AKA: University of Washington, Seattle, Johnson Annex B, Seattle, WA; University of Washington, Seattle, Cunningham, Imogen, Hall, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - exhibition buildings - exposition buildings; built works - public buildings - schools - university buildings

Designers: BOLA Architecture + Planning (firm); Hastings Group, Architects (firm); Saunders and Lawton, Architects (firm); Susan D. Boyle (architect); Lois Jane Hastings (architect); Rhoda R. Lawrence (architect); George Willis Lawton (architect); Charles Willard Saunders (architect)

Dates: constructed 1908-1909

2 stories

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4101 George Washington Lane NE
University of Washington Campus, Seattle, WA 98195

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The small, two-floor building had a domestic scale and character, seen as appropriate at the time for a women's building. Like other buildings at the fair, it had a white stucco exterior, in line with the "White City" created for the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893. The Chicago Fair, with its Beaux-Arts planning and Neo-Classical architecture, continued to influence the design of World's Fairs through 1915. The Women's Building was moved to a new location in 2009.

Building History

Cunningham Hall was the last building from the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (AYPE) still standing in 2020. It functioned as the AYPE's Women's Building, providing a nursery capable of overseeing 12 young children for women visiting the fair, a reception hall, an exhibit space for arts and crafts by women artists and a cafe serving lunch operated by the local Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA). At this time, lobbying for women's suffrage in the State of Washington was reaching a crescendo.

The Washington Territorial Legislature voted in 1883 and 1888 to extend the vote to women, but in the wake of these events, the Territorial Supreme Court struck down both measures. The WA Secretary of State's Office stated on its web site: "Due to the [Washington Woman Suffrage Association's] constant protesting and pushing, full voting rights were given to women in 1883 by a bill that passed through the Territorial Legislature. But in 1887, the Territorial Supreme Court overturned that law. Another was passed in 1888, but was also overturned. This happened because women voters were making sales of liquor more difficult with their votes, and the state's liquor lobby had fought hard to remove their voting rights." (See State of Washington, Secretary of State.gov, "Voting Rights for Women, Women's Suffrage," accessed 01/14/2020.) Tavern owners, brewers and the distilling industry in the territory's major cities bankrolled an 1888 Spokane court case to repeal women's voting rights due to their fears about the power of temperance groups such as the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).

The alcohol industry continued to pressure male participants at WA's State Constitutional Convention in 1889 to produce separate amendments for women's suffrage and prohibition. While the constitution's passage won wide popular approval, the separate votes on both suffrage and prohibition failed by margins of 3-2 and 2-1, respectively. (See Mildred Andrews, HistoryLink.org, "Woman Suffrage Crusade, 1848-1920," published 02/26/2004, accessed 01/14/2020.)

The National American Woman Suffrage Association and Washington Equal Suffrage Association and synchronized their annual conventions to be held in Seattle in 07/1909, and fair administrators set 07/07/1909 as Suffrage Day at the AYPE. While the NAWSA convention in Seattle was split between two quarreling factions from Seattle and Spokane, increasing pressure was being put on the Washington State Legislature to restore the vote. During the fair, the Women's Building became a discussion center for suffrage issues in the state, and may have facilitated this movement, as women received the vote in Washington on 11/08/1910.

Initially, the Women's building was to have been temporary in construction, but this was later changed. A reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer stated in an article of 05/16/1909: "The Women's Building as first planned by the Washington state commission, was to be merely a temporary structure for the housing of exhibits made by the women of the state and for women's affairs during the exposition. Through the initial efforts of Miss Anne Howard, then dean of women at the university, it was arranged to make this building a permanent one which should be used by the university girls after the fair, if the women would undertake to raise the money for furnishings. The largest amounts for this purpose were raised by entertainments given by the Woman's League, most successful of which have been their country fairs, held for the past two seasons in the university gymnasium. Private subscriptions have also been taken among the students and alumnae and outside people who were interested. During the exposition the building is to be used for all kinds of women's affairs and will be available for women's receptions and after the exposition it will become the property of the women students of the state university as a permanent club house and headquarters." (See Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "Reception To Open Women's Building," 05/16/1909, p. 9.)

Apparently, campus administrators forgot about their promise to make the building available to university women as their center after the fair. In the years after 1909, the Women's Building had multiple functions, accommodating the US Bureau of Mines, the Chemistry Department as an annex, the Air Force ROTC program and the Department of Architecture. For a number of years, it served as an annex to neighboring Johnson Hall, and was known as "Johnson Annex B." It finally was returned to the female students of the campus in 1975, when it became the University of Washington (UW) Women's Center.

