AKA: City of Seattle, Police Department (SPD), Public Safety Building #2, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings; built works - public buildings - police stations

Designers: Bouillon, Lincoln, and Associates (firm); Kuney-Johnson Company, Building Contractors (firm); Naramore, Bain, Brady, and Johanson, (NBBJ) (firm); Priteca, B. Marcus, Architect (firm); Young and Richardson, Architects and Engineers (firm); William James Bain Sr. (architect); Alfred Lincoln Bouillon (engineer); Clifton J. Brady (architect); Perry Bertil Johanson (architect); Floyd Archibald Naramore (architect); Dudley Pratt (sculptor); Barnet Marcus Priteca (architect); Stephen Hinley Richardson (architect); Arrigo Mazzucato Young (civil engineer/mechanical engineer)

Dates: constructed 1946-1951, demolished 2005

14 stories, total floor area: 380,000 sq. ft.

600 3rd Avenue
Downtown, Seattle, WA 98104

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Seattle's Public Safety Building #2 had multiple public entrances to police and public health department offices: 600-698 3rd Avenue, 601-699 4th Avenue, 301-399 Cherry Street, 300-398 James Street

Overview

This two-tower government building housed the Seattle's municipal police and public health departments, and also contained a meorial plaza dedicated to those killed in World War II. The complex cost over $6 million to build, but ran into problems very soon after opening, as various structural problems appeared within its first three years of operation.

Building History

Originally, the Seattle Police Department's administrative headquarters occupied a 7-story part of the the Public Safety Building #2, while the Seattle Public Health Department operated in the 15-story portion. The building cost $6,349,056 to complete originally, with design work shared among three firms: Naramore, Bain, Brady and Johanson (NBBJ), B. Marcus Priteca, and Young and Richardson.

Seattle's City Council selected the three firms in 09/1945, and agreed to pay them "...a fee equal to 8 per cent of the building's cost, plus 6 per cent of any cost in excess of $2,500,000." “The council agreed to appropriate immediately $32,000 to the architectural firms for the drawing of preliminary sketches, plans and specifications. This appropriation, which will be part of the total fee paid, will come from the city’s general fund. If the city’s voters, at the March 1946 election approve a bod issue for construction of the building, the $32,000 advance payment on architects’ fees will be taken from the proceeds of that bond sale. If the bonds fail, the general fun will bear the $32,000 expenditure.” (See “City Building Plans Started,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 09/18/1945, p. 6.)

Lincoln Bouillon and Associates supervised engineering work, while Kuney-Johnson served as the general contractor.

A basement garage, capable of holding 200 cars, was located below the Memorial Court, designed to commemorate the 2,000 citizens from Seattle killed during World War II. The memorial was set parallel to 4th Avenue. Just prior to its dedication on 01/07/1951, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer described it: “The east side of the Public Safety Bldg., along 4th Ave., has been treated as a memorial to those local men who died in World War II. The memorial was designed as a park, honoring the more than 2,000 Seattle men who gave their lives for this country. These names are carved in red granite at the base of the building’s upper plaza. A podium of white marble surmounted by a low hedge will separate the plaza walking area from the carved names, above which a simple dedicatory inscription will be found. Dominating the scene is a simple vertical rectangle of white Carrara marble on which has been sculptured [sic] a simple feminine figure symbolizing the devotion of the men who died. It is this plaque that will be unveiled by the mayor Sunday.” (See "Seattle Heroes Given Honor," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 01/07/1951, p. CH12.) Seattle sculptor Dudley Pratt (1897-1975) designed this main sculpture, "Gold Star Mother," a 14-foot-tall figural piece in Carrera Marble, for the plaza.

The Police and Public Health Departments moved into offices in the Public Safety Building #2 late in 01/1951, and a separate dedication was planned for this event.

The architect indicated the design challenges of providing public access to two distinct departments in one building. They called the Public Safety Building #2 “‘completely functional and designed for the highly complex requirements of the Public Health and Police departments.’” The Seattle Post-Intelligencer described the it: “The difficult problem of housing two dissimilar agencies engaged in public safety in the same building has been solved by giving the public access to each agency and by providing complete intercommunication within all parts of both departments. Persons going to the Health Department may use a separate entrance on Cherry St.; those going to the Traffic Violations Bureau may use the main 3d Ave. entrance, and those going directly to the Police Department may use the 4th Ave. entrance. In addition, the lecture hall, which is to serve both city departments, is easily accessible from the 4th Ave. side of the building, it is pointed out. Prisoners will enter the jail through another separate entrance and at no time will come into contact with the public.” (See "Safety Building Aptly Named," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 01/07/1951, p. CH12.)

Building Notes

The Seattle Public Safety Building #2 had fourteen stories above ground and one below.

