Structure Type: built works - exhibition buildings - museums

Designers: Affiliated Engineers NW, Incorporated (firm); Bassetti, Fred, and Company (firm); Baugh Construction Company, Building Contractors (firm); Haag, Richard, Associates, Incorporated, Site Planners, Landscape Architects (firm); Olson / Sundberg, Architects (firm); Peck and Merriwether, Architects (firm); Puget Construction Company (firm); RoseWater Engineering, Incorporated (firm); Skanska USA Building Incorporated (firm); Thiry, Paul, FAIA, Architect (firm); Young, Clayton and Jean, and Associates, Architects (firm); Frederick Forde Bassetti (architect); R. H. Baugh (building contractor); Richard Lewis Haag (landscape architect); Alan Maskin (architect); Raymond Merriwether ; James W.P. Olson (architect); Richard Paul Sundberg (architect); Paul Albert Thiry Sr. (architect); Henry Clayton Young (architect); Jean Alice Young (architect)

Dates: constructed 1952

view all images ( of 1 shown)

704 Terry Avenue
First Hill, Seattle, WA 98104

OpenStreetMap (new tab)
Google Map (new tab)
click to view google map
Google Streetview (new tab)
click to view google map


Seattle architect Paul Thiry designed this small art museum to house the representational painting collection accumulated by the meat-packer Charles Frye and his wife, Emma. It was built within three blocks of their longtime residence at 722 9th Avenue, as per the stipulations of Charles Frye's will. The initial construction of the Frye was slowed by the Korean War, as the US Federal Government maintained war-time restrictions for the use of steel.

Building History

Seattle residents Charles (1858-1940) and Emma Frye (1860-1934)created a non-profit organization that could display their art collection. Born in Iowa to a family of German immigrants, Charles Frye came to They commissioned architect Paul Thiry, Sr., to design the structure; just a few years previously, Thiry designed the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI). Opened in 1952, it has offered free admission since its inception.

Charles Frye passed away in 1940, and the terms of his will were relatively complex. He first stipulated that his art collection would be offered to the Seattle Art Museum. The museum would be offered $100,000 to build an addition to its existing facility in Volunteer Park with the proviso that the Frye Collection be kept together and on display all of the time. The Seattle Art Museum Director (who was also an important donor) chose to turn the gift down, as the exhibition ground rules for the Frye Collection were too strict to follow. Next, the Frye will directed the estate's executor, Walser S. Greathouse (1904-1966), to arrange for the construction of a new museum within three blocks of the family residence at 722 9th Avenue in Seattle's First Hill neighborhood. By 1950, the estate had accumulated enough money to start building, and the noted Seattle architect Paul Thiry (1904-1993) was selected to design the museum. He collaborated with engineering consultant Arvidsson.

Due to the outbreak of the Korean War on 06/25/1950, the Federal Government imposed war-time quotas for resources crucial to the war effort, including steel. This made an impact on large-scale construction across the US. An article in the Seattle Daily Times of 02/1951 reported that the National Production Authority approved plans for the museum as it was considered an educational institution not simply a recreational use of steel. The article stated: "The museum will be built at the northeast corner of Terry Avenue and Cherry Street with $100,000 made available in the Frye will. It will consist of four galleries. Additions will be built later as funds from the estate become available." (See "U.S. Approves Construction of Museum," Seattle Daily Times, 02/19/1951, p. 4.) An article published in 07/1951 indicated: "The first portion of the museum is under construction. It includes three galleries and offices. A second portion, to be built later, will provide an auditorium and lecture halls. Paul Thiry is architect for the $100,000 building." (See "Frye Museum To Be Completed in Six Months," Seattle Daily Times, 07/15/1951, p. 21.)

Supply problems with steel seem to have truncated the building campaign. The first portion of the museum opened on 02/08/1952, without some needed gallery space. From the beginning, the museum sought little fanfare but made a strong emphasis on art education. "There will be no formal ceremonies accompanying the opening. The public is invited. About 1,500 special invitations have been issued to art teachers," the Seattle Daily Times noted. It continued about the problems war-time quotas caused for construction: "Three galleries containing 169 paintings will be on view opening night. Sixty paintings will not be displayed at this time because not enough steel is available to complete a fourth gallery." (See "Frye Art Museum to Open Feb. 8," Seattle Daily Times, 01/25/1952, p. 19.)

