pond.

Skillings composed the building in three parts, a large central section connected by smaller wings on either side. All three portions had their long axes placed parallel running east-west and were covered by shallowly-pitched gable roofs. The front arched entrance was highlighted by massive mineral specimens romantically trimmed in carefully retained moss and vines, the boulders containing veins of lead, silver and other metals. On either end of the central pavilion were two front towers, unequal in height, that resembled those found in park casinos or bathhouses of the era. Each tower had balconies from which visitors could gain views of the Columbian Exposition's Art Gallery and North Pond. Another tower was visible on the rear facade with a view of the Northwest Pond.

The Washington Building emphasized the gigantic scale of trees available in the state. The main flagpole, produced of Douglas Fir, stood 238 feet in height; it was secured by wires like the mast of a ship, and even contained a crow's nest. Logs cut in Snohomish County, some measuring 127 x 8 feet, provided the material for the foundations and first-floor walls. Trusses providing clear spans for the three interior sections were also made of giant fir logs.

The trussed roofs of each section of the building provided three spaces free of supporting columns. The University of Washington Libraries Special Collections Division has stated of the interior: "While most of the exhibits were housed inside the two side wings of the building, there was a large central exhibit located just inside the main entrances that showcased a miniature model farm. A partial second floor overlooking the main hall accomodated a reception room, parlor and committee rooms." (See University of Washington Libraries Special Collections Division, "World's Columbian Exposition Washington State Pavillion (Chicago, Ill.), rendering," accessed 07/31/2015.)


The Washington State Building was demolished after the fair.

PCAD id: 18635