AKA: Washington Territorial University Building, Downtown, Seattle, WA; Territory of Washington, University of Washington, Main Building, Downtown, Seattle, WA

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

Designers: Jordan, John T., Stone Mason (firm); Pike, John, Building Contractor (firm); John Tenny Jordan (building contractor); John Pike (building contractor)

Dates: constructed 1861, demolished 1910

2 stories

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Downtown, Seattle, WA

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The 1879 Seattle City Directory described the then-17-year-old-university: "The most prominent among our schools is the University of Washington Territory, which is located on a beautiful site of ten acres overlooking the Bay. The main building, a large imposing and well built structure, was erected in 1862, at a cost of $35,000. On the grounds are located the President's residence and a large boarding house for young men. This institution, as its name ('Territorial University') implies, is the property of the Territory, and is supported by interest on a small endowment, by appropriation made biennially by the Legislature, and by tuition fees. It is under the control of five regents and has a faculty of nine instructors; five of whom devote their whole time to school work, and four teach special branches."

The city directory included this summary of the student body: "The number of pupils in attendance is one hundred and forty. These scholars come from all sections of the Territory, representing almost every county west of the Cascade Mountains. Considering the wants and needs of a new country the University may be said to be in a flourishing condition. Pupils from a distance receive every attention, young ladies being under the direct care and supervision of the Preceptress, receiving their board and lodging at the President's house, while the boys and young men are accommodated at the boarding house. No pupils are received until they are prepared to read in the sixth reader and take corresponding studies. Thirty scholars are at present pursuing collegiate studies in the first and second years of the classical and scientific courses, the remainder receiving instructions in the commercial, normal or preparatory classes." (See "Our Educational Facilities," Directory of the City of Seattle and Vicinity--1879, R.D. Pitt, ed., [Seattle: Hanford & McClaire, Printers, Intelligencer Office, 1879], p. 15.)

Building History

Seattle pioneers Arthur A. Denny (1822-1899) and Mary Ann Boren Denny (1822-1912) donated eight acres located on a knoll overlooking Elliott Bay to the State of Washington for the creation of the Territorial University of Washington. Two neighboring families, those of Charles Carroll Terry (1829-1867) and Mary Jane Russell Terry (1837-1875) and Edward Lander (1837-1894) contributed another 10 acres. Daniel Bagley (1818-1905), a recently arrived Methodist minister, worked with Denny to select the school's site; he also supervised construction of its first building and assisted in the organization of its curriculum. Bagley was one of three commissioners selected by the Territorial Legislature to guide the university's progress, and he has been recognized as its most "resourceful and irrepressible protagonist." (See "Daniel Bagley and the University of Washington Land Grant, 1861-1868," Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Vol. 52, No. 2, Apr., 1961, 56-67.) This first campus building was located downtown, roughly where the Fairmont Olympic Hotel later was built; the cornerstone for the first building was laid 05/21/1861.

The Territorial University operated in fits and starts at the beginning, with the school closing due to low attendance in 1863, 1867 and 1876 because of funding deficits. Seattle public secondary school classes were taught sporadically in the building between 1861-1867. (See "Central I,"Accessed 10/21/2013.) The university operated at this location until 1895, six years after Washington joined the Union as a state, when it moved to its present, more spacious environs on Lake Washington.

Building Notes

This university building, arrayed on two floors, contained all classroom spaces of the new university. It was rectangular in shape, with a projecting central portico supported by Ionic columns. A balustrade lined the roof, which also supported a central cupola. The four columns, each given a title--Loyalty, Industry, Faith, and Efficiency--were saved after the building's demolition, and were first placed near Denny Hall, and were later moved to the Sylvan Theatre, where they remain. John Tenny Jordan (1832-1886), a prominent stone mason and plasterer in Seattle, also served two terms as Seattle's Mayor in 1871-1872 and 1873; Jordan executed some of the work at the Territorial University's Main Building. Historians David Wilma and Cassandra Tate wrote in HistoryLink.org: "Among his early construction projects was the first building on the campus of the Territorial University (later to become the University of Washington), located on the present-day site of the Fairmont Olympic Hotel at 4th Avenue and University Street. The two-story building, with four hand-fluted wooden columns and a distinctive cupola, housed most of the university's functions until 1895, when a new campus was developed on Lake Washington. Jordan worked on the building's foundation, brickwork, and plastering." (See David Wilma and Cassandra Tate, "Voters elect John T. Jordan as mayor of the City of Seattle on July 10, 1871,"HistoryLink.org Essay 2773, 11/08/2000, Accessed 04/05/2013.)


