Last week before the holiday weekend, the neighborhood had one last chance to say goodbye to the old Capitol Hill Value Village before a landmarks-protected, preservation-friendly office and commercial redevelopment of the nearly 100-year-old building. A Punk Rock Flea Market was a fitting end to its era as a thrift store. Images from the final nights in the space show a few glimpses of the structure’s deeper past.
Dubbed the Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck Company building for its first tenant after construction in 1917 and 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:
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, home to the Rhino Room and Stranger alternative weekly.
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.
A few remain (PDF). Others are gone. Others like the Value Village-REI-Kelly Springfield building will live on, serving new purposes, and creating new histories.