AKA: Maritime Building, Downtown, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings; built works - commercial buildings - stores; built works - industrial buildings - warehouses

Designers: Houghton, Edwin W., Architect (firm); Stone and Webster, Incorporated (firm); Edwin Walker Houghton (architect); Charles Augustus Stone Sr. (electrical engineer); Edwin Sibley Webster (electrical engineer)

Dates: constructed 1909-1910

5 stories, total floor area: 192,960 sq. ft.

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911 Western Avenue
Downtown, Seattle, WA 98104

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The Maritime Building occupied the addresses 901-923 Western Avenue.


This five-story, mixed use building has served a variety of commercial enterprises since its completion in 1910. Originally intended to rise 6 stories, only five were completed. It was erected during a period of great real estate development activity in Seattle, following a decade of prosperity catalyzed by the Klondike Gold Rush after 1897. The Pacific Warehouse Company (PWC) erected the building for about $170,000 on land leased from the Northern Pacific Railway Company, a large waterfront landowner since the 1890s. From 1910-on, the building was known in the press as the "Maritime Building." The PWC maintained its ownership until the Maritime Corporation purchased it in 1942.

On 05/29/2015, the Boston real estate investment company, Beacon Street Partners, acquired the Maritime Building from the Maritime Corporation for $13,138,000 and announced its complete restoration and expansion. Extra stories would be added to the roof of the existing building, increasing the amount of office space having harbor views. The removal of the nearby Alaskan Way Viaduct spurred this acquisition, as its demolition would enhance views for the Maritime Building and increase the prices that Beacon could charge commercial renters.

Building History

An article in the Seattle Times in 1909 stated: "Pacific Warehouse Company, 901-23 Western Avenue, 5-story concrete warehouse, 239 x 86 x134, $150,000, Stone & Webster Engineering Company, builders; E.W. Houghton, architect." (See "Building Permits Issued during Week," Seattle Times, 11/07/1909, p. ) The Pacific Warehouse Company built this flexible-use loft building at a time of great changes in this waterfront neighborhood. changing. Prior to 1900 it functioned as a commercial area directly abutting railroad tracks and rights-of-way owned by the Northern Pacific Railway Company. In 1892, the Northern Pacific Railway bought the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern, owned by such Seattle investors as Judge Thomas Burke and Gilman, and obtained its property along the Seattle waterfront. Soon after this acquisition, it built a small depot on Railroad Avenue, between Madison and Columbia Streets. During the economic slump lasting from 1893 until 1897, little new large-scale commerical activity occurred on this strip owned by the Northern Pacific. Period photos show that small-scale businesses operated nearby to the tracks, often made of crude wood-framing or corrugated steel. As the economic lull was alleviated by the Klondike Gold Rush in Seattle, the city's remarkable economic rejuvenation prompted the Northern Pacific to reconsider its Seattle holdings. According to Historylink.org historian, Heather McIntosh, "In 1899, to the delight of the recovering city, Northern Pacific president Charles S. Mellen purchased waterfront property from Washington to University streets and announced designs for a $500,000 depot. On August 1, 1899, local Northern Pacific representatives outlined the company's grand plans in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer." (See Heather McIntosh, HistoryLink.org, "Northern Pacific Railroad and Seattle Development," accessed 09/29/2016.) The Northern Pacific's rival, James J. Hill of the Great Northern Railway, came to Seattle slightly later and found the area near the Northern Pacific's waterfront property too crowded with dockside commercial activity and ramshackle to build a large new terminal. Instead, Hill accepted the idea of Seattle's City Engineer Reginald Heber Thomson to work with the Northern Pacific to build a shared railway tunnel under the city, bypassing the Downtown Seattle waterfront entirely. The Great Northern-Northern Pacific Union terminal was located on King Street and built in 1904-1906; shortly thereafter, the Union Pacific Railroad completed its new station in 1911 across the street, cementing a permanent location for main train stations in Seattle's Downtown.

During the 1890s into the early 20th century, this area nearby to the Northern Pacific's waterfront tracks became the home to many wholesale food distributors, comprising what was called the "Commission District" by contemporaries. They received foodstuffs unloaded from trains and ships and stored them in their warehouses awaiting resale to food retailers, institutions and restaurants. The amount of mark-up charged by these wholesalers aroused the ire of many, who pushed for an alternative way for food to be purchased by consumers. As early as 1896, conflicts arose between wholesalers and retailers; retailers charged that wholesalers were selling directly to consumers, and wholesalers charged that retailers were dealing directly with farm producers. (See "To Come to Terms," Seattle Times, 08/11/1896, p. 8.) This lead to the establishment of Pike Place Market in 1907, an entity that could bypass the middlemen of the Commission District.

As a result of the relocation of main railroad passenger depots, a new surge in commercial real estate development occurred on the Northern Pacific's waterfront properties. The Pacific Warehouse Company obtained a 50-year land lease on which it built this loft building in 1909-1910. It built this warehouse by issuing $150,000 worth of bonds, much of it controlled by an East Coast organization, quite possibly the building's construction company, Stone and Webster, Incorporated. Based in Boston, MA, Stone and Webster began as an engineering consultantship, but soon diversified into construction and investing in utilities and real estate projects around the US. Stone and Webster had many financial investments in the Puget Sound area at this time, including in utilities and electric streetcar railways. It also was heavily involved in the construction of the Metropolitan Building Company's Metropolitan Tract, beginning about 1910.

Bearing exterior walls were composed of cast-in-place concrete, while the interior's structural load was supported by an array of post-and-beam, old growth timbers. The use of a post-and-beam structural system was common for industrial buildings of this time. Wooden car decking made up the floors and roof. A thick plaster coat covered exterior concrete surfaces.

Building Notes

Before construction of the Maritime Building, the Pacific Warehouse Company erected a two-floor, 120x134-foot warehouse, composed of brick in 1908-1909. This building, also erected on land leased from the Northern Pacific Railway Company, stood on Western Avenue's west side, between Madison and Columbia Streets.

In 1910, the original list of building lessees included: William Hunt & Company, Ridgway's Ltd., John Vittucci & Company, C.W. Chamberlain & Company, Hibbard & Stewart, H.C. Allison & Company, R.B. Kellogg & Company, the Washington Paper Box Company, the Central Steel Metal Works, the McKenzie-White Paper Company, the Alaska Sail Loft, Banks & Saunders, the Northwestern Shoe Company, R.L. Beattie, the Gray & Barash Electric Company, and the Asiatic Exporting and Importing Company, Of this group of 16 businesses, two--C.W. Chamberlain & Company and R.B. Kellogg & Company--were listed in the Seattle City Directory, 1911, (p. 1834) under "Commission."

In 1921, the Seattle Engraving Company occupied space at Room #215 of the Maritime Building.

Some alterations were made in 1978, according to the King County Assessor.

By the 2010s, many architectural and landscape architectural firms rented space in the Maritime Building. In 2015, for example, Mohler Ghillino, Architects, leased Room #550, SMR had space in Suite #200, and E. Cobb, Architects, Incorporated, Room #318.

In 2016, the Maritime Building occupied a 35,988-square-foot (0.83-acre) site. It contained 192,960 gross sqyare feet, 140,000 net.


In early 2016, Beacon Street Partners announced plans to add 8 floors to the Maritime Building, increasing its size to "... 218,000 square feet of office space, 114 apartments, 20,000 square feet of retail and 90 spaces of underground parking." NBBJ was selected as the architect for this renovation and enlargement. (See Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, "Beacon: Rehabbed Maritime Building will be the ‘heart' of new waterfront," accessed 09/29/2016