This first building at the University of Washington was demolished in 03/1910. A Seattle Daily Times news story indicated that canes would be made from salvaged interior wood from the Main Building. It stated: "The old University building now standing on the site leased by the Metropolitan Building Company, soon will be no more, but hundreds of prominent Seattle business and professional men, who formerly attended the historic institution will have mementoes by which to remember their alma mater. Victor Zednick, graduate manager at the University of Washington, purposes [sic] this week to have souvenir canes made from the hard wood in the interior of the building and to sell them to those who formerly attended classes in the territorial university. The money realized from their sale will go to the support of athletics at the Varsity. Manager Zednick has obtained permission from E.S. Douglas of the Metropolitan Building Company to use as much of the timber as is necessary to make the canes and they will be turned out, either by the manual training students of the University or by a local wood-turning establishment. On the handle space will be left for the inscription 'U. of W--1861-1910,' and for the numerals of the class attended by the holder to be engraved. Efforts have repeatedly been made to raise enough money to have the old building removed to the present University campus, but all failed. 'That is a fine idea,' said Professor Edmond S. Meany, who has been the prime mover in trying to have the historic structure preserved, yesterday. 'Count me in. And if any assistance is needed from me, I will be pleased to help. If we can't have the building as it stands with all its memories dear to us, it is pleasing to know that each of us will have souvenir hanging prominently in our studies or libraries." (See "Canes as Mementoes of Old University; Building Almost Wrecked, but Hardwood Interior Finish to Be Used as Materials for Souvenirs," Seattle Daily Times, 03/27/1910, part II, p. 17.)

Another article in the Times a month later indicated that the canes had been produced: "Souvenir canes, made from hardwood taken from the old university building, are now on sale at the manager's office at the University of Washington. Zednick sent out 300 return postals to alumni and former student [sic] of the old territorial university yesteday and it is believed the souvenirs will have a ready sale. The money realized from the canes will go to the support of spring athletics at the 'U.'" (See "Canes to Aid Athletics," Seattle Daily Times, 04/19/1910, p. 24.)

Following the building's demolition, four cedar columns remained, each with fluted Ionic capitals. As noted on a UW Office of Ceremonies.edu website: "In 1908, when the original site was about to be razed, Edmond S. Meany, head of the History Department and one of the University’s first graduates, sought to save the old building by having it moved to the new campus. Alas, only the hand-fluted cedar columns escaped demolition. They were erected, in 1911, very near the intersection of King and Pierce Lanes in the Quad. Meany and his colleague Herbert T. Condon named them Loyalty, Industry, Faith, and Efficiency, or 'LIFE.'" The intersection of King Lane NE and Pierce Lane would have put it in the center of the Liberal Arts Quad.

The Office of Ceremonies website continued: "But their journey was not yet over. By 1920 the Quad was bordered by Raitt Hall (built in 1916) and the two buildings (Commerce Hall, 1917; Philosophy Hall, 1920) that now form Savery Hall, with a fourth building, Miller Hall (1922), on the horizon. All of these structures reflected a new University design plan that dictated collegiate Gothic architecture for upper campus buildings. It was becoming increasingly apparent that the Greek columns were oddly out of place (not to mention time) surrounded by the Quad’s new collegiate Gothic buildings. To resolve the conflict, Carl F. Gould, then head of the architecture department and unofficial campus architect, organized a student design competition for the relocation of the columns. Sophomore Marshall W. Gill, son of Seattle Mayor Hiram Gill, won first prize for his design incorporating the columns into a Sylvan Theater. In the spring of 1921, under the watchful eyes of an alumni committee from the Class of 1911, the columns finally found a permanent home in Sylvan Grove." (See University of Washington, Office of Ceremonies.edu, "The Four Columns," accessed 11/08/2023.) The columns were transported to Sylvan Grove on 02/18/1921.

By 1958, the original cedar Ionic columns and capitals had begun to disintegrate, and were replaced with fiberglass copies. Metal rod supports inside the hollow columns supported them. (See University of Washington.edu, "I. The University of Washington's Early Years," accessed 11/08/2023.) The columns again were repaired in 2008. At this time, the columns were taken down, and their decayed wooden bases removed. New concrete bases were put in place, the columns were repainted, support columns were cleaned and rust-proofed, capitals repainted and repaired, columns replaced and bases painted white. (See University of Washington, Office of Ceremonies.edu, "The Four Columns," accessed 11/08/2023 and University of Washington, Facilities Services Office.edu, "Sylvan Theater Column Restoration Project 2007-2008," accessed 11/08/2023.)

PCAD id: 5377