Capitol Hill’s Value Village building — auto row-era home of Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck Company — considered for Seattle landmark protection

The building in 1937

The building in 1937

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 12.40.15 PMMaybe this one will be different. The 11th Ave auto row-era home to Value Village and lined up to be part of a massive, mixed-use office and retail development is slated to come before the Seattle Landmarks Review Board this week.

Dubbed the Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck Company building for its first tenant after construction in 1917, the property will be weighed against six “designation standards” in a hearing Wednesday afternoon to determine if it worthy of moving to the nomination round of the process. Public comment is part of the hearing.

CHS asked developer Legacy Commercial about the landmark application but a representative did not reply with comment. UPDATE: A Legacy spokesperson tells CHS the company’s hopes are for the board to determine the property is not a landmark:

Legacy elected to be proactive in addressing the City’s request for the Landmark’s Board to review the site, to provide additional clarity during the planning process. The review is an important component of working in the Pike Pine Triangle. However, we are hoping that the site is not determined to be a landmark to provide us the opportunity to realize our vision and the neighborhood’s vision for the block.

The hearing comes amid increasing recognition of the economic and cultural value of preserving older buildings intact in neighborhoods like Pike/Pine where a “conservation overlay” provides incentives to developers for including the components of historic buildings in modern structures. The auto row building is planned to join the neighboring White Motor Company building at 11th and Pine — currently home to The Stranger and the Rhino Room — as part of a development taking advantage of these incentives to create a 75-foot tall office building above street-level commercial space.

The landmark nomination is a required part of the development process and, if designated, won’t necessarily rule the old building out for redevelopment. Even so, the odds aren’t in favor of the building making the cut. Recent Capitol Hill properties falling short of the board’s protection include The Pinevue Apartments building and 11th Ave’s Hugo House.

The influential Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council, a body made up mostly of neighborhood developers, architects, and real estate investors, is meeting Tuesday night to determine its position on the Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck Company building’s significance.

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 12.39.48 PMThe board will consider public comment from the likes of PPUNC — and CHS readers. You can attend the hearing — the full meeting of the board is slated for Wednesday, November 19, 2014, at 3:30 PM in the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 5th Avenue, 40th Floor, Room 4060. You can also provide comments by email.

If nothing else, the documents produced in the landmarks nomination process provides some fantastic reading. The story of the Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck Company building is no exception. Built as an investment development for $70,000 in the midst of World War I, the “Chicago School style,” concrete frame building with red brick, parapets and window spandrels was home to an important player in the area’s burgeoning auto row economy:

The first occupant of the building was the local factory branch and service station of the Kelly-Springfield Truck Company, a nationwide truck sales and service firm. The company moved to this location from their first office in Seattle, which opened in 1913 and located downtown at 511-513 East Pike Street (an associated business was the Kelly-Springfield Tire Company, which was located at 515 East Pike Street). This was one of fourteen factory branches and service stations that Kelly-Springfield opened in 1913; other cities included New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Birmingham, New Haven, Boston, Philadelphia, Kansas City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Worcester, and Providence. Each region was overseen by a branch manager, with distribution in smaller cities represented by agents.

It hosted a variety of businesses over the years — including REI as the company underwent some of its most rapid early growth:Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 12.30.46 PM Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 12.30.54 PM

The REI presence could possibly be one avenue to nomination as a landmark:

Later in 1963, REI established what was intended to be their “main” store, in the subject building. Whittaker described the new building: “At last we had a street-level storefront. The interior of the warehouse perfectly suited REI’s rugged image: high ceilings, massive old fir beams, concrete and brick walls, and a worn, creosote-hardened industrial wood floor.”41 The new offered considerably more space than before, but even so, REI’s mail-order business alone occupied the entire second floor.

REI owned the building until its purchase in 1996 by the Ellison family behind Value Village. The family continues to hold the building and is working with Legacy Commercial, the developer moving the office project forward and owner of the neighboring White Motor Company building at the corner.

From the report: "In an attempt to improve these blocks, the streets in that immediate area were regraded around 1910.5 Because the area was a saddle or low depression between hills, the regrade work in the vicinity consisted primarily of fill rather than cuts. While streets were raised to the new, improved elevations, property owners along the streets were left with existing buildings several feet below sidewalk level. Particularly in the area around 11th Avenue between E. Pike and E. Union Streets, a block south of the subject site, the interior of lots were left considerably below the grade of the adjoining streets—an undesirable situation for existing residential and commercial structures. In some locations, this lower grade is still apparent, such as at the mid-block parking lot just south of the subject building."

From the report: “In an attempt to improve these blocks, the streets in that immediate area were regraded around 1910.5 Because the area was a saddle or low depression between hills, the regrade work in the vicinity consisted primarily of fill rather than cuts. While streets were raised to the new, improved elevations, property owners along the streets were left with existing buildings several feet below sidewalk level. Particularly in the area around 11th Avenue between E. Pike and E. Union Streets, a block south of the subject site, the interior of lots were left considerably below the grade of the adjoining streets—an undesirable situation for existing residential and commercial structures. In some locations, this lower grade is still apparent, such as at the mid-block parking lot just south of the subject building.”

The nomination application also describes the neighborhood just before the building was constructed including the wood frame buildings that once stood on the site and a not-yet-regraded Pike and Pine neighborhood.

Julian F. Everett, the building’s architect, also played an important part in building the Capitol Hill and Seattle we know today:

He quickly received several large institutional commissions in Seattle, including the Third United Presbyterian Church, now known as Queen Anne Presbyterian Church (1905); Temple de Hirsch Sinai (1906, demolished); and Pilgrim Congregational Church at Broadway Avenue and Republican Street on Capitol Hill (1906).45 One of Everett’s most enduring and well-known designs is the Pioneer Square iron pergola, which featured an extensive underground comfort station (1909), located at First Avenue and Yesler Way.

Everett, the document notes, was “a skilled designer,” and favored “classically-derived modes such as Neoclassical, Georgian, or Beaux-Arts styles.”

Another possible argument in favor of landmark status could be the building’s condition — especially its interior. “The interior is relatively intact,” the report notes. “Only minor interior alterations have been made over the years to accommodate tenant requirements.”

But why look past the most obvious? Pike/Pine’s auto row history has been integral in its current revival. The buildings created for a long-gone industry were hearty:

Automobile dealerships would have been the most prominent buildings in the Auto Row area, usually located at the most visible locations and in ornate, architect-designed buildings. The early examples of these buildings were generally fire-resistive construction of concrete or brick, two to four stories tall, with large showroom or garage spaces on the first floor, and service areas or parking or offices on upper floors.

Now that we’re down to the few that remain (PDF), it will be up to the landmarks board to determine which — if any — we protect.

The full Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck Company building nomination application is below:

LPBCurrentNom_KellySpringfieldMotors

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7 thoughts on “Capitol Hill’s Value Village building — auto row-era home of Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck Company — considered for Seattle landmark protection

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