The building was composed of reinforced concrete, whose street level was clad in Carnelian granite to improve durability. An article in the Post-Intelligencer said: “Above the granite base the structure is protected from the elements by a veneer of Wilkeson Sandstone, a product of Washington State. Window sashes and grilles are aluminum. Bronze is used in special cases at entrances to make a contrast to the light stone." (See “Granite Saves Safety Bldg,,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 01/07/1951, p. CH12.)

The building also housed municipal courtrooms. The newspaper said of these spaces: “Considerable study was given, it is pointed out, to the proper acoustical and lighting treatments in the two courtrooms. Without much increase in cost, every facility has been provided for courtroom operation.” (See “Granite Saves Safety Bldg,,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 01/07/1951, p. CH12.)

City officials exercised extreme economy on the furnishing of the Public Safety Building #2's interior. An article stated just before the building opened in 12/1950: "City officials seeking luxuriously equipped offices in the new public safety building are going to be grievously disappointed. Finance chairman David Levine of the official committee passing upon requests for furniture and equipment purchases declared that a rigid economy policy is being enforced. Traffic Judge Roy de Grief originally asked $4,763 to equip his quarters, specifying a long list of ‘genuine walnut furniture,’ including davenports, trays, waste baskets and chairs, sofas, desks, [and] bookcases. De Grief pared his request down to $3,107 in a letter to the Council this week. But the building committee has pruned an additional $800, Levine said. The same treatment is being given other department requests, he said.” (See "Rigid Economy Order of Day in Furnishing Safety Building," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 12/15/1950, p. 6.)

Alteration

The City Council paid $737,973 for repairs to the new building in 1954. City workers faced particular problems with defective plaster coating walls and ceilings. It fell in numerous places, requiring some city workers to wear hardhats to work. The city building superintendent, Fred B. McCoy, pinpointed the problem: "'They used a new kind of plaster in the construction and its appears that it was not satisfactory,' he added, "The building is not settling, but there is some kind of action within the building which causes the cracking.'" (See "Safety Bldg. Defective," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 04/08/1954, p. 11.)

Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Carl L. Cooper wrote in 12/1954: "Cost of remedying defective conditions in Seattle’s new Public Safety Bldg. will be $737,973. So declares Fred B. McCoy, city building superintendent, in a report filed Tuesday with Mayor Pomeroy, the City Council and Corporation Counsel A.C. Van Soelen in response to Van Soelen;s request for data upon which to base a court suit against the Kuney Johnson Co., which had the general construction contract. McCoy reiterated his request that an outside engineer be hired to report on the building’s condition and the defects needing repairs, pointing out the architect who designed the structure dispute the cost figures he gives.” (See Carl L. Cooper, "Public Ssfety Building Repair Set at $737,973," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 12/08/1954, p. 12.)

Cooper continued: "In his itemized cost estimates, McCoy lists $256,739 to replanted the seven floors of the building, on the assumption that complete job of replastering will be necessary. Other items are $34,000 to repair broken tile, $51,263 to repair the roof, $5,263 for flash windows on the west side, and $5,000 to recaulk the patio. A complete repainting job and refinishing of all floors will be necessary, McCoy said.” (See Carl L. Cooper, "Public Ssfety Building Repair Set at $737,973," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 12/08/1954, p. 12.) Part of the problem may have been the improper use of new plaster products such as Perlite or Dantor, rather than the specified sand-finish covering, which was traditional but more costly.

In 12/1955, the City of Seattle charged in Seattle Superior Court: "The suit claims that plaster has failed in the building, resulting in deflection of ceilings, raising of partition panels from floor surfaces, severe fractures in walls and ceilings, and water leakage." (See $707,471 Claim: Safety Bldg. Suit Killed by Court," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 12/29/1955, p. 4.) Superior Court Judge Eugene A. Wright ruled that the city could no longer file suit against Kuney Johnson Company as a statute of limitations of one year to file grievances over workmanship had passed. At this time, the itemized list of repairs had come to $707,471. Kuney Johnson Company indicated that the fault had lain with the plaster sub-contractor, the Joseph J. Jefferson and Company.

In 1958, a Seattle City Council candidate, Bob Odman, running against incumbent David Levine, who oversaw cost-cutting for the Public Safety Building, said of it in an editorial: "Seven million dollars down the sewer and hundred of thousands of dollars spent in repair for the new Public Safety Building." (See Bob Odman, "Political Battleground: City Council," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 03/06/1958, p. 12.) In a unanimous decision, the WA Supreme Court upheld the Seattle Superior Court decision in 05/1957 "...that the city had not started the action within the time fixed by the contract between the city and the contractor, Kuney-Johnson Co.". (See "'Plaster Appeal' Lost by City," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 05/17/1957, p. 6.)

Demolition

The Public Safety Building #2 was razed in 2005, leaving a gap in the urban fabric. For over fifteen years, a huge hole marred the downtown landscape opposite the Seattle City Hall and King County Building.

PCAD id: 5177