AKA: Seattle Public Library, Central Library #2, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - social and civic buildings - libraries

Designers: Bindon, Wright and Partners, Architects (firm); Decker, Christenson and Kitchin, Architects and Engineers (firm); Leonard William Somerville Bindon (architect); Waldo Barrickman Christenson (architect); Ralf Edward Decker (architect); Lloyd Wallace Johnson (building contractor); Charles E. Kitchin Sr. (civil engineer); John LeBaron Wright (architect)

Dates: constructed 1958-1960, demolished 2001

5 stories, total floor area: 206,000 sq. ft.

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1000 4th Avenue
Downtown, Seattle, WA 98104-1109

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This has been the location for three successive main buildings of the Seattle Public Library.

Building History

The passage of a 1956 City of Seattle bond issue created a pool of $5 million with which to build the Main Branch #2; once this was built, $500,000 remained, and this money paid for the Southwest, Ballard #2, and Magnolia #3 Branch Libraries. The Main Library #2 opened on 03/26/1960. Encompassing 206,000 square feet, the library had a up-top-date International Style appearance, typified by its clean geometric forms and curtain wall construction. It possessed such state-of-the-art features as a drive-in service window at which patrons could pick up (previously ordered) items or return them, without having to park; the "Popular Library," a smoking lounge, with the comforts of a living room, where the latest popular literature could be enjoyed; An article in the Architectural Record carried the headline, "Seattle's new main library helps 'sell' the idea of reading," suggesting that the contemporary library was akin to a retail store trying to sell itself to consumers. Escalators that joined the five floors like a department store and air conditioning that cooled the interior like a movie theatre; abstract art by George Tsutakawa (1910-1997) and other regional artists; a film department stocked with 1,000 16-millimeter films available for short loans.

Building Notes

The building closed to the public 06/08/2001; according to the Seattle Times, "The new library was one of the first downtown buildings where women could wear pants to work." (See Seattle Times.com, http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/news/local/seattle_history/articles/madison.html, accessed 06/18/2007)


According to the Seattle Public Library: "The city was able to upgrade the Central Library 19 years later with a $2.3 million federal grant. Completed in 1979, the renovation gave patrons access to art and music materials on the fourth floor, and added chairs, work tables, a media center, magazine and newspaper centers and carpets." (See "History of the Central Library,"Accessed 08/07/2014.)


The building was demolished 09/2001. Asbestos removal efforts slowed the demolition. The ambitious Seattle, Public Library (SPL), Main Library #3, (2006) was erected on this site, completed in 2004.

PCAD id: 3970