Call to Action
As downtown heights and densities are increased, more and more older buildings are threatened with demolition. Historic Seattle has chosen protect the Eitel Building with a City landmark designation as part of its effort to safeguard downtown's historically significant buildings. The Eitel Building landmark nomination was
prepared by The Johnson Partnership and was reviewed at the City's
Landmarks Preservation Board meeting on Wednesday, June 21, 2006. The
Landmarks Preservation Board accepted the nomination and will meet again
to consider conferring a landmark designation on the Eitel Building on
Wednesday, August 2 at 3:30 p.m. in Room 4080 of the Seattle Municipal
Tower, 700 Fifth Avenue. Please help support this nomination by sending a letter to:
Mr. Stephen Lee, Chair
Landmarks Preservation Board
City Department of Neighborhoods
700 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1700
P.O. Box 94649
Seattle, WA 98124-4649
Eitel Building Story
The seven-story Eitel Building stands prominently at the northwestern corner of the intersection of Second Avenue and Pike Street and is currently threatened with demolition. It is located in Seattle’s Central Business District in an area which is experiencing major redevelopment, with three high-rise residential projects with nearby upscale ground-level retail currently planned, two beginning construction in 2006, and one in 2007.
The Eitel Building features tan colored brick cladding and terra-cotta ornamentation. The construction is a composite of un-reinforced masonry with a steel column and lintel base support system on its southern and eastern sides and an interior steel column and girder system supporting wood floor and roof framing. The building is composed within the three-part Classical mode of base, shaft, and capital, with the shaft elongated to create the major building mass. The seventh floor, being a later 1906 addition, slightly disrupts the proportions of this composition.
The Eitel Building was one of the earliest substantial office buildings to be constructed in the area of Second and Pike in Seattle’s downtown. Its construction was a reflection of the gradual early 20th century expansion of the business community northward from its origins in Pioneer Square to major focal points along Second Avenue. Spurred by the economic boom, a direct result of the 1897 Alaska Gold Rush, Seattle’s population rose dramatically—growing from 43,000 in 1890, to 80,000 in 1900, to over 240,000 by 1910. Economic and population growth stimulated building development, and the Eitel Brothers, the developers of the building, were confident in their choice of location, at the end of Seattle’s commercial spine. Their site was immediately north of the recently completed Bon Marche department store (1902, Saunders and Lawton) and just west of the Seattle Masonic Temple.
The first notice concerning construction of the building that later became known as the Eitel Building appeared in the February 13, 1904, issue of Pacific Real Estate and Financial Record.
Within a few weeks the building on the northwest corner of Pike Street and Second Avenue will be razed and a new two-story office building will take its place. The site, which has a frontage of 48 feet on Pike Street, and a depth on Second Avenue of 120 feet, has been leased by Fred J. Eitel for a term of 50 years. The new building, which will be modern in every respect, will have two stores on Pike Street, and 100 offices on the upper floors. The front will be pressed brick, the construction of steel; there will also be an elevator service and the halls will be tiled. The total cost of the building will be $75,000. The lease was negotiated by Russel Ulrich, agent for the building. Van Siclen is the architect.
As Fred J. Eitel and his brother David F. Eitel were both developers and contractors, it came as no surprise when, on March 16 of the same year, the brothers announced that they “will sublet the work on various small contracts” for the construction of their first major Seattle project.
The building proved popular for on November 19, 1904, Pacific Building Real Estate and Financial Record reported that:
Architect Van Siclen has prepared plans for and is now taking bids for the manufacturing and installing the fixtures and fitting up the “Pike,” a fashionable grill room with a mission similar to the Rathskeller. The Pike will occupy the entire basement of the Eitel Block and Second and Pike.
Once the building was finished, the Eitel brothers moved their offices to the second floor of the building and other tenants moved in. The Eitels particularly courted medical professionals as tenants, probably making the building the first building in the United States designed from the beginning for this use.
Office buildings were good investments, as long as the city remained prosperous. In 1906, the Seattle Post Intelligencer noted that office space was critically short in Seattle and that ”Every Good Building in the City is Filled to Capacity.” The Eitel brothers’ investment in the building was rewarding enough that they sold the building on March 7, 1906, to the J. A. Livesley Company, who intended to hold the property as a part of a number of “permanent income investments.” In September of that year the new owners announced that they intended to add an additional story to the building. The company received a permit for the $18,000 addition later that month. The seventh floor has detail similar to the rest of the building and was probably also designed by Van Siclen.
Ragley’s Drugs was replaced by Swift Drugs before 1920. Swift was replaced by Bartell Drug Store #9 in the corner location in 1922. A 1922 photograph clearly shows Bartell in place, with new alterations to the original storefront and a mezzanine filled with dining tables is evident above Bartell’s retail floor. The photo also shows a sign for Ben Paris Cigars, Lunch and Cards at the western end of the southern façade. A later 1926 photo by Webster & Stevens shows the Block Brothers Umbrella Shop at the northern end of the eastern façade. Signs for mainly dentist and doctor offices can be seen on the second through fourth floors, with the George Baker Store occupied the fifth floor. The Webster & Stevens photograph also clearly shows the building’s original detailed terra-cotta cornice and the smaller terra-cotta upper cornice for the added seventh floor.