On 05/10/1983, the University named the building for the photographer, Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976), a 1907 UW alumna."Cunningham, a Pacific Northwest native whose legendary work spanned 76 years, was named a UW alumnus summa laude dignatus two years before her death in 1976 at age 93. On Aug. 20, 1982, the UW regents voted to rename Johnson Hall Annex B in her honor. After the exposition, the building was put to use variously as a mining experiment station, a chemistry annex an ROTC annex and classrooms. In 1977, the University Historical and Architectural Landmarks Committee recommended the building be preserved and $250,000 was used to renovate the dilapidated structure. Imogen Cunningham Hall currently houses the Women's Information Center, the Northwest Center for Research on Women and the Graduate Information and Records Center." (See "UW building dedicated to Imogen Cunningham," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 05/09/1983, p. D5.) UW President William Gerberding and Emeritus Professor Solomon Katz spoke at the dedication ceremony for Cunningham Hall on 05/10/1983. In addition, the UW's Henry Art Gallery staged an exhibit of Cunningham's photographs between 07/22/1983 until 09/11/1983.

Building Notes

An article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer described the Women's Building at the fair: "The building has a large reception room, 80x30 feet, and office and a kitchen downstairs. On the second floor is a large hall containing cases of exhibits, a toilet and three smaller apartments to be used as rest rooms. The reception room and office are to be furnished entirely in massive fumed oak, upholstered in leather. The window hangings, which are being donated by Mrs. [H.W.] Allen, are to be imported goods, and have already been ordered through a New York firm. The kitchen has yet to be furnished, and other organizations of women in the state have been asked to help, though the committee is expecting to raise more money among the students, who are enthusiastically working for the building. So far everything has been done by the students and alumnae, especially the professional women." (See Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "Reception To Open Women's Building," 05/16/1909, p. 9.)

The Women's Christian Temperance Union had a booth in the Manufacturer's Building at the AYPE.

The AYPE also had another building that accommodated the American Woman's League Building.

Efforts to demolish Cunningham Hall were averted in the late 1970s, when the University of Washington's Architectural Landmarks Commission interceded. The Seattle Times reported in 06/1978: "The renovation of Johnson Annex B and the U.W. Canoe House as historic sites on campus is being proposed in the U.W. 1979-1981 biennium budget which will be presents to the Board of Regents before it is sent to the legislature in the fall. The renovation request for both buildings is $250,000. [Norma Olsonosky, Director of Space Planning at the UW] said the regents tentatively have approved the renovation of the old women's building. But, she said its future use has not yet been determined however. 'Planning for the new Women's Center began as far back as 1970, when the Women's Commission began requesting it,' [Dr. Helen Remick, Director of UW Affirmative Action for Women] said. Other women's groups on campus made the request annually, until Dr. John Hogness, U.W. president, made a commitment to establish it in spring of 1977. The project will use $44,600 of funds (mostly for salaries) from the women's affirmative-action office. Ms. Remick, who worked with a women's center at the University of California at Davis, said the center will be used for information and referral. She added that the U.W. is one of the last major universities on the West Coast to establish a Women's Center. The center will probably open August 1." (See Mayumi Tsutakawa, Seattle Times, "Center for problems, advice," 06/25/1978, p. J2.)


The Women's Building originally had a stucco exterior, but wood siding was later applied.

In 1975, Cunningham was renovated and is now the campus's Women's Center. The Hastings Group, led by UW alumna L. Jane Hastings, supervised Cunningham Hall's renovation in 1979.

In 2008, a University of Washington relocation committee, chaired by Ruth Johnston, Associate Vice-President of Finance and Facilities, considered four sites for Cunningham Hall. It was to be moved in 2008 to make way for a new pair of Molecular Engineering Buildings to be built in two phases beginning in 2009. The four sites considered in 06/2008 were: lawn southwest of Parrington Hall, Denny Yard, near Winkenwerder Hall and the Burke Gilman Trail, a plot east of the Medicinal Herb Garden.

UW officials needed to move Cunningham Hall before 12/2009, when construction was set to begin on a new molecular engineering building on this site. Building movers transported Cunningham hall across Stevens Way, behind Architecture Hall and north over the Central Parking Garage, just to the east of the Henry Art Gallery to its new site at 4101 George Washington Lane NE. The move was postponed until late summer 2009; BOLA Architecture + Planning served as a Consultant for the Cunningham Hall move. The building was transported on 09/16/2009 from its site on Stevens Way across from Architecture Hall, on Grant Place, just to the east of the Henry Art Gallery to its new site on George Washington Lane.

PCAD id: 8722