AKA: Bethel Temple, Downtown, Seattle, WA; Seattle Natatorium, Downtown, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - recreation areas and structures

Designers: Priteca, B. Marcus, Architect (firm); Barnet Marcus Priteca (architect)

Dates: constructed 1915-1916, demolished 2003

2 stories

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2033 2nd Avenue
Downtown, Seattle, WA 98121-2242

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Also listed as 2035 2nd Avenue at Lenora Street.

Building History

Priteca designed this building to house a heated, salt water pool, containing 260,000-gallons of Elliott Bay water, for the lumber magnate, C.D. Stimson (1857-1929). Comparable to other salt water pools or "plunges" such as the Lurline Baths in San Francisco (1894), the North Beach Bathhouse, Santa Monica (1894), and the best-known, the massive Sutro Baths, San Francisco (1896), it was meant as a public recreational amenity. During its early days, the pool portion could be covered over by planks and the large resulting floor space could be used for dances or boxing matches. Galleries around and above the pool could seat about 1,500 observers, adding to its use for public events. Steel members spanned the pool, supporting a glass roof. As a swimming facility, it closed in the late 1930s.

The Bethel Christian Ministries, an evangelical outreach group, purchased the natatorium in 1944, and permanently floored over the pool. The building could never be landmarked as the Seattle Landmarks Board, according to a 1997 WA Supreme Court ruling, did not have jurisdiction over a church building. It remained vulnerable for development for years. As a result, Bellevue, WA development firm, Murray Franklyn, retained the pool's original terra-cotta facade, for its new 24-story condominium building, Cristalla. The ornate exterior provided a contextless veneer for the looming, modern box that grew behind it. To its credit, Weber + Thompson, Cristalla's architects, did attempt to recreate the original corner dome, although it was handled in a completely different manner. All in all, it was not a particularly sensitive adaptive reuse effort for one of Belltown's most extraordinary landmarks.

Building Notes

Barnet Marcus Priteca, (1889-1971), known as "Benny" Priteca, a Seattle-based architect known for his important West Coast movie theatres, designed the decorative, terra-cotta exterior of this one-time natatorium. Part of this design featured an aqueous motif with intertwined blue dolphins.The use of meticulously detailed blind arches on the exterior was a hallmark of Priteca's terra cotta designs, a basic motif shared with his Coliseum Theatre, Seattle, (1916) and Mercy Theatre, Yakima (1920). An alternate address for the Crystal Swimming Pool was 2523 1st Avenue.


The pool was covered over with wood planks to serve as a church congregation space. When the church took the space over, the original steel, arched trusses and glass roof were covered by a lath and plaster coating. The corner entry dome covering the curved lobby was demolished in the 1950s; another corner entry facade, containing four bays with four oculi and four parapet arches, was erected in the 1960s.


The Crystal Pool was razed in 06/2003.

PCAD id: 3107