Beginning in the late 1930s, the area around First Avenue and Pike Street generally declined and became the home of marginal businesses with shady reputations. Major urban renewal proposals of the late 1960s were eventually defeated with a public vote in 1971 that created the Pike Place Market Historic District. Recent major commercial redevelopment patterns in some ways are similar to historical growth with new projects replacing older buildings at the northern end of town, although the area remains fraught with problems. The recent demolition of the former Rhodes Building at Second Avenue and University Street with the Washington Mutual Tower (2005, NBBJ) represents a current trend for taller buildings in the vicinity.
The Eitel Building was sold to L.E. Nudelman in 1946. By 1948, Ben Paris and Bartell Drugs still occupied the street fronts on the southern façade, and the drapery shop and the beauty shop were still in place at the northern street front, along with a pen and card shop. The building’s upper floors were a mixture of medical offices with various offices rented to a wide spectrum of tenants including: a tailor, beauticians, two photographers, a lapidary, union representatives, attorneys, a typewriter repairman, two psychic readers, manufacturer’s representatives, a clothing manufacturer, two dressmakers, a watch repairman, a jeweler, S&H Stamps, a fur shop, a ballet academy, the Washington Republican Club, and several attorneys.
The building’s decline, at least on the street level, was evident in 1958 by the absence of the building’s street front tenants, Bartell Drugs and Ben Paris Cigars. Lindy’s Shoe store and the Metropolitan Health Studio had taken over Bartell’s old space and the building’s basement had become the Uptown Transport Grill. The beauty shop and drapery store still occupied the northern street front. The upper floors were still occupied by a plethora of medical offices, attorneys, union offices, and small businesses, although several vacancies were scattered throughout the building.
By 1968, only the building’s street level and second floor were occupied. Lindy’s Shoe store and the Metropolitan Health Studio remained, but the basement was now the Ram Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge. Dominick’s Beauty Salon was the sole tenant on the Second Avenue side. The building’s second floor was occupied by an employment bureau, a lending library, and a watch repairer, with the remaining space vacant.
By 1978, no tenants remained on any of the upper floors. The Pike Street storefronts were occupied by the American Amateur Union, the American Federation of Amateur Body Builders, and the Metropolitan Health Club, with the basement occupied by Pepe’s on Pike restaurant. The Second Avenue storefronts were occupied by a beauty shop and a travel bureau.
Currently the building’s upper floors remain vacant. A wig shop and a small snack shop occupy the Pike Street storefronts and a beauty shop and the King County Department of Health’s needle exchange program occupy Second Avenue storefronts. The building stands largely vacant.
Original Building Owner: David F. Eitel & Fred J. Eitel
Fred Eitel came to Seattle in 1902, organizing the Eitel Land Company with his brother David F. Eitel. The company’s original offices were located at David F. Eitel’s residence at 614 10th Avenue. Their first major Seattle project was the Eitel Building, on the southwest corner of Second Avenue and Pike Street. The brothers moved their offices to the second floor of their new building in 1905. The Eitel Building was sold in 1906 to J.A. Livesley, after which the brothers explored other investment opportunities.
Fred J. Eitel was the prime mover for the development of the Eitel Building at Second Avenue and Pike Street in 1904. In 1906, Fred Eitel became involved with the Lockleven development on the east shore of Lake Washington just north of Meydenbauer Bay. William D. Van Siclen designed the Pier, waiting room, and other improvements for the development in 1906. Fred Eitel moved to Bellevue around 1918, and helped form the Bellevue Water Company. He at that time listed his profession as a civil engineer. In 1929, Eitel was a founding director of the short-lived Bellevue State Bank, which closed its doors in 1931, without loss to any depositor. He also served on the Bellevue School Board for many terms. He was killed in automobile accident on October 18, 1938.
Building Architect: William Doty Van Siclen (1865-1951)
The architect of the Eitel Building was William Doty Van Siclen. He was born in Clearwater, Michigan, on April 29, 1865. There is no known information regarding any formal architectural training Van Siclen may have undertaken. He may have practiced architecture in San Jose, California, between 1895 to1900. Van Siclen was a contributor, in 1893 and 1895, of architectural drawings and competition designs to California Architect and Building News. His published designs show an early use of Spanish and Italian motifs and revival forms and he probably was instrumental in the introduction of these styles to the northwest.
