AKA: Great Northern Railroad Station #2, Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA; King Street Station, Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - infrastructure - transportation structures - railroad stations

Designers: Reed and Stem, Architects (firm); Zimmer Gunsul Frasca (ZGF) Partnership (firm); Robert J. Frasca (architect); Brooks R.W. Gunsul (architect); Charles Aldrich Reed (architect); John Albin Johansson Soderberg Sr. (building contractor); Allen H. Stem (architect); Norman Cunningham Zimmer (architect)

Dates: constructed 1904-1906

3 stories, total floor area: 62,400 sq. ft.

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303 South Jackson Street
Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA 98104

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Building History

Saint Paul, MN, architects, Reed and Stem, who also designed the flamboyant Beaux-Arts Union Station in Tacoma, WA, laid out King Street Station for James J. Hill (1838-1916) and his Great Northern Railroad in 1906; the station occupied an area that used to be tidal marshland. Filling in the tidelands occurred during the many public works projects (regrading and dredging) begun by the Seattle City Engineer Reginald Heber Thomson, Sr., (1856-1949) who took office in 1892. Prior to filling the tidelands, trains crossed entered the city's station on a long trestle. The depot opened for service on 05/10/1906, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. (See “History of Seattle Year-by-Year from 1850 to 1909," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 12/27/1908, p. 5.) Its completion maximized the number of tourists who could be brought to the Pacific Northwest for the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (AYPE).

It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, at a time when historic preservation support was at its most fervent. The City of Seattle received the King Street Station in 2008 from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Rail (BNSF) Railway Company.

Building Notes

Like many large-scale urban buildings of the 1900-1910 period, King Street station included a clock tower, whose design was based on the San Marco Campanile in Venice, Italy. It stood 12 stories tall, and had clock faces on its four sides. Before the completion of the 18-story Hoge Building (completed in 1911) and the mammoth 42-story Smith Tower (1914), the tower of King Street Station #2's was the tallest on the Seattle skyline.


During its over 100 years of service, the King Street Station #2 underwent muliple renovations. In late 10/2010, the City of Seattle received $18.2 million from the Federal Government for seismic retrofitting of the King Street Station. Before receiving this grant, the City of Seattle had already spent $11 million on the renovation effort. On 10/29/2010, Susan Gilmore of the Seattle Times described how this $11 million had been spent; she noted that "[it] included the replacement of a leaky roof with a historically accurate terra-cotta tile roof, repair of the 245-foot clock tower, the removal of non-historic additions to expose the marble grand staircase that links the street level Jackson Street Plaza to the main waiting area, and removal of the dated drop-ceiling in the main waiting room, revealing the original 34-foot ornate plaster ceiling and windows." (See Susan Gilmore, "$31M in federal funds going to rail projects," Seattle Times, 10/29/2010, p. B2.) The renovation was awarded a 2014 American Institute of Architects (AIA National) Honor Award for its design and construction team. The AIA site said of the renovation: "To create a multimodal transportation hub, the 62,400-square-foot station had to be brought up to modern code and standards, which required seismic and structural updates as well as major systems upgrades. The historic renovation involved reversing “modernization” efforts executed during the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, most notably removing a drop ceiling to expose the original ornate plaster ceilings in the grand waiting hall. The 45-foot ceilings required extensive restoration, which was done by craftsmen using historic techniques. Whenever possible original materials were rehabilitated and reused. Carrara marble and glass tile were sourced to match original materials where missing." (See "2014 Recipient | Institute Honor Awards for Architecture: King Street Station | ZGF Architects LLP,"Accessed 03/10/2014.)

Portland-based Zimmer Gunsul Frasca (ZGF), Architects LLP, achieved LEED Platinum status for the renovation, utilizing operable windows for ventilation and a large-scale heat pump for heating and air-conditioning. A plaza replaced a parking lot in front of the revived station; the architects also configured the interior to contain 30,000 square feet of new commercial space that can generate rental income for station's owner Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). The inclusion of new retail businesses, it was hoped, would add pedestrian traffic to a section of Downtown Seattle that lacked commercial vitality. The design and construction team included included: Acoustical Design: Sparling; Engineer-Civil: KPFF Consulting Engineers, Incorporated; Engineer-Mechanical: ARUP | Rushing; Engineer- Structural: ARUP | Coughlin Porter Lundeen; General Contractor: Sellen Construction; Geotechnical: Hart Crowser & Associates, Incorporated; Historic Preservation Consultant: Artifacts Consulting, Incorporated; Lighting Design: Pivotal Lighting Design | Affiliated Engineers, Incorporated | Eleek Incorporated; Owner Representative: Shiels Obletz Johnsen; Plaster Restoration: Performance Consulting, Incorporated / EverGreene Architectural Arts.

National Register of Historic Places (Listed 1973-04-13): 73001877 NRHP Images (pdf) NHRP Registration Form (pdf)

PCAD id: 5364