AKA: University of Washington, Seattle, First Campus, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - public buildings - schools - university buildings

Designers: [unspecified]

Dates: constructed 1860-1861

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411 University Street
Downtown, Seattle, WA 98101

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411 University Street, the address of the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in 2020, stood roughly at the center of the Terrritorial University of Washington Campus.


Land set aside for the Territorial University stood well north of the central business district of Seattle in 1861, what became known as Pioneer Square. An 1876 Seattle city directory extolled the Territorial University's fine and picturesque location, bounded by Union Street (on the north), A Street (west), Seneca Street (south) and B Street (east). It stated: “The Territorial University occupies a prominent position and commands one of the finest views in the country, Mount Rainier being visible in one direction, and the bay and portions of Puget Sound, backed by the Olympic Range, in another. This institution is generally well attended, and is open to both sexes. ” (See Kirk C. Ward, Business Directory of the City of Seattle for the year 1876, [Seattle: R.L. Northrop, Printer, 1876], p. 14.) Boosters of the city including A.A. Denny believed that the location of a university in Seattle would serve as a great attraction luring settlers to the city.

Building History

The University of Washington's first campus existed on "Denny's Knoll" in what became Downtown Seattle from 11/04/1861-1895. Arthur Armstrong Denny (1822-1899) convinced his neighbors Charles C. Terry (1830-1867) and Edward Lander (1816-1907) to join him in donating ten acres on which to found this state institution. Denny was one of the most significant Euro-American pioneers in 19th-century Seattle, arriving in 1851 from Illinois at Alki Point. He had a long career in public service--as a postmaster, county commissioner, and state legislator--and as a prominent businessman.

In 1882, publishers of the Residence and Business Directory of the City of Seattle for the Year 1882 noted that the site of the Territorial University of Washington was called by contemporaries "University Square." It stated: “The Territorial University is located in Seattle, and will, we trust, be one of the most attractive features of this city and State in the near future. The ground set apart for this institution forms what is known as University square, and is situated between Madison and Union, and Third and Fourth streets. Regents: H.G. Struve, Arthur A. Denny, O. Jacobs, G.A. Weed an B.L. Sharpstein. President of the Faculty, Prof. L.J. Powell.” (See Residence and Business Directory of the City of Seattle for the Year 1882, [Seattle: Elliot and Sweet], p. 18.)

The cubic first university building, with its cupola and projecting portico, was located at 4th Avenue and University Street.


The University of Washington designated the Metropolitan Building Company to develop the land beginning in 1907. The Main Building of the Territorial University of Washington was razed in early 1910, and the ten-acre campus ceased to exist at that time as new commercial structures began to be built on its former property,

PCAD id: 4848