As part of the will, Frye directed that all of his paintings needed to be shown at the same time. Thus, two more galleries had to be erected (as well as storage facilities) to enable display of the full 229-painting collection. The Seattle Daily Times documented this renewed building campaign: "Construction of a wing providing two additional galleries and storage space for the Charles and Emma Frye Free Public Art Museum at Terry and Cherry will begin immediately, Walser S. Greathouse, president of the museum, announced yesterday. After a long wait, shortages of steel and other delays have been overcome. The new wing is scheduled to be completed a short time before July 1954, when the museum will open the galleries for a show from Paris. Each gallery will be 28 feet long and 25 feet wide; together with space which will be available in the vestibule, the new galleries will give the museum an additional 140 lineal feet for exhibition purposes." (See Louis R. Guzzo, "Start of Construction Ordered for Wing to Frye Museum," Seattle Daily Times, 12/17/1953. p. 30.) Clayton Young was named the architect of this wing, collaborating with the Puget Construction Company. At this time, Clayton Young collaborated with his wife, Jean (1922-1997), who was a trained architect. Due to chauvinistic attitudes toward women prevalent in 1953, her name was not mentioned in newspaper coverage.

Building Notes

Tel: 206-622-9250 (2006).


The architectural firm of Peck and Merriwether designed the single-story addition named for the Frye Art Museum's Founder and Director, Walser S. Greathouse, in 1966-1967. Paintings by Chen Chi and other American artists including Andrew Wyeth, collected in the 1950s and 1960s by Greathouse, were to be displayed in the new wing. The Baugh Construction Company served as the building contractor for this 1967 addition. (See "Frye Art Museum to Be Expanded," Seattle Daily Times, 03/12/1967, p. 85.)

The Frye again expanded in 1980-1981, when Fred Bassetti designed a new $1.5-million wing to house Alaskan Art. The Seattle Times said of this addition: "Kay Greathouse, the Frye's director, has announced the museum will add a $1.5-million wing to be devoted to Alaskan art. The wing is scheduled to be completed sometime in 1981. Bassetti said plans have not yet been drawn, but the wing will include an auditorium. The construction budget includes money for parking and landscaping." (See Deloris Tarzan, "Frye plans wing for Alaskan art," Seattle Times, 06/22/1980, p. E1.) Bassetti's two firms Fred Bassetti and Company, Architects, (active 1962-1980), and Bassetti / Norton / Metler / Rothschild, Architects, (active 1980-1981), were active in the design of the Frye addition. While Bassetti's firms worked on the Frye, their work was never completed. According to Christopher Kirk, who worked with Bassetti at this time: "F. Bassetti and Company wrote an architectural program and prepared schematic plans, but work was stopped by the museum director, Kay Greathouse, who disagreed with the progressive changes proposed by the board and the architect. Project was later completed by another firm." (See email from Christopher Kirk to the author, 12/06/2018.)

Seattle architects Olson Sundberg Architects, designed an addition to the Frye Art Museum in 1997. Rick Sundberg was the lead Partner-in Charge for the Frye Addition. (See Frye Art Museum, "Frye History," accessed 05/09/2018.) Sundberg's Olson/Sundberg design team included Alan Maskin, Brett Baba, John Kennedy, Les Erkes, Joshua Brevoort and Kathyrn Rogers. (See Alyson Thake, "Subtle in Seattle," Architectural Review, vol. 204, no. 1218, 08/1998, p. 82.) A writer for the Architectural Review stated of the state of the museum before the 1997 renovation: "Until recently, the collections were housed in a most unprepossessing mess of buildings designed by four archtiects over as many decades. Olson Sundberg were asked to bring the whole mess together, make it more approachable and give the galleries modern standards. They flung a simple arcade along the front to unite the bits and give the whole place an urban air (central Seattle is a city in which you can still walk without feeling either foolish or particularly threatened). A new sculpture garden, cafe and pool are generated between arcade and old buildings." (See Alyson Thake, "Subtle in Seattle," Architectural Review, vol. 204, no. 1218, 08/1998, pp. 80.)

Maskin of the firm Olson Kundig, who was a part of the 1997 team that renovated the museum, has continued to be interested in the architectural heritage of the Frye Museum. On 09/15/2016, he led a public tour of the museum as part of the American Institute of Arhitecture (AIA), Seattle Chapter's "Design in Public" strategic initiative.

Noted Seattle landscape architect Richard Haag (b. 1923) and his firm Richard Haag Associates, Incorporated, did the courtyard garden for this addition. Monte Clark Engineering served as the structural engineer. RoseWater Engineering, Incorporated, (a subsidiary of Australian engineering giant, GHD,) performed the civil engineering, Affiliated Engineers, Incorporated handled the electrical and mechanical engineering and Skanska USA Building, Incorporated, was the general contractor. Bruck Richards Chaudiere were the acoustical engineers; two different lighting consultants worked on the addition: Michael McCafferty handled the gallery lighting, while Marietta Millett and UW Professor Joel Loveland produced the building lighting plan.

PCAD id: 6109