Structure Type: built works - social and civic buildings - libraries

Designers: Graham Contracting, Limited, Building Contractors (firm); Miller Hull Partnership, LLP (firm); Thiry, Paul, AIA, Architect (firm); P. W. Graham (building contractor); Robert E. Hull (architect); Paul Albert Thiry Sr. (architect); Scott A. Wolf (architect)

Dates: constructed 1953-1954

1 story, total floor area: 7,042 sq. ft.

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6801 35th Avenue NE
Seattle, WA 98115

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This post-and-beam library building had an appearance that echoed its residential surroundings. In order to adjust to patron needs. Seattle Public LIbrary administrators chose to market its new branch libraries of the early 1950s as residential in nature, seeking to make them comfortable and familiar public "living rooms." Relaxed library branches of this period strongly contrasted with the prim and proper Carnegie libraries built during the previous wave of neighborhood library building in the 1910s and 1920s.

Building History

Responding to a large influx of people into Seattle, during World War II, the Seattle Public Library expanded its services. the city's northeast neighborhoods grew rapidly following the construction of houses in the Ravenna, View Ridge and Wedgwood areas beginning in the late 1920s and continuing after World War II. Developer Albert S. Balch (1903-1976) was especially important in building the View Ridge tract beginning in the late 1930s and the Wedgwood area following World War II.

Repsonding to popular demand, the Seattle Public Library (SPL) opened a deposit station at 6259 33rd Avenue NE in 12/1945. This drop-off spot was upgraded to a full branch seven years later. A bond issue to raise money for library construction failed in 1952, but, because of the northeast location's high circulation statistics, the SPL commissioned noted Seattle architect Paul Thiry, Sr., (1904-1993) to design a new library facility. It was one one of three new branches begun using city funds in 1953-1954.

Thiry worked with the building contractor, the Lewis Construction Company, on the Northeast Branch Library. The construction process began in 10/1953 and concluded on 06/05/1954. As measured by circulation and per capita patron counts, the Northeast Branch became the systems's busiest by 1959.

Building Notes

The Seattle Public Library, Northeast Branch, won accolades soon after it was completed. The Washington State Chapter of the American Institute of Architects gave the library an Honor Award in 1955. The Archtiectural League of New York presented it an Honorable Mention for Architecture in its award program of 1956. Thiry also won a national Award of Merit from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1957. (This was erroneously dated 1954 in PCAD. Thank you to Prof. Jeffrey Ochsner for pointing out the mistake. These awards were listed in a typescript made by Thiry and given to Prof. Meredith Clausen, c. 1980. This "Awards" list exists in the University of Washington Libraries, College of Built Environments Library.)


Foreseeing needs for expansion, the SPL purchased a neighboring land parcel to the north in 1978. Funding from the landmark "Libraries for All" $196.4 million campaign of 1998 paid for the planning and construction of an addition. Following a public notice to architects soliciting plans for an addition, SPL administrators and public advisers picked those submitted by the noted firm, the Miller Hull Partnership, in 03/2001. Just before selection in 01/2001, the City of Seattle's Landmarks Preservation Board named Thiry's original 7,042-square-foot branch a City Landmark; the architects, therefore, entered the construction process knowing the Landmark Board's design parameters for adding to the original building. The Landmarks Board accepted Miller Hull's alteration plans in 02/2003. Construction work began in 10/2003. By 04/19/2003, the SPL closed the original building to enable the 7,958- square-foot addition's completion, that occurred on 06/26/2004.

The project entailed improving existing circulation and patron computer systems, seating and tables, interior lighting, seismic resilience, and energy effficiency. New titles were added to the 66,700-item collection, with a focus on audio-visual media. To serve the needs of neighborhood groups, Miller Hull added a 90-seat meeting room

The total expenditure came to $4,881,076. Graham Contracting Ltd. served as the General Contractors on the enlargement project. The Northeast Branch became the tenth to open using Libraries for All money.

PCAD id: 8044