AKA: Seattle World's Fair, Mercer Arena, Seattle, WA; Seattle Center, Mercer Arena, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - public buildings - assembly halls; built works - recreation areas and structures - arenas

Designers: Baugh Construction Company, Building Contractors (firm); Loschky Marquardt and Nesholm (LMN), Architects (firm); George Henry Loschky (architect); Judsen Robert Marquardt (architect); John Frank Nesholm (architect)

Dates: constructed 1927-1928

Lower Queen Anne, Seattle, WA 98109

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The site is located in the Seattle Center.

Building History

The tavern owner, James Osborne, made a bequest to the City of Seattle of $20,000 for the purpose of building a civic hall. The city banked the money, and its principal grew considerably over time. By the late 1920s, Osborne's nest egg had escalated to $109,000. The City of Seattle supplemented this funding with $900,000 more to complete the multi-purpose building in 1928. The so-called "House of Suds" hosted hockey and basketball games as well as concerts.

Building Notes

The Exposition Building was erected in 1928 in part to provide Seattle residents with an ice-skating venue. The Seattle Civic Auditorium (1929) was once located next door. The Exposition Building provided a large public space for ice skating that was lost in 1924 when the Metropolitan Tract's Arena (1915) was transformed into the Arena Garage (1924).


Alterations have occurred to the former Exposition Building consistently over its existence. In 1961, it was renovated for use during the Seattle World's Fair, and became known afterward as the "Seattle Center Arena." It became a popular multi-purpose venue and was renamed in the 1990s as the "Mercer Arena." By the mid-1990s, Mercer Arena still hosted events for 183 days per year, but lost money for the City of Seattle. Because the neighboring Seattle Opera underwent a $125 million renovation in 2001-2003, a substitute stage for the Seattle Opera and Pacific Northwest Ballet had to be found. Between 07-12/2001, the renamed "Mercer Arts Arena" had $6 million of renovations done to it, readying it to serve both organizations beginning on 01/12/2002 and continuing until 2003. The Seattle architectural firm LMN Architects and Baugh Construction collaborated on the comprehensive but still utilitarian renovation; they added new heating and ventilation systems and took out the piping and chilling mechanism for ice making that had been installed in 1927. They added depth and wider wings to the existing stage to accommodate contemporary operas and ballets and dug a new orchestra pit nine feet down for 100 musicians. Acoustic and cosmetic changes occurred, as well; public areas were repainted and seats either replaced (with ones brought from the Opera House) or recovered. The architects specified new carpeting to be laid in public areas to deaden foot noise, but also added a four-ton sound reflector in front of the existing proscenium arch and side-wall banners to improve acoustics. Two firms, Norwalk, CT-based Jaffe Holden Acoustics and an associated Seattle firm, Michael R. Yantis Associates, supervised the acoustic updating. Talks began in 2003 to partner with a promoter, Clear Channel Communications, that offered to chip in $7 million to restore Mercer Arena, if it could be guaranteed 80 dates per year. The city chose not to get into this partnership. In 2006, the building still required $20 million for seismic and fire improvements, money the City of Seattle still lacked.

PCAD id: 5863