Van Siclen’s 1901 arrival in Seattle was probably due to the prosperity associated with the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897. Van Siclen initially worked as a draftsman for James Stephens. Stephens became the architect for the Seattle School Board in 1900, and Van Siclen most likely assisted him with his drawings for the Green Lake School (1901-02, destroyed), which became the basis for the Model School Plan for the grammar schools the School Board anticipated building during the following decade. Later in 1901, Van Siclen went to work for the Seattle architectural firm of Charles Saunders and George Lawton. Saunders & Lawton was then designing the original Bon Marché Department Store on the southwestern corner of Second Avenue and Pike Street (1901-03, destroyed), the Lumber Exchange Building (1902-03, later the Medical Arts Building, destroyed) on the southwestern corner of Second Avenue and Pike Street, and the Walla Walla (later Horace Mann) Elementary School (1901-02, 2400 East Cherry, Seattle).
In 1902, Van Siclen established an independent practice, and continued working in Seattle until around 1912. His extant buildings all show a fine degree of detailing. The Eitel Building (1904-06) and the Seaboard Building (1906-1907, City of Seattle Landmark, NHR) represent sensitive mixtures of classical and Mediterranean influences. Many of his buildings demonstrate his continued appreciation of Mission Revival design and ornamentation including the San Remo Apartment House (1906-07, City of Seattle Landmark). He became a member of the Washington State Chapter of the AIA in 1902, serving as second vice-president of the Chapter in 1905.
His residential commissions, many in his specialty “Spanish style” number several dozen scattered throughout Seattle and ranging as far away as Bremerton and Enumclaw.
Elevations and renderings for his buildings frequently appeared in local newspapers and building trade journals, such as Pacific Builder and Engineer and the Seattle Daily Bulletin.The AIA Washington State Chapter’s Exhibition of Architecture and the Allied Arts at the Alaska-Yukon Pacific Exposition (1909) featured six designs by Van Siclen, including number 330, the San Remo Apartment House.
In 1911,Van Siclen briefly joined Louis Macomber in a partnership based in Vancouver, B.C. He relocated to Edmonton, Alberta, in 1912, where he completed several commercial commissions including the Kelly Building (ca. 1914). Around 1925,Van Siclen moved to Brownsville, Texas. He was in active practice in Brownsville throughout the 1920s. His work consisted mainly of small commercial stores, clubhouses, apartments, and residential work. He died in Brownsville on July 14, 1951.
George H. Bartell
George H. Bartell founded the Bartell drugstore chain in Seattle in 1890. His business plan was summed up in the company’s original slogan “Prescriptions Carefully Compounded At All Hours.” Bartell Drug Store No. Nine was located in the southeastern corner of the Eitel Building approximately between 1925 and 1958. In the late 1920s, Ben Paris’s Terminal Concessions Company and Bartell Drugs entered jointly into a seventy six-year lease of the Eitel Building and explored merging operations, although the economic depression, beginning in 1929, ended further negotiations. Bartell Drugs is presently the Northwest’s largest locally owned drugstore chain.
City Designation Standards
The City of Seattle uses six designation standards to determine whether a property is sufficiently historically significant to earn a landmark designation. All the designation standards can be viewed at: City Landmark Designation Standards. Historic Seattle believes the Eitel Building meets the following City landmark designation standards:
C. It is associated in a significant way with a significant aspect of the cultural, political, or economic heritage of the community, city, state or nation.
The Eitel Building is associated with the development of Seattle's Central Business District, a recognized significant component of the cultural heritage of our city and Washington State. The Eitel Building was the first tall building constructed at the northern edge of the nascent Central Business District as commercial activity moved beyond its roots in Pioneer Square. Also, because of its location at the very foot of Denny Hill, it was the most northern building undisturbed by the first Denny Hill Regrade.
D. It embodies the distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, period, or method of construction. The Eitel Building is one of the last remaining early examples of steel-frame tall buildings, incorporating structural engineering technologies developed in Chicago just eleven years before it was constructed. The building also represents the evolution from the stone and brick buildings found in Seattle at the turn of the last century to the terra cotta clad buildings of the 1920s. The design of the Eitel Building is composed in the classical mode of base, shaft, and capital, surfaced with a pressed brick veneer, and embellished with florid terra cotta accents best describe as Renaissance Revival. The classically composed main entry on the eastern façade is an outstanding example of free classical composition, and demonstrates the level of craftsmanship available locally at the time of its construction.
E. It is an outstanding work of a designer or builder.
Architect William Doty Van Siclen designed the Eitel Building and it became the springboard that launched his career. The building is a fine example of Renaissance Revival applied to a relatively small site.
F. Because of its prominence of spatial location, contrast of siting, age, or scale, it is an easily identifiable feature of its neighborhood or the city and contributes to the distinctive quality or identity of such neighborhood or city.
The Eitel Building is a readily identifiable feature within the northern portion of the Central Business District. Its vertical mass can be seen from a number of locations on Second Avenue and from Pike Street. It is particularly visible from the main entrance of the Pike Place Historic District. The building's scale will increasingly contrast with new higher density development.
This article was adapted from the Eitel Building City landmark nomination prepared by The Johnson Partnership for Historic Seattle in May, 2006.